The Plow That Broke the Plains and the River

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This DVD of Pare Lorentz’s remarkable agitprop documentaries… bring to light not only the poetry of their scripts… but also the spare elegance of Virgil Thomson’s music. The Plow That Broke the Plainscontains a new performance of Virgil Thomson’s renowned score for the film from the 1930s. Conductor Angel Gil-Ordonez showcases Thomson’s material from that film as well as his work from The River. The films are filled with striking images and poetry, but in the end, it’s Thomson’s music that makes the greatest impression; truly cinematic in scope, it draws on well known tunes (“There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”), hymns (“The Doxology”) and the composer’s own brilliance to create a thoroughly American sound whose moods perfectly match and enhance what we see on the screen. An hour or so of bonus features includes discussion of all the films’ elements (Thomson himself weighs in during an old audio interview), as well as the original beginning and ending ofThe Plow.  

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