Jessica Alba stars as a violinist

February 2, 2008 at 01:27 AM · "The Eye" (a horror movie) hits theaters today.

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Replies (66)

February 2, 2008 at 02:07 AM · I guess. She also sees dead people. ;)

Do you know Stephanie Yu by chance?

February 2, 2008 at 03:42 AM · Isn't Jessica playing on the wrong side of the bridge?

- Don't tell me I've been doing it WRONG all this time!

February 2, 2008 at 03:49 AM · I know, watching her playing has just been so insightful! Apparently, she's learned more in 6 months of lessons than I have in 12 years.

Joshua - We were at the same summer camp last summer. She's great!

February 2, 2008 at 03:56 AM · Well, we were talking in another thread about achieving extra high notes! Anyway, she makes a fetching fiddler!

February 2, 2008 at 04:41 AM · Greetings,

so who was the worst simulated string player you ahve ever seen in a movie. My vote goes to the cellsit who appeared in one of the later 007 movies. The one where the Stradivarius gets a bullet through it but remains miraculuosly playable.

Cheers,

Buri

February 2, 2008 at 05:10 AM · Buri, just to let you know, my experience in a movie helped me understand why some trained string players often look as if they aren't doing a very good job of looking like they're really playing. I am not certain my experience is typical but in this instance my colleagues and I were asked to not allow our bows to touch the string, and were given instruments to use outdoors that had the strings strung on the wrong pegs. As a result, though we could hear the music in the background and were certainly able to play it had the director let us, we had to basically air bow because the sound was to be dubbed in later. I did, however, get to actually play later in the film and that was not dubbed in. It feels very odd to have to be careful not to touch the strings and still look like you are really playing but it is a good exercise in bow control. I do not know why they were not open to the suggestion to use un-rosined bows but perhaps the camera mikes for the actors had a range that would have even picked up our un-rosined bow sounds and interfered.

February 2, 2008 at 07:03 AM · LOL!

February 2, 2008 at 08:34 AM · Ronald, I had a similar experience, involving a click track and a conductor who couldn't seem to stay with it. We couldn't really play out, because then the click couldn't be heard, and we had to play with the click because the music was to be dubbed in afterwards. Playing together was a catastrophe!

February 2, 2008 at 01:24 PM · My experience with recording for a movie was similiar. We were on set at Union Station in D.C. and a guy with a microphone recorded us playing, and then the rest of the day for the scene (which took multiple takes because of random people getting off their trains and wandering into the scene) we "air bowed" above the strings. Of course, we still made it look real.

February 2, 2008 at 07:19 PM · Wow I always wondered why movie players never looked right! It's one of the things that really bugs me about movies sometimes. To an extent i can understand it if they're filming a scene with just background music, but a solo part (i think) should look as real as possible. Anybody seen August Rush? I couldn't help but laugh! The scenes of her fingers up close show no vibrato whatsoever while the sound has plenty. very funny. Granted it was better than most. I saw another movie the other day that had a cellist playing on a cello with no strings at all!

p.s. Sydney! Remember me? we went to camp together too at SE.

February 2, 2008 at 10:11 PM · Hi Forrest!!

February 2, 2008 at 10:20 PM · Go watch the movie "ONCE" and you'll get a real musicians playing and it shows.

February 2, 2008 at 10:55 PM · Sydney--weird, I played in a quartet with Stephanie at Encore a few years ago. Small freaking world....

February 3, 2008 at 01:59 AM · Haha, yeah Forrest, I saw August Rush the other day too. You're right, it was better than quite a few movies I've seen, but still . . . ugh, just painful sometimes. Hah, there was than one part where the kid was playing the piano, and the direction of the notes was the complete opposite visually compared to aurally. Probably the best stuff was the guitar playing - that was pretty good! And the conducting wasn't bad either. :) It was cute.

February 3, 2008 at 06:29 AM · Same subject, yet different - Does anyone know if Arsenio Hall actually played Sax in "Mo Betta Blues?" I believe he actually plays, and I caught the movie recently on cable - and well, it didn't sound quite good enough not to be him...

