Consummation. This is what the piano music of Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) and Franz Schubert (1979-1828) have in common, the bridge that Thomas Larcher brings to this welcoming solo recital, his first for ECM. To underscore this point, he shuffles Schönberg’s Klavierstücke op. 11 with Schubert’s posthumous Klavierstücke D 946. By turns halting and didactic, the opening pairing opens into the fresh air of Schubert’s precisely syncopated revelry. The contrasts between the two composers are obvious to the ear, but to the heart Schönberg is an extended exhalation to Schubert’s inhalation. Where Schönberg plots slow, jagged caverns, Schubert runs furtively above ground in the sunshine. Yet both seem so urgent to tell their stories, offering lifelong journeys from relatively young minds.
Olga and Ruth become friends. Olga is independent, separated from her husband, living with an immigrant pianist, and teaching feminist literature. Ruth is withdrawn, a painter, possibly mentally ill. Ruth dreams in black and white, sometimes of her suicide. Olga lectures on a 19th-century writer, von Günderrode, a suicide after the breakup of her intense friendship with Bettina Brentano. Ruth's husband Franz encourages the women's friendship, then, as Olga draws Ruth out and the friendship deepens, he becomes jealous. After the women travel to Egypt, Franz has a tirade. Ruth seems crushed between her husband and her friend, and how she responds is the film's climax.
Nineteenth century Wyoming: the wild West. Mild-mannered Tom Healy has a two-wagon theater troupe hounded by creditors because Angela, his leading lady and the object of his affection, constantly buys clothes. In Cheyenne, they meet with applause, so they hope to stay awhile: the theater owner likes Angela, and she keeps him on a string. She's also the object of the attentions of Mabry, a gunslinger who's owed money by the richest man in Bonanza. Complications arise and the troupe heads for Bonanza, through hostile Indian territory. Is the troupe doomed to a peripatetic life, is Mabry in danger, and does Tom stand a chance with Angela, a hellion in pink tights?