Piazza Maggiore > 21:45


Edward José

MY COUSIN: Original score composed by Daniele Furlati and performed by the ensemble of Teatro Comunale di Modena

THE ADVENTURER: Piano accompaniment by Riccardo Pettinà

Event sponsored by MG Bologna by Stefanelli 1952

(In case of rain, the screening will take place at Cinema Modernissimo)


Thursday 20/06/2024


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

For the restoration of My Cousin five elements – preserved by MoMA – The Museum of Modern Art, BFI National Archive, Gosfil’mofond and EYE Filmmuseum – were inspected, digitised and compared. The restoration used a duplicate negative preserved by MoMA, produced from a nitrate print with Swedish intertitles. The intertitles were reconstructed from a 1959 fourth-generation dupe negative from MoMA.

In 1918, Enrico Caruso, a curious media experimenter, signed a contract for the incredible amount of $200,000 for two films to be produced by Jesse Lasky of Famous Players, My Cousin and The Splendid Romance, which is now lost. In My Cousin Caruso plays the double role of the tenor Caroli and his cousin, a sculptor/statuette-maker in Little Italy, and his acting is not as histrionic as contemporary silent film performance styles. The premiere was to be held in October but was delayed to November, officially due to the Spanish Flu. A series of mishaps occurred during the delicate launch of such an expensive star for the production company that had ‘invented’ the star system, which explains why this picture does not appear in any film history book.
In a “Moving Picture Stories” novelisation dated 15 November, the names of the characters are not the same as in the film. Two film stills were retouched to restore the sculptor cousin’s moustache and their catalogue numbers date to a point after the lost film Splendid Romance. So there was a reworking in the film. Moreover, the first novelisations depict the “poor” cousin as a stereotypical immigrant, all spaghetti, jealousy and knives. Irritated by this negative representation, Caruso intervened, transforming the jealousy scenes into pranks and expanded the sculptor’s role into a good-natured, artistic character, using his own charisma against anti-Italian prejudice.
A stereotypical plot that undermined the audience’s empathy and a botched publicity drive that created an expectation that the tenor would sing in the movie explain why My Cousin proved to be, as Lasky himself admitted, a flop. It was pulled from distribution despite reviews acknowledging the singer’s acting talent. Deep cultural issues were at the heart of the unexpected “failure” of Caruso’s film debut, but Lasky also had to take responsibility: unable to exploit the tenor’s magnificent voice, he should have put his money on his exceptional acting ability with a good story. My Cousin is about the aspirations of Italian immigrants, but it was the Met tenor that the American middle class wanted to see, and that was the audience Famous Players hoped to win over.
Although late, Lasky understood his mistake: the last film he produced was The Great Caruso (1951).

Giuliana Muscio

I was commissioned to write the score for My Cousin by the Modena Belcanto Festival, using the restored copy that had already been screened at Il Cinema Ritrovato. I had accompanied the film in the past, but always improvising. This time, in writing the score first, I noticed many details that suggested the form the music should take.
Recognising the fluidity and fragmented nature of the feature’s five acts, I broke down the music, both the original and historical elements, and then reconstructed them.
For the opening, I made use of motifs from the operas mentioned to evoke the characters played by the real Caruso. In the scene between the sculptor Tommaso played by Caruso and his assistant Ludovico, I recounted a unique friendship. The scenes between Rosa and Tommaso in the sculptor’s workshop are a meta-opera, reminiscent of La Bohème. For the alternating shots that show the different social classes in Metropolitan’s audience, I mixed popular song, opera and chamber music. Finally, the only diegetic voice that we hear, which is synchronised with the image, is that of Caruso in the role of the tenor Cairoli singing Vesti la giubba during the performance of I pagliacci at the Metropolitan. In every other occasion in which we see someone sing on screen, I opted to employ a visual, rather than philological, harmony between music and images.
Following the course of the film, I therefore constructed musical extracts employing a playful alternation between reality and fiction – because ultimately it is all fiction, because we are at the cinema.

Daniele Furlati

Cast and Credits

Sog., Scen.: Margaret Turnbull. F.: Hal Young. Scgf.: Vincenzo Trotta. Int.: Enrico Caruso (Tommaso Caroli/Cesare Caroli), Carolina White (Rosa Ventura), William Ricciardi (Pietro Ventura), Henry Leone (Roberto Lombardi), William Bray (Ludovico), Salvatore Fucito (il pianista), Bruno Zirato (il segretario). Prod.: Jesse Lasky per Famous Players-Lasky Productions. DCP. D.: 49’. Bn.


Italian Title
Director: Charles Chaplin
Year: 1917
Country: USA
Running time: 26'
Film Version

English intertitles


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