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Ravel's Brain

Evokes and explores Ravel's illness-plagued final years, when he was able to produce music but couldn't write it down.

A printer-friendly version of this page 52 minutes
Directed by Larry Weinstein
Produced by Rhombus Media
Music by Maurice Ravel
Musical Performances by WDR Symphony Orchestra and WDR Radio Choir, Cologne

RAVEL'S BRAIN is a musical/visual tone poem at once tragic and celebratory in its mood. The film portrays the inner being of a great artist who was rendered incapable of communicating with the outside world. For the last five years of his life, Maurice Ravel was the victim of his own lamentable circumstances. Afflicted by aphasia and apraxia, his brain produced music, but he was unable to write it down.

RAVEL'S BRAIN features interviews with a handful of Ravel's intimates as well as images of his home in Montfort-l'Amaury and his birthplace in Basque Ciboure where he first noticed the symptoms of his illness. The film takes us to Marrakesh where Ravel, deep in the throes of his illness, was so inspired by the swirling Arabic street music that he was graced with a few moments of lucid music-making. The resulting musical phrases and Ravel's final musical utterances are heard in RAVEL'S BRAIN for the very first time.

Finally, Ravel's brain operation that ultimately proved to be fatal, is recreated and set to song.

Grade Level: Grades 10-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2001     Copyright Date: 2001
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-846-5     VHS ISBN: 1-56029-904-5

"An extraordinary film...more a work of art in its own right than a documentary...Bathed in Ravel's sparkling, elegant music, it all works stunningly."

"A strange, partly fictional and ultimately quite brilliant documentary... Written and directed, with great skill and originality, by Larry Weinstein."
National Post

"'s a strange, gorgeous blend of film, music and visual opulence...In truth, Ravel's Brain is special."
John Doyle, The (Toronto) Globe and Mail

"Every time a tape arrives from Rhombus Media...I'm delighted. I never know quite what to expect but I'm sure that the program is going to be innovative and smart...(Ravel's Brain) is marvelous...At some point, a few years ago, Rhombus productions stopped being documentaries about the arts and became a form unto themselves."
Globe Television

"Music and science teachers seeking ideas for an interdisciplinary project may find inspiration in this documentary...Interviews with medical experts, as well as friends of Ravel, educate viewers about Ravel's condition and how it affected him."
Music Educators Journal

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Ravel's Brain

"'s a strange, gorgeous blend of film, music and visual opulence." The (Toronto) Globe and Mail

Awards and Festivals
Best Direction, Hot Docs, Toronto
Nominated for an International EMMY
The Chris Award, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Nominated, Golden Rose, Montreux
Silver Rembrandt, Nombre d'Or, Amsterdam
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
American Psychological Association Annual Conference
FamaFest, Portugal
International TV Science Fiction Film Festival, Paris
The Cinematique, Canada
The National Gallery of Art Film Exhibition, DC

Mental Health
Performing Arts

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