Sideways Music ***

Written and Directed by Ned Markosian

Reviewed by A. Listener, for Stationary Rock.

In this poignant film about art and madness, we follow the main character—Ned—a well regarded concert pianist. Ned is obsessed with music, and the subtle ways in which it engages our sensibilities.

His passionate, yet raw, performance of many of the great compositions has made him famous and much sought after. Yet his quest for aesthetic perfection is gradually leading him into madness. He decides that at his next concert, rather than playing music so that it is extended through time, instead, he will play it so that it is extended only through space. For this, he borrows the hands of many other pianists who will, all at the same time, (but not at the same space) perform the work. When his fellow musicians point out that the resulting performance will sound like a momentary cacophony, he demurs, explaining that the audience will experience the totality of the greatness of the piece in the single moment it is performed. It will, he thinks, be a triumph. Predictably, the concert does not go well. And thus begins Ned’s descent into depression and madness. He lives out the remainder of his life desperately trying to convince others that music can be played sideways, and that, thus played, it is a thing of great beauty. At the end of the film Ned has died, and we find his friend Anne giving his eulogy. Sadly, she says, while Ned spent so much time trying to play music sideways, he spent no time working out how his audience could to listen to sideways music. And that, in the end, was his tragedy. Three Stars.