Starting Tuesday, Brown University hosts a unique four-night film festival put on by the Italian Studies Department, in conjunction with the Cineteca, or film library, in Bolgna, Italy.
They’re screening highlights of the Cineteca’s annual Cinema Ritrovato Festival. All of the films have been recently rediscovered or restored. This year they include three Charlie Chaplin films with new, original film scores, performed live in the theater.
A full schedule for the film festival can be found here.
Brown Professor of Italian Studies, Massimo Riva helped organize the festival's tour to Providence.
“This festival is born out of a collaboration with the Cineteca of Bologna, one of the most renowned centers for film restoration in the world," Riva told RIPR's Chuck Hinman. "Every summer at the end of June the Cineteca hosts a festival called Il Cinema Ritrovato, or rediscovered cinema, which hosts over 300 films from cinetecas all around the world, many of them restored in the laboratories of the cineteca in Bologna."
Brown has hosted highlights from the festival for the past three years. For this year's installment, several classic Charlie Chaplin films have been brought from the Bologna Cineteca, which is also the home of the Chaplin archives.
"We have a Chaplin program, an homage to the 100th anniversary of the Little Tramp, Chaplin’s character," said Riva. "And the special attraction is the silent film ensemble of Brown University orchestra directed by Paul Phillips, which will perform music composed by Donald Sosin, a world-renowned silent film music composer, who will also perform with the orchestra."
Tuesday's performance includes the world premiere of a score for "The Pawnshop," which is one of three Chaplin comedies screening during the festival.
And did Riva mention there's gelato?
“What we call gelato ritrovato, the rediscovered ice cream," said Riva.
A master ice cream maker from Bologna, Gianni Figliomeni, will be at Brown for the festival making fresh ice cream, including some unusual flavors. Marking the 100th anniversary of Technicolor, Figliomeni has created a Fellini red and a cream infusion with a yellow saffron, among other colorful concoctions.
Conductor Paul Phillips directs the Brown orchestra and will be leading the live accompaniment to Chaplin's films with composer Donald Sosin on piano.
At a rehearsal over the weekend, Sosin talked the crew through some of the intricacies of silent film accompaniment, which turns out to be more complicated than you might imagine.
As Sosin explained, it involves the conductor watching the film on a laptop, while the orchestra plays along, trying to stay in sync with the movie. They use what musicians call a click track, helping them keep a steady beat.
Sosin composed a brand new score for Chaplin’s 100-year-old film "The Count," and Tuesday will be the first-ever live performance. It will be a world premiere for Sosin’s score for "The Pawnshop." If there is such a thing, Sosin is kind of a rock star in the world of silent movies.
“For a film like "The Pawnshop" and "The Count," I’m trying to imagine what’s in Charlie’s head, and not trying to be cute and put in Beatles’ songs and things," said Sosin. "In the day, they would have had comic references to songs that everybody knew, with funny titles, like, you know, a fire scene, they would play I’ll Keep the Home Fires Burning, or whatever. So you could go in that direction, but generally, I try to let the music be the music and support the film as much as possible."
Sosin thinks about scoring these films in much the same way you might compose music for a ballet or an opera.
"No matter how good it is, whether it’s Appalachian Spring or Cinderella by Prokofiev, there’s some repetition and there’s some music which is strictly for the sake of what’s going on on the stage, and so suites have been made of all of those great ballets, and of operas," said Sosin. "I’m trying, with these scores, to create some sections that work as independent pieces of music, and I hope that somebody will listen to them, sometime, on NPR.”
Charlie Chaplin’s “The Count” and “The Pawnshop” screen tonight at Brown University, along with another Chaplin film, “The Adventurer”. The rest of the schedule can be found online.