Accompagnamento dal vivo della Mitteleuropa Orchestra, diretta da Gillian Anderson
Introducono Dave Kehr (MoMA) e Margaret Bodde (The Film Foundation)
Precede Entr’acte (Francia/1924) R.: René Clair. D.: 22’. Did. francesi
Musiche di Erik Satie, eseguite al pianoforte da Daniele Furlati
Introduce Sophie Seydoux (Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé)
(In case of rain, the screening will be moved to Teatro Comunale)
In 1922, the most popular actress in America, Mary Pickford, invited the most acclaimed director in Europe, Ernst Lubitsch, to make his first Hollywood film.
The result was Rosita, released in 1923, in which Pickford plays the title character – a street singer of old Seville whose satirical barbs at the king of Spain (Holbrook Blinn) arouse, in time honored tradition, first his ire and then his ardor. As the king pursues her, to the amusement and mild consternation of his queen (Irene Rich), Rosita becomes enamored with the dashing but impoverished aristocrat (George Walsh, the younger brother of the director Raoul Walsh) who had rescued her from her initial encounter with the king’s guards.
As photographed by Charles Rosher (Sunrise) on expansive sets designed by William Cameron Menzies (Gone with the Wind), Rosita remains, in the words of the Lubitsch biographer Scott Eyman, “among the most physically beautiful of all silent films”. It is also one of the most advanced in terms of substituting the language of cinema for the written word. It’s in Rosita that one first strongly feels the emergence of what would come to be known as ‘the Lubitsch touch’ – the concise gesture that summarizes a character, the placement of a prop that eliminates pages of exposition, the creation of mood and drama through lighting, composition and montage.
For Lubitsch, Rosita was an important transitional film, at once the culmination of the historical epics he had been making in Europe (now realized with the full advantage of Hollywood’s generous budgets and technical sophistication) and the beginning of a new, more intimate and philosophical direction in his work. For all the affection and vivacity with which Lubitsch portrays the pair of young lovers, one feels that his deepest sympathies and attentions lie with the royal couple – the hapless, philandering king and his wise, firm but forgiving queen – whose relationship has weathered real world experience and come out the stronger for it.
The music for Rosita was reconstructed using a cue sheet from 1923 that was based on the now lost score for the film by Louis F. Gottschalk. The 45 pieces listed in the cue sheet were located in collections around the world. I suspect that Lubitsch, who was an accomplished pianist, had a hand in the Gottschalk score and hence in the cue sheet. The music fits the picture beautifully and is an example of the fact that well-chosen music can work just as well with a picture as an original score.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: Norbert Falk e Hanns Kräly dall’opera Don César de Bazan di Adolphe Philippe d’Ennery e Philippe-François Pinel. Scen.: Edward Knobloch. F.: Charles Rosher. Scgf.: William Cameron Menzies. Int.: Mary Pickford (Rosita), Holbrook Blinn (il re), Irene Rich (la regina), George Walsh (Don Diego), Charles Belcher (il primo ministro), Frank Leigh (il comandante della prigione), Mathilde Comont (la madre di Rosita), George Periolat (il padre di Rosita), Mme De Bodamere (cameriera). Prod.: Mary Pickford per Mary Pickford Company. DCP. D.: 95’.
René Clair was originally commissioned to make Entr’acte by Rolf de Maré, manager of the Swedish Ballet, to accompany Francis Picabia’s ballet, Relâche, performed from December 5th 1924 at Paris’ Theatre des Champs-Élysées. The ballet opened with a prologue in which Erik Satie, composer of the score for both ballet and film, appears on the roof of the theatre together with Francis Picabia. The film itself was shown during the interval as a means of “getting the audience to leave their seats”, a subversive purpose reported in the press of the day.
Critical reception of Picabia’s ballet was mixed, but the film received unanimous praise. It launched René Clair’s career. René Clair manages to rise above Picabia’s initial screenplay to produce a dynamically and disturbingly edited Dada piece. As R. de Givrey remarked in “Bonsoir” at the time, “by producing an exasperating effect on the senses, it makes one want to slap the man sitting next to one and bite the woman on the other side”. Entr’acte was rereleased at Paris’ Studio des Ursulines cinema in January 1926, with a piano arrangement by Darius Milhaud, based on Satie’s orchestral score. (Satie had died in July 1925).
In 1967 (the year in which Elaine Sturtevant started work on recreating the Relâche event) René Clair combined prologue and film proper, removing certain references to the ballet performance, such as dancer Jean Börlin’s monkey and the final slap in the face, to produce a version which remains the one generally shown today. The restoration resurrects a complete version of the work.
Cinéma, Entr’acte symponique pour le ballet ‘Relâche’, the accompaniment to René Clair’s 1924 film Entr’acte, was Erik Satie’s final composition, but also the first, in terms of its structure based on blocks repeated to hypnotic effect, to become a model for film music reprised every thirty years (Hermann-Hitchcock, Glass-Reggio, Nyman-Greenaway…).
The initial idea for Cinéma derived from a modified and accelerated version of the funeral march from Fryderyk Chopin’s Sonata in C Flat Minor Opus 35, an overused piece in the silent film repertory, that is parodically unveiled in the scene of the funeral.
The synchronisation of this new restoration of Entr’acte was carried out by comparing some of Satie’s handwritten notes, the original orchestral score, and later versions published by Salabert, in an attempt to remain as faithful as possible to the relation between image and music specified by the author: Cheminées. Ballons qui explosent. Gants de boxe et allumettes. Prises d’air, jeux d’échecs et ballon sur le toits. La Danseuse et figures dans l’eau. Chasseur et début de l’enterrement. Marche funèbre. Cortége au ralenti. La Poursuite. Chute du cercueil et sortie de Borlin. Eran crevé et fin.
Three versions for live musical accompaniment exist: the orchestral score, a transposition by Darius Milhaud for piano duet, and one for solo piano, which is the one used for this version of Clair’s film.
Cast and Credits
Scen.: Francis Picabia. F.: Jimmy Berliet. M.: René Clair. Int.: Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Inge Frïss, Francis Picabia, Jean Börlin, Georges Auric, Georges Charensol, Marcel Achard, Erik Satie. Prod.: Rolf de Maré per Les Ballets Suédois. DCP. D.: 22’.
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