Man with a Movie Camera
with live accompaniment by organist Dennis James & Filmharmonia
Monday, January 18, 1999 - 8:00pm
Organist Dennis James in a unique performance of Dziga Vertov's classic silent film, Man with a Movie Camera (Chelovek s Kinoapparatom, 1929, USSR). James' Filmharmonia silent film music ensemble will perform their critically acclaimed score derived from the original accompaniment notes left by Dziga Vertov himself. The discovery of these notes was a major achievement in film scholarship, first written about by University of Chicago Professor Yuri Tsivian. Professor Tsivian will provide a brief introduction to the event. Dennis James' Filmharmonia, along with the Alloy Orchestra, were among a small handful of musicians to perform realizations of this intended score worldwide when the notes were uncovered in the mid-1990's. This event will provide a very rare opportunity to see Vertov's masterpiece with an authentic realization of the musical accompaniment intended by its director. A further highlight of the program, making it truly unique and in essence a world premiere, is that the film is to be restored to its original reel structure for the evening's projection. Dennis James noted in his research, and Professor Tsivian has confirmed, that Vertov's notes for the score indicated that the film was in fact designed episodically, with each episode lasting one reel. This was in keeping with Soviet film practice at that time. Furthermore, as film exhibition in the Soviet Union was "single projector" through some time in the 1930's, the reels would have had a short pause between them. This would have resulted in a clarification of the film's structure, which is more easily lost in the continuous projection systems used today. For this presentation of Man with a Movie Camera, we well present the original reel structure complete with short pauses. Therefore this screening will represent perhaps the first screening of Man with a Movie Camera, with its original score and in its original visual form, since its initial exhibition. Dennis James is known the world over for his accompaniments to silent film for over twenty years, and was selected by composer/conductor Carmine Coppola as the organist for the world tour of Abel Gance's Napoleon. Of his accompaniment to her 1926 La Boheme, Lillian Gish has stated, "Dennis James' playing brought tears to my eyes...his score was just what we intended it be when we made the film."
Co-sponsored by Doc Films