Saturday, June 30, 2012

Film concert Easy Street, The Immigrant, The Rink, composed by Neil Brand, Timothy Brock, and Antonio Coppola, performed by the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, conducted by Timothy Brock

Saturday, 30 July 2012, Piazza Maggiore (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian.

L'Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
Violini di spalla: Emanuele Benfenati
Violini primi: Giacomo Scarponi*, Giorgio Bovina, Alessandro Di Marco
Violini secondi: Fabio Cocchi*, Stefano Coratti, Valentino Corvino, Tommaso Luison
Viole: Enrico Celestino*, Emanuela Bascetta, Nicola Calzolari, Sandro Di Paolo
Violoncelli: Eva Zahn*, Giorgio Cristani, Mattia Cipolli, Vittorio Piombo
Contrabbassi: Gianandrea Pignoni*, Paolo Taddia
Flauti: Devis Mariotti*
Oboi: Paolo Grazia*
Clarinetti: Simone Simonelli*
Fagotti: Massimo Ferretti Incerti*
Corni: Stefano Pignatelli*, Michele Melchioni
Trombe: Gabriele Buffi*
Tromboni: Andrea Maccagnan*
Timpani: Alasdair David Kelly*
Percussioni: Alasdair David Kelly*, Mirko Natalizi
Pianoforte, Celesta, Harmonium: Andrea Bonato

* prime parti / in corsivo, professori d'orchestra aggiunti

Restauro integrale delle Comiche Essanay e Mutual
Restoration of the Essanay and Mutual Comedies

The Catalog: "The restoration of the Essanay and Mutual comedies is the missing piece of a larger project: the restoration of Chaplin’s entire body of work. The project, undertaken by the Cineteca di Bologna and L’Immagine Ritrovata in 1999, includes ten full feature films, seven short features and featurettes, besides the thirty five Keystone comedies restored in collaboration with the British Film Institute and Lobster Films."

"The project, also with the collaboration of Lobster Films and with the support of the Chaplin’s family, aims at the restoration of the twenty six titles completed by Charlie Chaplin between 1915 and 1917 for the Essanay and Mutual production companies. For the first time, the invaluable ‘Blackhawk Film’ collection will be integrated with new material recently retrieved from a number of international archives, thus taking advantage of the best digital technology available and long time experience in comparing and analysing Chaplin’s work."

"[...] But we were speaking of new scores, the symbolic seal of the 26th edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato, weaving together the most musical of filmmakers, Charlie Chaplin, and the restoration of three of his shorts from the 1916-1917 period: Easy Street, to the tune of British composer Neil Brand, The Rink, with music by Italian composer Antonio Coppola, and The Immigrant, with a score by Timothy Brock. Brock will also be at the helm of the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna at the festival’s opening with Augusto Genina’s Prix de beauté, accompanied by music written by the American composer and making its Italian premiere after debuting in Lyon last January." (The Catalog).

[in the printed program the order was 1: The Rink, 2: Easy Street, 3: The Immigrant, but the order was changed in the actual concert as below]

US 1917. D: Charles Chaplin. La strada della paura. SC: Charles Chaplin. DP: Roland Totheroh. C: Charles Chaplin (un vagabondo), Edna Purviance (ragazza dell’Esercito della Salvezza), Eric Campbell (il terrore del quartiere), Albert Austin (pastore/poliziotto), Henry Bergman (l’anarchico), Loyal Underwood (padre prolifico / secondo poliziotto), Janet Miller Sully (moglie dell’uomo prolifico/visitatrice alla Missione), Charlotte Mineau (la donna ingrata), Tom Wood (capo della polizia), Lloyd Bacon (drogato), Frank J. Coleman (terzo poliziotto), John Rand (visitatore alla Missione/quarto poliziotto). PC: Charles Chaplin per Lone Star Mutual. Premiere: 22. gennaio 1917. 2K DCP. 26’ at 18 fps. B&w. From: Blackhawk Collection / Lobster Films. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in collaboration with Lobster Films and David Shepard. Other elements from: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, CNC – Archives françaises du film, British Film Institute. New musical score composed by Neil Brand and performed live by Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna.

Jean Mitry: “Easy Street, together with The Pawnshop, is the masterpiece of the Mutual series. It is an absolute masterpiece. This film is a ballet, a poem, a parody, with a corrosive and farcical energy. And it is through this film that Chaplin’s social satire asserts itself and gains momentum. It is by far the most violent satire produced as a caricature by Chaplin prior to The Great Dictator.

“The characters descend in a maddeningly downward spiral that isolates them from the real world and plunges them into a symbolic and transparent representation of life. [...] The conclusion is pure sublime irony. Institutions, laws, moral principles, and catechists had never been made fun of with such sarcastic virulence. Those who think they are keeping humanity on the straight path using snippets from the Bible and fear of the police are mocked with gusto. The same fate is reserved for ‘good intentions’ which suddenly blossom as a result of a smile or a blessing. Furthermore, Easy Street integrates farcical and comedic elements: when the Tramp robs the grocer’s cash box he was supposed to protect, the contradiction between his act and his duty is farcical. But this contradiction is only meant to underline his behavior and delineate his character, a character that is comical to the extent that it is revealed through such contradiction.” Jean Mitry, Tout Chaplin, Seghers, Paris 1972

