Saturday, August 20, 2016

Tonight: scoring 'Metropolis' in Ludlow, Vt.,
plus thoughts about Valentino's "Sheik" films

Working for the man in 'Metropolis' (1927).

Very excited about the chance to do live music tonight (Saturday, Aug. 20) for a screening of 'Metropolis' in Ludlow, Vt.

Showtime is 7 p.m. at the Ludlow Auditorium, which is upstairs from the town offices. It was never designed to be a movie theater, but it's a great place to experience silent film.

Among the reasons: the people are great, and so are the acoustics.

More info about tonight's screening is in the press release below.

For now, a few notes about Rudolph Valentino. His untimely death occurred on Aug. 23, 1926, which means the 90th anniversary is coming up next week.

He's one of the few stars from the silent era who remain a household name. Today, "Valentino" is still a synonym for exotic romance, even among people who've never seen any of his movies.

To help remedy that, I scheduled a spate of Valentino flicks in various places this month, with a special emphasis on 'Son of the Sheik' (1926), Valentino's final film.

Originally, I had intended to run double bills consisting of the original 1921 'The Sheik' as well as 'Son,' which was its sequel.

But a program featuring both titles runs well over three hours. And too much of anything—even Valentino—is not always wise.

So I've pared back most of the screenings to just 'Son of the Sheik,' generally regarded as the better of the two.

Overall, the original 'Sheik' is slower paced and more old-fashioned. The sequel is much zippier, more fun, and technically superior. Movie-making had advanced a lot in just five years.

However, now I'm not so sure. Last week I did run both back-to-back at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center in Plymouth, N.H.

And 'The Sheik' held up better than I expected, while its sequel seemed flat and less focused.

Vilma Banky and Rudy in 'Son of the Sheik.'

Afterwards, I polled the audience (about 40 people), and reaction was split right down the middle. Half preferred 'The Sheik,' while half preferred the sequel.

So we'll see. Maybe it really was just too much all at once, and 'Son of the Shiek' will come into its own when run on its own.

We'll find out next week, when I accompany the film on Thursday, Aug. 25 at the Leavitt Theater in Ogunquit, Maine, and then again on Saturday, Aug. 27 up in Brandon, Vt.

The one reqret I have about not running both films is that I lose the opportunity to create two intersecting scores.

Example: In 'The Sheik,' throughout the film I used a certain bold melodic signature for Valentino's title character and wove it into the score.

Then, for 'Son of the Sheik,' I used a completely different motif for the title character (the Sheik's son), and otherwise completely different material around it as well.

So THEN, when the Sheik's father shows up in the latter film, I brought back the original motif from the first movie, a move I thought was really effective.

But you can't achieve effects like that when you run only one title. Still, I'll do my best to help 'Son' connect with audiences curious about the Valentino appeal.

Poster for the original 'Sheik' film in 1921.

Speaking of which: one thing about 'Son' that's necessary to explain is that Valentino was to some extent making fun of his reputation as the screen's greatest lover.

Watch both Sheik films in succession, it's easy to see this. But without context, some of his moves in 'Son' might get taken the wrong way. "Oh, those primitive silent movies!" So it necessary to say a few works about that.

The good news is that both pictures hold up quite well on their own, so I'm looking forward to presenting more Valentino later this month.

But first, the imagined future beckons. Come up to Ludlow, Vt. tonight and see one of the biggies! More info in the press release below.

* * *

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Futuristic silent film epic 'Metropolis' (1927)
to be shown in Ludlow on Saturday, Aug. 20

Landmark early sci-fi fantasy movie, with half-hour of rediscovered footage, to be shown with live music at Ludlow (Vt.) Town Hall Auditorium

LUDLOW, Vt.—A silent film hailed as the granddaddy of all science fiction fantasy movies will be screened with live music on Saturday, Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. at Ludlow Town Hall Auditorium.

The screening, sponsored by FOLA (Friends of the Ludlow Auditorium), will allow audiences to experience silent film in the way its creators originally intended: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

The show, like all movies at the Ludlow Town Hall Auditorium, is free and open to the public. 'Metropolis' will be preceded by a short silent comedy film starring Buster Keaton.

"'Metropolis' is one of the great all-time classics of cinema, and we're thrilled to present it so fans can experience it with an audience and live music," said Ralph Pace, programmer and organizer of the series.

Original music for 'Metropolis' will be performed live by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer and silent film accompanist who performs at screenings around the nation.

'Metropolis' (1927), regarded as German director Fritz Lang's masterpiece, is set in a futuristic city where a privileged elite pursue lives of leisure while the masses toil on vast machines and live deep underground.

The film, with its visions of futuristic factories and flying cars, set new standards for visual design and inspired generations of dystopian fantasies from Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner' to Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil.'

In reviving 'Metropolis' and other great films of cinema's early years, FOLA aims to show silent movies as they were meant to be seen—in high quality prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who will improvise an original live score for 'Metropolis' on the spot. "Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early cinema leap back to life."

Brigitte Helm works her triceps in 'Metropolis.'

In 'Metropolis,' the story centers on an upper class young man who falls in love with a woman who works with the poor. The tale encompasses mad scientists, human-like robots, underground spiritual movements, and industrial espionage, all set in a society divided between haves and have-nots.

The version of 'Metropolis' to be screened in Ludlow a newly restored edition that includes nearly a half-hour of missing footage cut following the film's premiere in 1927. The lost footage, discovered in 2008 in an archive in Argentina, has since been added to the existing 'Metropolis,' allowing plot threads and characters to be developed more fully.

After its premiere, the film's distributors (including Paramount in the U.S.) drastically shortened 'Metropolis' to maximize the film's commercial potential. By the time it debuted in the U.S. later that year, the film was only about 90 minutes long.

Evil Scientist! Boo!

Even in its shortened form, 'Metropolis' became a cornerstone of science fiction cinema. Due to its enduring popularity, the film has undergone numerous restorations in the intervening decades in attempts to recover Lang's original vision.

In 1984, the film was reissued with additional footage, color tints, and a pop rock score (but with many of its intertitles removed) by music producer Giorgio Moroder. A more archival restoration was completed in 1987, under the direction of Enno Patalas of the Munich Film Archive, in which missing scenes were represented with title cards and still photographs.

More recently, a 2001 restoration combined footage from four archives and was widely believed that this would be the most complete version of Lang's film that contemporary audiences could ever hope to see. But in the summer of 2008, the curator of the Buenos Aires Museo del Cine discovered a 16mm dupe negative of 'Metropolis' that was considerably longer than any existing print.

It included not merely a few additional snippets, but 25 minutes of "lost" footage, about a fifth of the film, that had not been seen since its Berlin debut.

The discovery of such a significant amount of material called for yet another restoration, which debuted in 2010 to widespread acclaim. It's this fully restored edition that will be screened in Ludlow.

" 'Metropolis' stands as an stunning example of the power of silent film to tell a compelling story without words, and reach across the generations to touch movie-goers from the real future, which means us," said accompanist Jeff Rapsis, who provides live music for silent film screenings throughout New England.

To accompany a silent film, Rapsis uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra. The score is created live in real time as the movie is screened. Rather than focus exclusively on authentic music of the period, Rapsis creates new music for silent films that draws from movie scoring techniques that today's audiences expect from the cinema.

The restored 'Metropolis' will be shown on Saturday, Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. at Ludlow Town Hall Auditorium, 137 Depot St. in Ludlow, Vt. The screening is sponsored by the Friends of Ludlow Auditorium. Admission is free; donations are encouraged. For more information about the FOLA and its events, visit or call (802) 228-7239.

No comments:

Post a Comment