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On the Road With the Vienna Boys Choir

10.24.13
Vienna Boys Choir
The New York Times

By Nicolas Rapold

‘Bridging the Gap,’ a Documentary by Curt Faudon

In the opening of “Bridging the Gap,” members of the Vienna Boys Choir, clad in its traditional sailor suits, arrive in a rowboat on what is apparently the shore of New Zealand and plunges into welcome rituals with Maori people. The situation almost recalls a memorable scene from “Lord of the Flies,” in which a storm-tossed choir sings “Kyrie eleison” in procession on a beach, but the photography here has the color cranked way up, and a plummy, National Geographic-style voice-over pours forth platitudes and edifying narration.

Blithely hokey, amusingly eager to distract and rather entertaining, the film resembles a children’s travel show with music-video elements more than it resembles a straight-up documentary. The veteran director Curt Faudon stages scenes featuring the choir charming Indian villagers with a Hindi song or, hilariously, accompanying two guitarists in an open train, through Peru, hobo style. Mr. Faudon uses green screens and keeps the camera circling, cutting away to calendar-ready shots of landscapes, gardens and that rowboat. At one point, a boy holds a sextant aloft.

In interviews, the choristers are often arrayed as carefully as figures on an album cover. There are “real” scenes about audition processes for this international choir, though “Bridging the Gap” is preoccupied with the notion of one-world unity (reaching a climax with a song absurdly performed over a montage of hurricane destruction). But the visual pretensions are rooted in an unashamed passion about the music, and when the narrator is explaining Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet, there’s the sense of being in a choir with an enthusiastic, if kooky, music teacher.