Beside the Manor Selby (2010)

Written, directed and scored by Ellsworth Hall       
Produced by Edward Hopf \

Starring - Conrad Brooks    George Stover    E. Warren Hopf   
Rhea Hodconnde   Joseph M. Dwyer    Hal L. Rothwells   Karl Hopf

with  Theo H. Doccrest   Erik Marks   Maureen Dwyer   Robert Brun   Mandy McMahan

"Features what just may be one of Conrad's greatest performances..." - Seb Godin, Conrad Brooks Fan Club on Facebook

Review by Gerrit Marks, video producer extrordinaire

Manor Selby is brilliant, great writing. Incredible performance from the auteur, really outstanding. Fav lines: "Inane ramblings of the gardener," "Let us not forget the lady's boldness...agreed" "...days of happiness...they number 14." Great interplay between the characters, thoughtful and clever dialogue, very unpredictable. Music was perfect, really created a mood, Great job!

"Beside the Manor, resides the caretaker of madness! Let the historical quandary guide you..." - Chris Marks

Review by Boulevard Denim, critic at large

Woe to he/she who does not take into account the verities within this sublime photoplay. Take care; the opening newsreel sequence does not prepare you for the transcendent visuals, performances, utterances, and lavish music orchestrations. This meta-satire beautifully plays off the post-modern theory of ur-textual historicity.

 Not since James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has the theme of identity and authority been so adroitly addressed by the screenwriter. Picking up where Joyce left off, the character of Hezekiah Piker is the penultimate narcissist/cynic, forever searching but never finding. This metaphysical inquiry that pierces the banal tapestry of the Manor Selby's inhabitants spurs Piker to angst-ridden heights as he visits the tower where he loitered while at the same time his wife dashed herself on the rocks nearby. His unwitting misogyny is the cause of the tragedy as he wields his guilt and anger like a sabre cutting through the sublime lives of the blissfully unaware.

Viewed on different levels the Tower represents the quest for identity of his phallic solemnity. Herewith is the conundrum; wherefore his Oedipal cravings are brandished by his sardonic wit and literary allusions, his incapacity for meaningful discourse with the opposite sex leads him into the Rebecca/Vertigo syndrome. As a true narcissist, he purports a facade that he must maintain at all costs lest his closest companions discover his true, tortured self. And even then we see the cracks forming.

Captain Vaushnic like a true soldier is duty bound, hence he never reveals his true self. This is due to his appeasement of authority and empty tradition instilled into him during his formative years. His scars from the attack on Archduke Ferdinand are covered by his mask; a metaphor for his undeveloped potential and psyche. Wedgewicke the manor administrator poses the pithy profundity as Vaushnic removes his coat, “Remember sir, a man defrocked is a man nonetheless.” For truly, even without his mask and his deformity revealed (la masque enleve, l'abscés des cicatrices as sung at the Mass) he is still worthy of manhood.

John Patmos is the pragmatist. Like his namesake he is an island in the sea of chaos and instability. His boundless optimism counters Piker's cynicism and total absence of joie de la vie. Patmos is acting as the arbiter between Piker's myopic relational views and Vaushnic's impulsive dismissal of his friend's self-absorption.

Not since the Battleship Potemkin entered Odessa Harbor have audiences thrilled at the prospect of such philosophical revelations.

Conversations with George Edgar Selby music CD (includes the soundtrack)

On the Composer's Oeuvre

By Boulevard Denim (with Lawrence Gilman)

Ellsworth Hall occupies a peculiar place, entirely of his own creation, in the field of contemporary music.  He is a seeker after the realities of shadowy and dim illusions, an artist in grays and greens and subtle golds while still dabbling in opulent purples. Mr. Hall is of the "children of revelry," a weaver of dreams. For him, indeed, shadows and dreams are the invincible realities, and from them he derives a compelling music; music which serenely rebukes dissection.

That serenity, that innocence of intention, are indeed remarkable. After the plangent splendors, the torrential rhetoric of his earlier works, Mr. Hall's contemporary oeuvre, owing something of the subdued and elusive beauty of antique tapestries, addresses the spirit with a unique appeal.

His is music in which the emotion conveyed is the emotion of remembered rapture, the beauty, "the surviving beauty of gathered dreams;" seldom the emotion and beauty of that which is actual and present. Mr. Hall is most urgently aroused by such moods of longing and remote enchantment as find jeweled expression in Beside the Manor Selby for which he has written unforgetable music.

At times his habit of artistic  speech tempt him to such outbursts of passionate lament as fill the movements of his Piano Concerto No.1 with so insupportable a poignancy. There is the driving rhythmic asymmetry of the opening movement; the decorative flourishes surrounding the resurfacing primary theme in the second;  the modal and jazzy harmonies of the third; and the adroit use of fortspinnung (along with recapitulations of a leitmotif from the second movement) in the fourth.

Mr. Hall perceives his world with as rapt a gaze, with as complete an absorption in its emotional panorama, as the most vivid and declamatory of the moderns; but the issue of his understanding is certain veiled and continent intensity, an interior passion, a conviction implied rather than than declared. That is, finally, the peculiarity of his art.


The Manor Selby

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