The live music accompaniment has been exceptional at the festival so far, yet my critique is that there is no player, pianist in particular, who will take a chance and leave the screening room in complete silence and watching the screen for a period of time longer than maybe five seconds. There was a moment in Sao Paolo, near the start, where a title card saying something along the lines of “The silence in the streets at day break” appeared on the screen. I would have left the whole film completely silent from there on, until human movement appeared.
Musicians have a lot of power at silent film screenings; their music literally has the ability to change the concept of a film and, in some cases, make or break them. I am in the mood to talk about music at silent film screenings also because I attended a masterclass held by Gunter Buchwald, who mostly plays violin at the screenings in Pordenone. Buchwald was one of the players from last night’s fantastic screening of Janko the Musician.
This reminds me that I found out, from reading the festival catalogue today, that the reason why Janko has so many shots of music playing in that film (unusual for a silent film) is that there had been an entire soundtrack recorded for it, which would have been played at screenings of the film at the time. The soundtrack has not yet resurfaced and to this day, only three silent copies of the film survive. But the music from last night’s screening was so good that I found myself humming it this evening.
Speaking of sound in movies, I was surprised to say the least when I heard diegetic music in one of the films being screened: a short called Glorious Vamp (1930). This early sound flick is really a burlesque, and a very sexy one at that with some racy shots of female legs and thighs. It is shaped by a series of vignettes recounting a modernized snippet of the stories of notorious temptresses, from Cleopatra to Lucretia Borgia.
Glorious Vamp is not quite just a novelty work also because of the remarkable sets that go with these different vignettes, for which William Cameron Menzies was responsible.