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Once again, thanks to the Orchestra della Svizzera italiana (OSI), the Locarno Film Festival will take its first steps with the new edition by looking back, to bring the past into the present. These steps go back over 100 years, all the way to 1919 to reconnect with Broken Blossoms, directed by the pioneering master of cinema David Wark Griffith. 103 years later, the aural landscape will be provided by the musicians conducted by Philippe Béran, who will inaugurate this year’s edition on August 3 at 3.30 PM at Palexpo (FEVI), with a live accompaniment of the film screening.
The Palexpo (FEVI) screen will thus give new life and sound to one of the masterpieces of American silent cinema, starring one of the first and greatest movie stars in the world: Lillian Gish. Griffith’s muse, aged 26 at the time, Gish – who went on to receive an honorary Oscar in 1971 – proved unforgettable playing a 13-year old girl, Lucy Burrows. Alongside her, playing Cheng Huan, we have the New York actor Richard Barthelmess. With Broken Blossoms the director of Intolerance and The Birth of a Nation continued his endless process of experimentation, with countershots and POV shots that could entrance the audience; such talent will be underscored by OSI during Locarno75.
«Broken Blossoms is an incredible film, stunningly modern and even contemporary, in terms of cinematic language and the topics it deals with”, says Philippe Béran. “It’s a technical marvel, and I’m honored to be the first person in the world to conduct it after Carl Davis. He sent me a specially written score; it will be a thrill to play it for the Locarno audience.” The director of OSI explains: “In 1919, the film’s accompaniment was a score written by Louis F. Gottschalk, which Carl Davis rearranged in the 1980s. It faithfully follows the cinematic movements, the touch of this melodrama, going from moments that transport you to China with the presence of Yellow Man, underscored by a peculiar instrument such as the Cimbalom, to the power of Wagner, when the camera is on Lucy’s father and the violence he enacts. I will have the pleasure of conducting 48 musicians, and together we will create a truly special and unique mood, 100 years in the past but strongly topical.»
Under Philippe Béran’s direction, the musicians of OSI will do a live performance of the score written by Carl Davis, an American composer and conductor, and esteemed author of music for silent films, from Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927) to D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916).
The screening on August 3, at 3.30 PM at Palexpo (FEVI), will therefore ignite the first day of Locarno75 and the hundreds of screenings that will be on offer for the audience until August 13.
The music was commissioned by Thames Television for Channel 4. Performed by agreement with Faber Music for Carl Davis.
The screening is made possible thanks to OSI and the Associazione Amici dell’Orchestra della Svizzera italiana (AOSI) and mit der Unterstützung einer kulturellen Stiftung.