Monday, March 15, 2010

The Patsy: King Vidor

This comedy with Marion Davies in the lead is a film I have seen before but, until it had been running for several minutes I did not remember it. It was shown as part of the Birds Eye View Film Festival celebrating the work of women in the cinema and
boasting a new score by Gwynneth Herbert. The film itself held up well with fine performances from all concerned and witty
inter-titles which was fortunate as the score and it performance were bad. The trio led by Ms Herbert were to the side of the stage in front of the screen but, even from my seat right in the centre, their presence impinged on the projected film. I
shudder to think what the view from the right of the auditorium was like. Ms Herbert's song ahead of the screening was
pleasant enough though my recollection of the lyrics is that they were rather simplistic but the accompaniment to the film was anything but acceptable to me. The trio were using a variety of unconventional instruments so the noises were possibly less familiar to the ear than usual though this did not disturb me. What did was the clumsy way the noises used supposedly stressed the activity on screen - a strange moaning hoot when Marie Dressler was expressing annoyance, for instance. Where this did not work was the failure of the music to match the rhythm of the dance at the country club: surely for trained musicians it is not that difficult to play compatibly with on-screen silent music when appropriate (I have noticed, however, a similar failing when the accompaniment has been piano only). Film music is surely not mean to try and replicate noises on screen but rather to convey and enhance mood and atmosphere - solemn, slow chords for death, mourning and funerals,
sweeping violins for romance, descending brass a la Tchaikovsky for fights and the Post Horn Gallop or similar for chases.
What I find far from acceptable is attempts at onomatapoeia.

1 comment:

pppatty said...

I think the nub of the problem is as you so rightly say that silent film music should use mood to enhance the images not to attempt to punctuate them with stupid sounds. I wonder whether you will get as attacked as I did!