ORGAN AND THE SILENT FILM
Maison symphonique de Montréal
Samuel Liégeon, organ
Baptiste-Florian Marle-Ouvrard, organ
Jean-Willy Kunz, presenter
An evening of short films with live music improvised at the organ.
This event is presented in collaboration with Kino’00, the foremost organization in Quebec cinema supporting the production and dissemination of independent short films, particularly those of emerging artists, for close to 20 years.
Charlie Chaplin, A Night in the Show (23′)
Stefan Le Lay, Le Baiser (4′)
McLaren, Voisins (8′)
Court-métrage Kino (5′)
David Émond-Ferrat, ALBERT (5′)
Gaëlle Quemener,Le nouveau bureau (5′)
George Méliès, Voyage dans la lune (14′)
Thomas Giusiano & Mathieu Rey – Edna (5′)
Charlie Chaplin, The Vagabond (25′)
What would our favourite films be like without their soundtracks? Imagine the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) without Bernard Herrmann’s The Murder; Darth Vader without his Imperial March (John Williams, 1980); or Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) without Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra (1896). Important as music is to the films we love, prerecorded soundtracks were not yet possible during the earliest days of cinema: the essential component of music was most often provided by an improvising pianist, or in the case of larger theatres, an organist. The pipe organ, with its nearly infinite range of sonorities, from sweet and soft to thunderously terrifying, lent itself well to the developing art of moving pictures. Those organists with creative flair could heighten and enhance the drama, pathos or humour portrayed on screen through their extemporisations. What’s more, the tradition of organ improvisation was already a well-developed art, perfected by cathedral organists throughout Europe and North America. In fact the improvising tradition moved with remarkable ease from the “house of Divine worship” to that newly discovered shrine of popular culture, the movie theatre. Tonight’s programme features silent films spanning the past 115 years, from early experiments in a developing medium, to 3D technologies of the new millennium, and a brand-new short feature by a young Quebecois filmmaker in collaboration with Kino’00. Organists Samuel Liégion and Baptiste-Florian Marle-Ouvrard improvise alongside on the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique in an evening presented by OSM Organist in Residence Jean-Willy Kunz.
Charlie Chaplin’s 1915 A Night in the Show features the beloved silent actor at his slapstick best, playing two different roles – Mr. Pest and Mr. Rowdy. Chaplin’s characters cause mischief and general havoc in a vaudeville-style variety theatre. While a drunken Mr. Rowdy pours beer over the crowd from an upper balcony, Mr. Pest (recognizable as Chaplin’s usual incarnation) struggles to find his seat. By curtain time, he has already had a run-in with nearly every member of the orchestra, offering ample opportunity for creative musical accompaniment. A series of lacklustre but suggestive vaudeville acts, including “La belle Wienerwurst,” a snake charmer and a fire eater, draw jeers from the audience. Add a couple of cream pies and a high-pressured water hose, and that’s a wrap!
What happens when the techniques of film projection interrupt and interfere with the characters and narrative on screen? In a clever reimagining of an early silent film, Stephan Le Lay’s Le baiser [The Kiss] (2005) begins with the story of two lovers meeting on a rocky shore for their very first kiss – a simple enough premise… However, their tryst is interrupted when the projector malfunctions, tearing the film, and turning their world upside-down, literally. Hilarity ensues as the two characters struggle to keep their balance, including some burlesque-inspired moments that belie the opening naivety. All’s well that ends well? Maybe not for this hapless pair of lovers.
The National Film Board of Canada has long been known as a pioneer in innovative techniques. When Norman McLaren moved to Canada in 1941 to establish the NFB’s first animation studio with students from the École des beaux-arts de Montréal and the Ontario College of Art, it would lead to some of his most significant and advanced work. Neighbours (1952) is an anti-war film with a simple message: “Love thy neighbour.” Using stop-frame animation and a technique called pixilation, McLaren tells the story of next-door neighbours who become embroiled in a fight to the death over a flower growing on the property line dividing their two yards. In the sobering final scene, victory goes to the flower. McLaren won an Oscar and a Canadian Film Award for his work on this film.
In 1902 the illusionist and film director Georges Méliès created his longest film to date, the 14-minute Voyage dans la lune [A Trip to the Moon]. It was released world-wide in both black and white, and a hand coloured version. Drawing inspiration from the science fiction works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, Méliès used his illusionist stage techniques in combination with filmic sleight of hand to tell the story of Professor Barbenfouillis and a fantastical trip to the moon. The six explorers encounter an alien race, played in the film by dancers from the Folies Bergère, and must flee back to earth after a violent encounter with the moon king. Their rocket plunges into the sea, which for the purpose of the film, is simulated with a close shot of a fish aquarium. Barbenfouillis and his acolytes are feted in the streets for their exploits.
Animation has come a long way since the pioneering days of Norman McLaren. Edna (2005), created by Thomas Giusiano and Mathieu Rey while they were students at Supinfocom in Arles, France, uses the technologies of 3D animation to pay tribute to several landmark moments in film. A Charlie Chaplin character searches for his beloved in a topsy-turvy world that morphs from one Steven Spielberg setting to the next, including scenes from Jurassic Park (1993), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and E.T. (1982).
Returning to what for so many remains the most important reference in silent film, this evening’s presentation ends with another Charlie Chaplin classic. The Vagabond (1916) features Charlie the Tramp as a saloon violinist who makes off with the money of a competing brass and percussion band in a comedic chase scene. Forced to flee to the countryside, Charlie happens upon a young woman kidnapped by gypsies, and promptly falls in love. A competing love interest arrives in the form of a painter, who reveals the woman’s whereabouts to her parents. As she is whisked away in their car, she realises her love for Charlie, forcing the driver to turn back and fetch him.
© Marc Wieser
© Traduction de l’anglais par Hélène Panneton pour Le Trait juste
From the start of his career in cinema, David Émond-Ferrat was keenly interested in all aspects of film-making, developing an indisputably eclectic approach to his art. After studies in cinema production at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University, he concluded that he was at his happiest and best as a producer.
David’s characteristic style bridges reality, fantasy, and science fiction, enabling him to explore what interests him most: the human being’s sensitivity and relationship to others. His productions also stand out for their finely wrought, magic-filled imagery.
David served as Artistic Director of the Kino Movement, producing over forty short films, of which some ten were produced in France and Belgium.
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Prices include a non-refundable service fee of $9.00 per ticket. Some handling fee may be charged.