Saturday, January 28, 2017

Birds, boars, bears, bison, bobcats, and beetles

I had an enjoyable day yesterday. First, a performance by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I rarely go to their Friday morning concerts but I had an evening program I really wanted to attend – then that evening program was canceled and I didn’t want to change tickets again. The concert was a part of the DSO Mozart Festival. This is the only concert of the festival I will attend. Each individual Mozart piece is lovely, but a whole concert is wearying for me and six concerts with nothing but Mozart would be seriously annoying. This particular concert included the Clarinet Concerto, which is why I chose this one, and the Concertone, which I doubt I’ve heard before. This piece features two violin soloists and a prominent part for the principal oboe – so prominent the two oboe players were seated immediately behind the soloists, displacing the concertmaster.

From there I went up Woodward Ave. to the Detroit Institute of Arts. I had lunch in the café, then I saw the current special exhibit about Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate. It is nice, but not fascinating or relevatory. I did enjoy the small samples of chocolate drinks made from 17th Century recipes, one from the Americas (spicy) and one from Europe (with pepper).

The print gallery showed lots of etchings of royal festivals that featured big feasts. The peasants liked these because they got the leftovers. The photography gallery showed images of Detroit after dark, about a third of them featuring musical acts at various nightclubs.

After supper (also at the DIA) I went saw the early evening offering at the Detroit Film Theater, the movie Seasons. I thought I would miss out on this one, but quickly put it into my schedule when that other evening event was canceled.

I wanted to see Seasons when I read it is by the same team that created Winged Migration, Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, back in 1997. The earlier film had stunning images of birds in flight and we all wondered what they did to get them. One technique was to make up drones to look like birds and insert them into a migrating flock.

Seasons imagines what the European continent was like 12,000 years ago when human influence was minimal and a forest covered the whole thing – a golden age of forest. We see the wildlife do its thing: the birth of a deer fawn, a herd of horses where a mare was fending off the amorous advances of a stallion, battling elk, wolves chasing down their prey, owls searching for mice, hedgehogs doing what hedgehogs do, and lots of birds, boars, bears, bison (the European version), bobcats, even beetles. It is all beautifully captured and shown.

One thought frequently went through my mind – how did they capture those images? Some of the images, such as birds peeking out of holes in trees, is a matter of setting up cameras and waiting. I suspect a scene featuring a beetle flying through the forest was done through CGI effects (I think I saw a CGI company in the credits, but I’m not sure because they are in French). Was it a case the crew kept recording what they saw and distilled several years of watching into a 90 minute film? How did they keep up with the boars being chased by wolves through thick forest? Did they stage scenes like that and others? What does that do to the claim that no animals were harmed (a few of the scenes of predator in hot pursuit of prey were successful, though the death was not on camera)?

Through most of the movie humans are only occasionally in the background. But the last chunk of the movie is about how humans switched from hunting to farming and brought the end of the golden age of forest. Trees were felled for building (it took 3000 oaks for one British sailing ship; the forest couldn’t keep up) and for creating fields. The large animals, especially the ones dangerous to humans, moved to more remote regions or were killed off. Human things, such as roads, war, and crop protection killed off more. Forests, especially those owned by the rich, had trails created through them to make hunting easier.

The final message: If we are smart enough to build cities that look to last forever, why aren’t we able to create wild areas for the animals to live?

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