The films are alive, with the Sound of Silent

Image courtesy of the filmmakers and Sound of Silent Film Festival From “The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer,” by the Brothers Quay.

Image courtesy of the filmmakers and Sound of Silent Film Festival
From “The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer,” by the Brothers Quay.

Chicago fest makes its NYC debut, at Anthology Film Archives

BY TRAV S.D.  | On June 7 and 8, New Yorkers will have a rare chance to experience something that was once quite common, now for all intents and purposes extinct: contemporary, original silent films with live accompaniment by a small orchestra.

Anthology Film Archives will be playing host to the Chicago-based organization Access Contemporary Music (ACM), which will be presenting its Sound of Silent Film Festival in the Big Apple for the first time.

ACM was founded in 2004 by Chicago composer Seth Boustead to foster and promote new work by contemporary classical composers. Now in its eighth year, ACM’s Sound of Silent Film Festival is an opportunity for composers to score for film, and to have the scores performed live before an audience as was a common practice in the early twentieth century (while much silent film accompaniment was improvised, major films such as D.W. Griffith’s 1915 “The Birth of a Nation” were distributed with sheet music to an original score).

According to festival spokesperson Claire Arkin, “the festival has generated a loyal and enthusiastic following” in its hometown for showing films that are “wonderfully weird, funny and at times disturbing.”

This year’s edition includes works by film makers ranging from the well -known to the more obscure. Star contributions include “The Big Shave” by Martin Scorsese, “First Kiss” by Gus Van Sant, “Heart of the World” by Guy Maddin, “The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer” by the Brothers Quay and “The Mermaid” by anime pioneer Tezuka Osama.

But the films by lesser-known directors rate attention, too. “G.M.” by Martin Pickles is a period fantasia inspired by George Méliès, in which the pioneering French film-maker finds a mysterious world behind the walls of his home. In William Lorton’s clever “Cheating, Inc.,” a student makes use of an absurdly elaborate global spy network in order to cheat on his college math exam. “Father and Daughter” by Michael Dudok De Witt is a beautiful animated film from the Netherlands in which a young girl sets out to catch up to her father who has left on a journey, and finally meets him — seventy years later.

In Steve Stein’s “Must Like Magic” a young man answers a help wanted ad for a magician’s apprentice, and ends up having better skills than the man who interviews him. Virgil Widrich’s “Copy Shop” is a surreal outing, where the clerk who works in the titular store actually manages to duplicate himself. Alexander Payne’s “Carmen” is actually set to the music from the original opera by Bizet, arranged by Seth Boustead. The music for the other films ranges from the modern-sounding and dissonant to the traditional.

The composers featured include Boustead, Amos Gillespie, Randall West, Brian O’Hern, Eric Malmquist, William Susman, Eric Reda, Doug Johnson, Amy Wurtz, Matthew Pakulski and Patricia Morehead.

Image courtesy of the filmmakers and Sound of Silent Film Festival From Michael Dudok De Witt’s “Father and Daughter.”

Image courtesy of the filmmakers and Sound of Silent Film Festival
From Michael Dudok De Witt’s “Father and Daughter.”

FILM
SOUND OF SILENT
FILM FESTIVAL
8-10pm
Fri., June 7 & Sat., June 8
At Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Ave. (btw. First & Second Sts.)
Tickets: $30 at the door, $20 online ($10 for students/seniors)
Visit acmusic.org or call 212-505-5181

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