February 3, 2008 at 08:26 PM · I don't know about Arsenio Hall, but Robert DiNero really played the sax in "New York, New York". Getting back to strings...years ago I did an early MTV commercial with Tony Bennet. As I recall, we were just violins and harp. They did want us to really play along with a pre-recorded synthesizer track, but told us that it was the synth. track that they would use. When we finished, they said we sounded as good as the synth. track. What a compliment! It's like saying that a real plant looks as good as a fake one! Just a few years ago I did a video as part of a string section with the pop group, Rascall Flatts. It was a similar deal, although I'm not sure whose playing they used.

Has anyone seen the old movie, "Humoresque"? It's about the rise and partial fall of an ambitious violin soloist. John Garfield played the violinist, Joan Crawford played his patroness and main love interest - and Oscar Levant, essentially playing himself, just about stole the show. Isaac Stern, only about 25 at the time, played the sound track with blazing virtuosity. His hands can be seen in some scenes. But in close-ups showing Garfield's character, two violinists off camera except for their hands - one taking the fingerboard, and the other, the bow, while Garfield stood there with a violin wired to him - had to coordinate to Stern's pre-recorded track, and to each other. What a feat of co-ordination! To this day I feel sorry for those two unsung fiddlers.

February 3, 2008 at 03:36 PM · "Humoresque"! Great movie!

Adrien Brody is actually playing in "The Pianist." I think they still overlaid tracks of Wladyslaw Szpilman's playing for authenticity's sake, but when you look at Adrien's hands you can see he's really playing the Chopin.

February 3, 2008 at 07:34 PM · Is "The Pianist" a good movie?

Joshua, it was the NSO's Summer Music Institute.

February 3, 2008 at 08:28 PM · Btw Sydney, how did you reproduce Jessica's photo here?

February 3, 2008 at 08:51 PM · ACK! She's using a shoulder rest! ;)

February 3, 2008 at 08:56 PM · Is she doing col legno with a good bow?

February 3, 2008 at 10:04 PM · I uploaded a picture on here and then, instead of pasting the HTML tag into my blog, I pasted it into the discussion.

February 3, 2008 at 10:44 PM · Greetings,

don`t worry. Its an air shoudle r rest. It doesn`t touch anything. The Hollywood studios have them specially made,

Cheers,

Buri

February 3, 2008 at 10:57 PM · This is great.....a very attractive woman plays a woman who's a pro at violin who also sees dead people. I am so watching this!

February 3, 2008 at 11:58 PM · Where is "here"? Just tried to copy and paste a pic in my response but when I was ready to paste, "paste" got greyed-out.

February 4, 2008 at 12:39 AM · Well, you have to upload it onto an image-hosting site, which will provide you with an HTML tag. If you choose - on Violinist.com - "Add a blog entry" on the Blog page, then in the lower right-hand corner, it gives you the option, "Upload a photo." Once you upload the photo, it will give you an HTML tag which you copy and then you can paste it into a response on this discussion.

February 4, 2008 at 05:57 AM · Actually, according to a printed interview, Ms. Alba is quoted as saying that to learn the violins she herself watched videos of Anne-Sophie Mutter. From what I know about this movie I'm quite sure that Ms. Mutter was not the "inspiration" behind this character.

DID see "Humoresque" some years ago - it was actually showing at a restaurant/lounge in Houston, TX. WILD!

February 4, 2008 at 03:42 PM · It says here (in a picture caption) that ASM is the main inspiration. Also, the directors are classical music fans!!

February 8, 2008 at 06:43 AM · I have seen the movie and believe me, Jessica Alba looks nothing like a concert violinists while "playing". There is no emotion whatsoever and she looked like a stick figure while playing. She is certainly a very pretty girl but not beliveable as a violinist.

February 8, 2008 at 06:52 AM · Marsha... how bout you are given 6 months to look like a major league pitcher.

I don't think you'll do much better.

February 8, 2008 at 07:00 AM · Hmm.... there is an asian version of "The Eye", similar that the main character gets corneal transplant and starts to see dead people. I don't remember any violin scene though.

February 8, 2008 at 07:19 AM · "how bout you are given 6 months to look like a major league pitcher."

That's no excuse. They're professionals. It's like saying "How 'bout you try flying an airplane", when one crashes. Anyway, me and EZ are seeing it this weekend. We'll report back.

