Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bride of Frankenstein LIVE!

Zombies Overtake the CSO
Last night the Colorado Symphony Orchestra performed Franz Waxman's brilliant score to James Whale film BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN live while screening the movie. There were a mix of plusses and minuses with the presentation. I have written before about the terribly small screens that they use for their movie screenings. They need to rent a large screen if they are going to do this again. The screens are embarrassingly small. The cinematography and sets in this beautiful film deserve more respect than they are getting here.

In addition, the audio quality on the dialogue from this 1935 film is terrible, and the live orchestra constantly overwhelmed the dialogue. As far as I could see, the conductor was not wearing headphones and was even attempting to respect the dialogue in the film.

On the plus side, it was a very fun night. Many of the musicians came in costume and stumbled through the audience to take the stage as zombie performers. This is exactly the type of thing that could reach out to a younger audience. Unfortunately, turnout for the event was terrible. It's a shame, there is such a thrill hearing a live orchestra with a movie.

The orchestra's performance was very good overall, but the overture was played terribly, as though they had not rehearsed it. I was afraid the rest of the concert would be as bad, but I was wrong. I'm not sure who was conducting, but there did not appear to be any attempt to keep the music in perfect sync with the picture; much of it was late compared to the original tracks (which I know quite well). In addition, there were many places where a bigger musical performance would have been more dramatic, and I don't believe I ever saw the conductor attempt to get interpretation out of the orchestra. He worked like a human metronome.

The film holds up as a black comedy extremely well. I have no idea how many times I have seen this film, but this may have been the first time on a large screen. Not only are the sets and camera moves amazing, but for 1935, the visual effects are stunning (most notably the mini-humans the Dr. Pretorius created). But what amazed me most about seeing the film on a bigger screen was Karloff's incredible performance. Even though he only has a few words of dialogue, he managed to evoke incredible pathos for a monster that kills several people in the opening of the movie. This is particularly true in the scenes with the blind man. He manages to take a creature that could have been extremely simple and instead weaves moral and emotional complexity into him. My wife and I still argue about whether or not this film is a comedy; to me it clearly plays some elements for comedy, but at the same time is successful at making you feel empathy. The creature is certainly a tragic character, and like all the films, it does not end well for him.

I hope the orchestra manages to be able to do more live screenings, and get a better audience, and I hope that they are able to step up the presentation aspects to a more professional level.

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