Wednesday, 27 October 2010


Something I've been meaning to flag up for a while is Hitchcock's Blackmail at the Barbican, on Sunday 31 October at 8pm, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra performing a new score by Neil Brand. This will be about the fourth score I'll have heard for it but if Neil Brand's past scores are anything to go by, it should be good.

Years ago (1993, a little research rather scarily tells me), I remember seeing Jonathan Lloyd's score which, after an initial flurry, doesn't seem to get done much any more. Perhaps the fact that the Lyons Corner House scene featured a set of variations on the (still-in-copyright) Tea for Two is a disincentive. Youmans comes out of copyright in 2016, so hang onto your hats...

Oddly enough I was only doing a session comparing the sound and silent versions a couple of weeks ago, so this will be an interesting addition to the mix.

Shamefully, you have to go to Germany to get a decent DVD of both the silent and sound versions of Blackmail [Erpressung] (even though it uses NFTVA material. It also turns up in a nice, but now, I see, quite expensive box called Master of Suspense, though the selection of titles is a bit random: Champagne (1928), two Blackmails (1929), Murder (1930) and its German-language equivalent Mary [Mord - Sir John greift an] (1931), Rich and Strange (1931) Foreign Correspondent (1940), Suspicion (1941) and Under Capricorn (1949).

Hopefully the BFI's Olympic project of restoring all nine of Hitchcock's surviving silents and commissioning new scores will bring forth a grand box to replace some of the less than satisfactory transfers that we currently labour under, perhaps (and this is mere speculation) including this new Blackmail score.

In the meantime, there's still a chance to donate to the restoration fund and, of course, to have one last look in the loft for that print of The Mountain Eagle!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Russian Film Festival

Autumn's always a busy time for me: immediately after the London Film Festival, there'll be the Russian Film Festival

Rather than try manically to blog as we go I'll try to put a bit of perspective to both events. But a heads up for a couple of RFF strands.

They'll be marking the centenary of Tolstoy's death with a few films, including a complete War and Peace (Война и мир) - presumably the proper widescreen print rather than the TV pan-and-scan that occasionally turns up! and, even rarer, Vengerov's Living Corpse (Живой труп, 1968). Should be fascinating to see this after the LFF's revival of Ozep's silent version a couple of years ago.

The animation strand is, as usual, strong, with retrospectives of Garry Bardin and Irina Evteeva.

Bardin's dark 1990 fable Grey Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood (Серый волк энд Красная Шапочка) was on Channel 4. Once. About 15 years ago. Probably at about 3am. So it'll be interesting to see how he deals with Andersen's The Ugly Duckling, (Гадкий Утенок, illustrated above) especially as, keeping fine old traditions intact, it was banned from Russian TV.

Among Evteva's work is a version of Pushkin's Little Tragedies (Маленькие Трагедии) which again should prove an interesting compare-and-contrast with Mikhail Shveitser's 1979 effort. Evteeva races through in 38 minutes what took Shveitser (as so often in his career) a lumbering 240 minutes. A propos Tolstoy, Shveitser's Kreutzer Sonata always seems longer than its 158 minutes, though it might have been nice to include it in the festival as a little nod to Oleg Yankovsky, who died earlier this year. I've not seen his 209-minute Resurrection (Воскресение) from 1961. But there are so many Tolstoy adaptations to choose from...

Anyway, back to what is in the festival, there's a whole load more, of course focusing on recent films, so I'll report back in due course.

Paris exhibition

I should flag a festival happening in Paris' Cite de la Musique, under the banner Lenine, Staline et la Musique.

A whole series of fascinating events will entertain Parisians from now until the middle of January. Apart from the big names: Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Khachaturian etc, there'll be chances to catch undeservedly lesser-known talents like Artur Lourie (who turns up in a veiled reference in Akhmatova's Poem without a Hero), Vladimir Deshevov, Nikolai Roslavets and Alexander Mosolov. Some of them are seen as 'one-work' composers (e.g. Deshevov, for Rails), so this will hopefully be a chance to correct that impression.

More info on the festival here

Also worth noting is the very impressive (256-page) accompanying catalogue (the cover is illustrated above). I had the pleasure of penning the cinema essay - the first page of which is on the left.