Sunday, October 02, 2011

SpilimBrass play Chaplin: The Adventurer, Easy Street (composer: Mark Hamlyn)

Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, English intertitles, with e-subtitles in Italian, 2 Oct 2011.

Antonello Mazzucco (GCM Catalogue): "Our “Chaplin film concert” project was born in 2009, with the aim of bringing Chaplin’s shorts – lesser-known to the general public than his features – into the concert hall. For the musicians of SpilimBrass, playing live for a film, without a conductor, is always a challenge: the music needs to be synchronized with each scene and the movements of the actor himself. Coming from a classical background, we are used to watching a conductor, guiding us in each tiny rallentando and accelerando. Even the thought of playing without a conductor seemed inconceivable. Eighteen months have passed from the first rehearsal to the first performance, and our satisfaction has been immeasurable. The thing that has most enthused us is that the more we have played these accompaniments, the more we discovered new nuances and musical effects. During the concerts we were the first to get excited. The group commissioned the music from Mark Hamlyn, who has sought to reproduce melodies in the style of Hollywood in the 1920s. His scores have then been inspected by Timothy Brock. As performers, we have sought to imitate the style and the sound of that era, trying to achieve the most historically authentic performance possible." – ANTONELLO MAZZUCCO

Musical accompaniment: SpilimBrass (Andrea Corsini, corno/horn; Antonello Mazzucco, trombone; Fabiano Cudiz, tromba/trumpet; Mario Barsotti, tuba; Mirco Bellucco, tromba/trumpet).

EASY STREET (La strada della paura) (Lone Star Film Corp.; dist. Mutual, US 1917) D, prod., SC: Charles Chaplin; DP: Roland Totheroh; AD: George (Scotty) Cleethorpe; cast: Charles Chaplin (Vagabond recruited to Police Force), Edna Purviance (Missionary), Eric Campbell (Scourge of Easy Street), Albert Austin (Clergyman; Policeman), Henry Bergman (Anarchist), Loyal Underwood (Small but Fecund Father; Policeman), Janet Miller Sully (His Wife; Mission Visitor), Charlotte Mineau (Ungrateful Woman), Tom Wood (Chief of Police), Frank J. Coleman (Policeman), John Rand (Mission Visitor; Policeman), William Gillespie (Drug Addict), Erich von Stroheim, Jr. (Baby); orig.: 1757 ft; DVD, 24'; from: SpilimBrass; Lobster Films. English intertitles.

"In February 1916 Chaplin entered into a contract with the Mutual Film Corporation. To capitalize the Chaplin contract, Mutual floated the Lone Star Film Corporation. His salary of $10,000 a week with a bonus of $150,000 on signing was unprecedented, either in motion pictures or any other American industry. Even more satisfying to Chaplin, the contract provided him with the independence of his own studio, aptly named the Lone Star Studio. In later life he looked back on the 18 months that followed, during which he produced 12 tworeel films of consistent quality, as “the happiest period of my life”. The last four films of this period – Easy Street, The Cure, The Immigrant, and The Adventurer – are among his masterworks. The street of the title has very much the look of Chaplin’s boyhood South London – and it is significant that one of the slum streets he knew there was called Hard Street. Built at a cost of $10,000, this was the first of the T-junction street sets that were to prove his ideal theatre, with its arrested vista, the cross-bar of the “T” leading to the grimier mysteries on either side. The story is a comic parody of Victorian “reformation” melodramas. The vagrant Charlie wanders into a mission, where he is moved – less by the hymn-singing than by the charms of missionary Edna – to turn over a new leaf and join the police force. He is assigned to the perilous beat of Easy Street, terrorized by the Herculean Eric Campbell, who is finally no match for Charlie’s ingenuity and luck – or Chaplin’s inexhaustible comic invention." – DAVID ROBINSON

THE ADVENTURER (L’evaso) (Lone Star Film Corp.; dist. Mutual, US 1917) D, prod., SC: Charles Chaplin; DP: Roland Totheroh; AD: George (Scotty) Cleethorpe; cast: Charles Chaplin (Escaped Convict), Edna Purviance (A Girl), Henry Bergman (Her Father; A Docker), Marta Golden (Her Mother), Eric Campbell (Her Suitor), Albert Austin (Butler), Toraichi Kono (chauffeur), John Rand (Guest), Frank J. Coleman (Fat Warder), Loyal Underwood (Small Guest), May White (Stout Lady), Janet Miller Sully, Monta Bell; orig.: 1845 ft; DVD, 24'; from: SpilimBrass; Lobster Films. English intertitles.

"The Adventurer had the longest production period of any Chaplin picture up to that time – four months. The outtakes from the film survive, to reveal how Chaplin’s films were then still constructed as shooting proceeded. In this case he began with 200 takes on location on the Santa Monica-Malibu coast – a series of complex and beautiful variations as Charlie, in prison stripes, attempts to elude the pursuit of a troupe of prison warders. Returning to the studio he built an elaborate setting of a rich house on two levels, and shot 300 takes of an apparently unrelated sequence of a party at which Charlie, now in elegant evening dress, flirts with the daughter of the house, Edna, under the angry eyes of her jealous suitor, Eric Campbell. He left to the end the problem of tying up these two apparently disparate elements to make a coherent film. This he achieved by devising the sequence on the jetty where the escaped convict Charlie rescues Edna – and less enthusiastically, her mother – from drowning. Thus he found the perfect excuse to convey Charlie – no longer identifiable as an escaped convict since he has lost his prison uniform – as a guest to the rich house. The car that drives him was Chaplin’s own Locomobile, and the handsome young chauffeur is Kono, Chaplin’s
personal chauffeur and confidant. The Adventurer was to be the last screen appearance of Eric Campbell, who has taken his place in screen history as Chaplin’s ideal heavy opponent. On 20 December 1917 he was killed instantly when the car he was driving collided with another vehicle at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue. Belying his looks, he was only 37." – DAVID ROBINSON

AA: I enjoyed the new music by Mark Hamlyn played by SpilimBrass, but I am also a great fan of Carl Davis's compositions to Chaplin's Mutual shorts. A brass band is an excellent choice for these films. I saw all of The Adventurer but of Easy Street just the beginning.

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