February 8, 2008 at 07:31 AM · No, the point is that it's impossible to look like a soloist after just 6 months of playing. There's so many things that have to work properly just to look like a great player. A lot of people who have been playing for 10 years still look awkward. Jessica Alba is hardly considered an actress either.

February 8, 2008 at 07:32 AM · Half of that Heifetz movie is faked with a body double, taking advantage of carefully chosen angle and distance.

Like I said...

February 8, 2008 at 07:39 AM · And that, as well as every other movie where there are body doubles, is quite obvious to any violinist. There really is no way around it.

February 8, 2008 at 07:46 AM · If they hired a violinist as a consultant, and to say go or no go, then professionals could have done it convincingly. Star Trek the Movie convinced you they were in outer space.

Like I said...

February 8, 2008 at 07:46 AM · I think she did have consultants, she obviously had a violin teacher.

There's also a film comming out with Jamie Fox playing the cello, and he's being taught by a cellist in the LA Phil.

Special effects like making you look like you're in space and executing a fluid motion that takes some of the most talented people in the world many years to accomplish is not the same, because unless you basically put her head onto an exact body double with CGI or whatever, the movements ARE going to look totally wrong. You could see it in the smallest ways.

February 8, 2008 at 07:53 AM · If I was going to do this, my strategy would be use a real violinist for all but the head shots, and do the head shots real strategically. Or maybe paste her head on the violinist. They can do anything now. It's a matter of cost and return and effort required, of course.

February 8, 2008 at 07:48 AM · That's the only way you could really do it. There's also the possibility, like I said, of actually replacing her head on the body of someone else with CGI or whatever it is. It would be incredibly hard but they could probably edit that somehow over a few months. The latter option is obviously too expensive and too time consuming to be effective or even logical.

Then again, to go see a movie as dumb as this with an actrice who is known to have a career only because of one thing (and it isn't talent), and to expect her to do a good job when she hasn't ever before, then you were setting yourself up for dissapointment. Merryl Streep, probably one of the most talented actrices of the last 30 years did a pretty good job of looking credible in Music of the Heart. Adrien Brody was really good too in The Pianist, but those are easier motions to accomplish (he wasn't creating the sound).

February 8, 2008 at 07:56 AM · I just hope Freddy Kruger's in it. He's pretty cool.

February 8, 2008 at 01:39 PM · Yeah, Jim, but that Freddy's a ROTTEN actor!

He only got the gig because of one thing.....

February 8, 2008 at 01:58 PM · While I haven't accepted beginners in quite some time, I would be willing to make an exception for Jessica Alba. I'm sure it would be a dirty, thankless job - but somebody's got to do it! ;-)

February 8, 2008 at 02:05 PM · The best performance fake job I have ever seen in a movie was done by Julie Andrews in "Duet For One", which sadly is not yet on DVD. Julie Andrews was an excellent singer, of course, and would understand breathing much better than the average non-musician actor.

Most actors fail at faking performance because they are so stiff, and seem to be holding their breath rather than breathing like a real musician would.

Also, I love "Humoresque". After viewing it, I always want to run off and practice while donning very large shoulder pads...

February 8, 2008 at 02:38 PM · Mr. Klayman, if I had your track record and resume, I'd like to teach Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp, Hayden Christiansen, Chris Brown, and so on....

It would be such a great contribution to their careers to play violin, but only learning it from me, no one else. ;)

February 8, 2008 at 02:51 PM · There was an article some time ago in the NY Times about the method teachers use to teach actors to play piano in films like "The Pianist." http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/10/movies/10toum.html?scp=76&sq=%22adrien+brody%22&st=nyt Essentially it is a crash course that teaches you how to play two or three pieces, just what an actor like Brody needed.

Sydney - "Pianist" is an excellent film and Brody's Oscar was well-deserved.

February 8, 2008 at 08:33 PM · I see Jessica is bowing behind the bridge. I volunteer to give her lessons!

February 8, 2008 at 09:37 PM · Pieter, why do you not consider Jessica Alba an actress? I find her a very good actress. I mean, she has played in many of the most successful movies!

February 8, 2008 at 09:45 PM · Was the music in the movie any good? Also, does it say who is actually playing the soundtrack?

