Sunday, October 6, 2013

Beggars of Life twice today

Beggars of Life (1928), the sensational William Wellman directed film starring silent screen legend Louise Brooks, will be shown twice on October 6th.

The first screening takes place on the Bournemouth Pier in Bournemouth, England. The film will be accompanied by the renown Dodge Brothers musical group. Beggars of Life will also be shown in Italy as part of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival's "Canon Revisited" series. Günter Buchwald will provide live musical accompaniment for this latter screening.

Directed by multiple Oscar winner William Wellman, Beggars of Life (1928) tells the story of a girl who goes on the run after killing her abusive stepfather. She dresses as a boy, and together with another young vagabond, they hop freight trains, confront a group of hobos, and steal a car in their attempt to escape the police and reach Canada. The film stars future Oscar winner Wallace Beery as rail-riding hobo Oklahoma Red, Louise Brooks as Nancy, the girl on the run, and Richard Arlen as her vagabond companion.

Many consider Beggars of Life Brooks' best American film. An American film magazine of the time, Picture Play, described it as "Sordid, grim and unpleasant," though added, "it is nevertheless interesting and is certainly a departure from the usual movie."

Both the Bournemouth and Pordenone screenings should prove to be examples of an invigorating combination of a great silent movie and dynamic live music - no matter how different that music may be.

The Dodge Brothers, an Americana-drenched quartet featuring the English film critic and BBC commentator Mark Kermode, will set the musical mood in Bournemouth . When The Dodge Brothers accompanied Beggars of Life at the British Film Institute, the Bradford International Film Festival, at Barbican, and elsewhere across England at prior outings, they each time wowed an appreciative audience.

The Dodge Brothers are "renowned for playing the hell out of classic Americana." Described as ‘wonderful stuff’ by UK Radio 2 presenter Bob Harris, they play an exuberant hybrid of country blue, rockabilly, jugband and skiffle. With the fifth Dodge Brother Neil Brand, expert silent pianist and composer, the musicians bring the jug band/ skiffle style to accompany Welman's classic film. The other Dodge Brothers are musicians Aly Hirji, Mike Hammond, and Alex Hammond.

Following their accompaniment of Beggars of Life, the Dodge Brothers will perform a show at the Pier Theatre. More information at http://artsbournemouth.org.uk/events/the-dodge-brothers/

The Pordenone screening promises to be just as special. As devotees know, the Pordenone festival, sponsored by the Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, is widely regarded as the leading silent film festival in the world. It draws film scholars, film buffs, archivists, musicians and viewers from all over the world.

Befitting its stature, the Festival issues a substantial bi-lingual catalog documenting each of the many films screened at the annual event. Follow this link to read or download the pdf of the festival program/catalog. It contains a few image of the actress, as well as an essay on Beggars of Life by the Academy Award winning film historian evin Brownlow. In writing about the film, Brownlow recalls his own friendship with Brooks and Wellman. The Pordenone catalog is in both Italian and English.

Günter Buchwald, the musician accompanying Beggars of Life, is one of the pioneers of the renaissance of silent film music and one of the most experienced practitioners in the world. He has accompanied silent films for over 25 years with a repertoire of more than 2000 titles. He is director of the Silent Movie Music Company and conducts the Freiburg Filmharmonic Orchestra, which he founded in 1992. His wide experience in music from Baroque to Jazz allows him a huge stylistic variety in musical improvisation. Since 1984 he has appeared regularly at film festivals from Berlin to Zurigo (among others).

More information about Pordenone and Le Giornate del Cinema Muto may be found at http://www.cinetecadelfriuli.org/gcm/giornate/questa_edizione/introduction.html The introduction states, "William Wellman’s Beggars of Life, with the magnificent Louise Brooks, will be shown as a dedicated serata, with ensemble musical accompaniment."

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