Sinéad O'Connor

The Value of Ignorance/The Year of the Horse [DVD]

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This DVD compilation features two Sinéad O'Connor live appearances originally released on VHS during her commercial heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In essence, one is a live version of her debut album, 1987's The Lion and the Cobra, and the other focuses on her second LP, 1990s I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got. The first is The Value of Ignorance, a 37-minute film shot at the Dominion Theatre in London on June 3, 1988. The second, The Year of the Horse, runs 67 minutes and seamlessly combines material from an October 29, 1990, show in Brussels and one the following night in Rotterdam. Filmed 29 months apart, the performances give a sense of how O'Connor developed as a concert artist over the period. The combination also shows the growth in her appeal to audiences. Director John Maybury's approach to the 1988 concert is to ignore the atmosphere of a show entirely in favor of focusing for almost the entire running time on O'Connor's head in close-up. For variety, he adds visual effects including color filters and super-impositions, but the camera rarely leaves O'Connor's shaven skull, a choice that emphasizes her intensity (as if any further emphasis were needed on her chief characteristic). The result is both powerful and claustrophobic. O'Connor is also almost the sole focus of Sophie Muller's The Year of the Horse. Now she is playing in a theater with a five-piece backup band, but she's the only one in the spotlights, emoting furiously during such songs as her massive hit "Nothing Compares 2 U." This was her moment, and the audience pays rapt attention. A more dispassionate viewer encountering these two films upon DVD release in 2004 might find the singer's passionate delivery self-indulgent and excessive, and, knowing her subsequent history, a foreshadowing of the troubles to come, but there is no denying her commitment or her ability to move an audience.

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