February 8, 2008 at 11:44 PM · Shawn, she doesn't appear to be playing at the moment of that still shot...although if she were, it would be hilarious.

Kind of like a flyer for a summer workshop that the cello teacher at my school got in the mail: at first nothing seemed amiss, but when you looked closely, the picture was mirror-imaged so that it looked like everyone's instrument and bow was in the wrong hand (apparently the designer wasn't a string player!). The prof posted it on his board with the note "NOT RECOMMENDED"...

February 9, 2008 at 01:25 AM · Why does Jessica Alba have that insect under her violin? :)

February 9, 2008 at 02:03 PM · Jasmine - Thank you, and yes, the sacrifices we make for our Art!

Shawn - sorry, I called it first!

February 9, 2008 at 02:35 PM · not sure from that moment in time photo it is clear that she was bowing behind the bridge...it could be that her bow was in the air and the camera angle caught it as such,,,in defense of ms alba and her violin on-set guru:)

but at least she got one thing right,,,she is using a shoulder rest haha....agree with nate that those bugs eyes from the shoulder rest really stand out! :)

February 10, 2008 at 09:55 PM · Brian,

Just because she was in successful movies (and quite a few bombs), she's a good actress? Trust me, there isn't even a classical music equivalent of her.

February 10, 2008 at 10:06 PM · anyone else see something odd about her bow placement?

February 10, 2008 at 10:16 PM · Her bow is in the air, check the camera angle.

Pieter, i respect your opinion although I don't understand what you meant by "there's no classical music equivalent of her".

February 10, 2008 at 10:55 PM ·

Major film actors like Merryl Streep, Al Pacino etc... are the standard for major films. Jessica Alba isn't even in the same universe. To paraphrase Preston Hawes, she is "the McDonalds of acting".

February 11, 2008 at 12:23 AM · Or, "the Vanessa Mae of music."

February 11, 2008 at 12:29 AM · Jessica's got a natural-born victim look that's great for horror movies. Meryl Steep couldn't pull that off.

February 11, 2008 at 12:34 AM · Yes absolutely. However since Hitchcock, Horror and action movies represent pretty much the bottom of the barrel cinematically.

February 11, 2008 at 12:43 AM · Don't know about that. They put a huge amount of money into them. It would be interesting to discuss what constitutes a good flick, vs. "bottom of the barrel."

February 11, 2008 at 12:44 AM · But they do make training for polititians.

February 11, 2008 at 12:56 AM · not gonna get into that. Big money production has nothing to do with quality.

February 11, 2008 at 02:46 PM · Another bit with actors playing violins--there's a violin "battle duet" centered around the piece Czardas in the remake of Unfaithfully Yours. Dudley Moore and Armand Assante play the violins agressively at each other in a night club. It's actually a pretty entertaining scene, though you know neither one are playing. Dudley does a better job than Armand, who in the film is the one who is supposed to be a concert violinist playing the Tchaikovsky concerto. And they actually do show him scrubbing (faking) away at the Tchaikovsky.

June 18, 2008 at 06:14 PM · When I first saw the preview for this movie, she was on stage wearing a yellow dress just like Anne Sophie Mutter. Yes, I thought they must have used her as an inspiration of some sorts. The only reason I would want to see the movie now is to critique Jessica Alba. I find it humorous when actresses/actors try to play violin. Especially someone like Jessica Alba. It's a movie about eye transplants. Ouch! She really is just another "pretty" actress. Nothing special here.

June 18, 2008 at 07:34 PM · What an enjoyable discussion. Anyone remember reruns of the old Sherlock Holmes movies made in the 40's or so? I have no idea who played while Sherl stood there, his left hand and fingers stock still, but whoever that violinist was, he played beautifully, with a wonderful sweet vibrato. If Basil Rathbone was actually playing the violin in those scenes, he had to have had the narrowest finger-impulse vibrato of all time, as well as fingers that moved so fast that you didn't even see them move.

But I think this is what I need. Instead of actually playing the violin, I should have a professional standing behind a curtain and playing, and I can just bow-synch.

:) Sandy

June 18, 2008 at 08:07 PM · Yes, great discussion, but it's always so disorienting to see that it started up months ago and not recently. What the heck, it beats 4 years ago.

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