DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Bloody Daughter, documentary & concert, Blu-ray (2013)

A close-up documentary on one of the greatest living pianists, plus a concert performance.

Published on December 23, 2013

Bloody Daughter, documentary & concert, Blu-ray (2013)

Bloody Daughter, documentary & concert, Blu-ray (2013)

Film bio of pianist Martha Argerich by her daughter Stephanie Argerich
Performers: Martha Argerich, Stephen Kovacevitch
Studio: EuroArts/ Idéale Audience 3073904 (10/29/13) [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 1.77:1 for 16:9 1080i HD color
Audio: Mostly French DTS-HD HA 5.1 (doc. only), PCM 2.0
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Polish
Extras: Complete 2010 Warsaw performance of Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1 and 2 encores by Martha Argerich, with the Sinfonia Varsovia cond. by Jacek Kaspszyk; Clips of other EuroArts DVDs
Length: Doc.: 94 min.; Concert: 54 mins.
Rating: *****

A most interesting documentary which shows an up-close view of both the professional and family life of one of the world’s leading classical pianists, as well as a recent concert  recorded in Warsaw, where Argerich once won first prize in the Chopin competition. (She also has an annual festival in Lugano, Switzerland.) It is a rather fragmentary but fascinating documentary on the fragmentary lives of Argerich and those close to her, shot by budding filmmaker daughter Stephanie—one of three daughters by three different husbands. It includes early footage shot on a video camera which Argerich brought home once from a tour of Japan, as well as recent footage shot by Stephanie.

She was trying to get some answers and information from her mother, including shots made in relaxed family scenes such as when Argerich had just gotten up. Unfortunately, the pianist has trouble expressing herself in words and clearly has compromised her family relationships in favor of her performing career. (There is also a documentary DVD Evening Talks [2008] in which Argerich is interviewed at length, though it fails to reveal much more.) I found it interesting that in none of the online reviews or the note booklet with the disc does it really discuss why it has the Bloody Daughter title. There are some comments by former husband and also famous concert pianist (The complete Beethoven Sonatas for EMI) Stephen Kovacebitch, but they are only along the lines that bloody is not such as terrible word in Britain—where he lives.

Martha grew up in unusual circumstances and so did her daughter Stephanie, who now lives in Switzerland. Martha had no schooling and Stephanie spent her first eight months in an orphanage after she was supposedly “kidnapped” by Martha’s mother and brought to Martha. The insights into the professional touring life of Martha are very strong and well done. Some of her hopes and fears are expressed and we get to see a side of this rather mysterious and seclusive artist that the public usually isn’t exposed to.

Her amazing playing is well documented in her live video performance of the First Piano Concerto of Chopin. The Warsaw audience naturally goes nuts over it, and her two encores are especially delightful. The low-level camera shots seemed unusual and added to the visual interest of the presentation, but it seemed extremely strange that the documentary on the disc has the 5.1 surround sound and this concert performance was only PCM stereo.  The image quality on both the concert and the documentary is excellent.

—John Sunier




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