US 1917. D: Charles Chaplin. L’emigrante. SC: Charles Chaplin. DP: Roland Totheroh. C: Charles Chaplin (un emigrante), Edna Purviance (un’emigrante), Kitty Bradbury (madre della ragazza), Albert Austin (emigrante slavo/cliente al ristorante), Henry Bergman (donna slava/pittore), Loyal Underwood (l’emigrante piccolo piccolo), Eric Campbell (capocameriere), Stanley Sanford (giocatore d’azzardo), James T Kelley (uomo al ristorante), John Rand (ubriaco senza soldi), Frank J. Coleman (ufficiale di bordo/ proprietario del ristorante), Tom Harrington (impiegato). PC: Charles Chaplin per Lone Star Mutual. Premiere: 17 giugno 1917. 2K DCP. 24’. a 20 fps. B&w. Didascalie inglesi / English intertitles. From: Blackhawk Collection / Lobster Films. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in collaboration with Lobster Film and David Shepard. New musical score composed by Timothy Brock and performed by Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna

Marcel Martin: “The Immigrant is a seminal piece for Chaplin and his body of work in terms of its humanity and its violent polemic captured in the famous take of the arrival of immigrants to New York. [...] The arrival described in his movie is not only emblematic of his own direct (perhaps) experience, but also of that of hundreds of thousands of men and women who had landed in the United States over the previous thirty years. [...] Chaplin’s work for Mutual in 1916-1917 includes various masterpieces (The Pawnshop, Easy Street, The Immigrant) which are some of his most powerful social commentaries. [...] The Tramp arrives in the United States expecting the promised land, a symbol of freedom and infinite possibilities, only to find a closed and puritanical society that discriminates against new immigrants using the traditional weapons of oppressors: egotistical wealth, religious and political intolerance, violence in the service of the privileged. In other words, the Tramp, the small Jewish immigrant chased from Europe by the pogroms, finds in the United States a society where Jews, left wing sympathizers, and the poor are automatically filed away as suspicious characters. Given the persistence with which this society harassed Chaplin during his stay in America, it is no surprise that he would continue his satire even after his astonishing professional and social success had shielded him from material, if not moral, concerns, and provided him with the possibility to integrate. But Chaplin would never integrate because he is the epitome of the wandering Jew, the luftmensch incapable of putting down stable roots in a specific location: all his life he would remain a temporary immigrant.” Marcel Martin, Charlie Chaplin, Seghers, Paris 1966

US 1916. D: Charles Chaplin. Charlot a rotelle. SC: Charles Chaplin. DP: Roland Totheroh. C: Charles Chaplin (cameriere pattinatore), Edna Purviance (ragazza chic), James T. Kelley (padre della ragazza), Eric Campbell (sig. Stout), Henry Bergman (signora Stout / cliente arrabbiato), Lloyd Bacon (ospite), Albert Austin (chef/ pattinatore), Frank J. Coleman (direttore del ristorante), John Rand (cameriere), Leota Bryan, Charlotte Mineau (amiche di Edna). PC: Charles Chaplin per Lone Star Mutual. Premiere: 4. dicembre 1916. 2K DCP. 25’ at 19 fps. B&w. From: Blackhawk Collection / Lobster Films. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in collaboration with Lobster Films and David Shepard. Other elements from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, CNC – Archives Françaises du Film e Library of Congress. New score composed by Antonio Coppola and performed live by Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna

Charles Chaplin: “The mechanics of the directing were simple in those days. I had only to know my left from my right for entrances and exists. If one exited right from a scene, one came in left in the next scene; if one exited towards the camera, one entered with one’s back to the camera in the next scene. These, of course, were primary rules. But with more experience I found that the placing of a camera was not only psychological but articulated a scene; in fact it was the basis of cinematic style. […] Placement of camera is cinematic inflection. There is no set rule that a close-up gives more emphasis than a long shot. A close-up is a question of feeling; in some instances a long shot can effect greater emphasis.

“An example of this is on one of my early comedies, Skating [The Rink]. The tramp enters the rink and skates with one foot up, gliding and twirling, tripping and bumping into people and getting into all sorts of mischief, eventually leaving everyone piled up on their backs in the foreground of the camera while he skates to the rear of the rink, becoming a very small figure in the background, and sits amongst the spectators innocently reviewing the havoc he has just created. Yet the small figure of the tramp in the distance was funnier than he would have been in a close-up.” Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography, Simon & Schuster, New York 1964

AA: The Piazza Maggiore was crowded in the final gala event of Il Cinema Ritrovato, and there were many families with children to enjoy the Charles Chaplin show. It is great that Chaplin's Essanay and Mutual comedies are being reconstructed in the full silent aperture format and with music by a great orchestra. The Chaplin concert was a great success.

There have been many music solutions to Chaplin's Mutual comedies during the 90+ years in which they have been in circulation. Personally, I have grown fond of the Carl Davis compositions to Chaplin's Mutual cycle, a labour of love of his. In Sodankylä, two weeks earlier, we got to listen to Maud Nelissen's beautiful music to The Immigrant. I also like very much the sequence in Louis Malle's Au revoir les enfants where The Immigrant is played to a charmingly amateurish rendition of Camille Saint-Saëns's Rondo capriccioso. I would need to hear the new compositions by Neil Brand, Timothy Brock, and Antonio Coppola again to truly appreciate them, and they are certainly worth revisiting. My main comment to composers would be: don't try to be funny. These movies are already the funniest ever made. Chaplin's own solution, add great emotion, don't fear pathos, might be best. Nino Rota followed this solution, too, in his comedy scores. Ideally, the music might toe the line between the sublime and the ridiculous. Sometimes good may be the Marvin Hatley solution to Laurel and Hardy comedies: blithely ignore the action, and the disparity between the brainless music and the catastrophic escalation adds to the fun.

The visual quality of these 2K DCP's cannot be the final word in restoration. The best of the three was The Immigrant, but especially Easy Street and The Rink lacked bite. The Photoplay print of The Immigrant I saw two weeks earlier in Sodankylä was superior to this 2K DCP. Because the Mutual comedies fell into public domain long ago the quality of the prints has been extremely variable, but good prints have also been available so that we know how great these classic comedies should look like.

No comments: