Andrzej Wajda’s film scores hit the mark at KFMF

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By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – Andrzej Wajda’s devastating images from his 2007 film “Katyń” and the haunting music of Krzysztof Penderecki formed the emotional heart of the Polish Music Gala: Scoring4Wadja here last night.

Filmmaker and composer were among the guests of honour at the event, part of the Krakow Film Music Festival, which featured an evening of music from Wajda movies performed by the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice and the Choir of  the Karol Szymanowski Philharmonic in Krakow conducted by Alexander Liebreich.

For more than two hours, the giant screen was filled with a range of evocative, moving and witty scenes from Wajda films as the full orchestra played cues and themes by composing greats including Zygmunt Konieczny, Andrzej Korziński and Pawel Mykietyn, who were introduced from the audience, plus Wojciech Kilar, Krzysztof Komeda, and Andrzej Markowski.

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Kilar’s celebratory “Polonaise” from “Pan Tedeusz: The Last Foray in Lithuania” (1999) kicked things off ahead of the presentation of the first Walter Kilar Award to U.S. Oscar-winner Elliot Goldenthal (“Frida”).

A whimsical Kilar cue from “The Revenge” (2002) continued the musical exploration of Wajda films followed by Kilar’s dreamy waltz from “The Promised Land” (1975), the yearning piano and strings of Kilar’s score from “The Shadow Line” (1976), and Zygmunt Konieczny’s imperious choral cues from “The Curse” and “November Night” (1977).

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A suite from Krzysztof Komeda’s score for “Innocent Sorcerers” (1960) with piano, harp, trumpet and saxophone solos began the second half of the evening after a break followed by a threatening main theme from “A Generation” (1955) and an airey suite from “Roly Poly” both by Andrzej Markowski.

Penderecki’s “Katyń” (pictured above) was overwhelming in its stark evocation of horror and Pawel Mykietyn evoked first loss in a suite from “Sweet Rush” (Tatarak) (2009) and then optimism in “Walęsa: Man of Hope” (2013).

The evening closed with four pieces by Andrzej Korziński: “Polish All Souls Day” and “The Fate of Man” from “Man of Iron” (1981) plus the main theme from “Man of Marble” (1977) and the bossa nova from “Hunting Flies” (1969) featuring singer Joanna Slowińska.

At the end of a powerful and moving concert, a grateful audience stood at length to honour the great filmmaker and Wajda responded with heartfelt remarks before he departed to even more applause.

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Elliot Goldenthal receives first Wojciech Kilar Award at KFMF

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By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – Wojciech Kilar advised artists to fight the sin of pride, Elliot Goldenthal said as he received the first Kilar Award at the Krakow Film Music Festival on Thursday: “You are looking at a sinner tonight.”

The Oscar-winning American composer said it was “inspirational and humbling” to receive the award named for the great Polish composer who scored films such as Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” (2002), Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992) and Jane Campion’s “Portrait of a Lady” (1996).

Goldenthal’s movie credits include “Titus” (1999), “Frida” (2002), “Across the Universe” (2007), “The Tempest” (2010) and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (2015) directed by his partner Julie Taymor, who also was at the concert. Other titles he has scored include Neil Jordan’s “Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” (1994) and Michael Collins (1996), for which he received Oscar nominations, plus “Alien 3” (1992), “Batman Forever” (1995), “Heat” (1995), “A Time to Kill” (1996), “The Butcher Boy” (1997), “Batman & Robin” (1997), “Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within” (2001) and “Public Enemies” (2009).

Elliot Goldenthal Kilar AwardThe Kilar Award was presented to Goldenthal at the Polish Music Gala: Scoring4Wajda at the ICE Krakow Congress Centre, which featured four pieces Kilar wrote for films directed by Andrzej Wadja, who was present at the event.

The filmmaker, whose 1983 film “Danton” won the Bafta Film Award as best foreign language film and who received an honourary Academy Award in 2000, was one of the judges for the Kilar award along with Polish filmmakers Roman Polanski and Krzysztof Zanussi, and composer Krzysztof Penderecki, who was among the guests in the audience.

Goldenthal said he was proud and humbled to be in the same room with Penderecki, who scored Wajda’s celebrated 2007 film “Katyn” and whose music can be heard on the soundtracks of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1990), David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” (2006) and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men” (2006).

The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Liebreich, which performed an evening of music from Wadja fims, also played Goldenthal’s thrilling “Louis’ Revenge” from Neil Jordan’s “Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” (1994).

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The Wojciech Kilar Award is sponsored by the Presidents of Krakow and Katowice and will be granted alternately in Krakow and Katowice. Organiser said it is granted for lifetime achievement to composers of film music who “remain faithful to the traditional art of composing, write scores that in isolation from the image do not lose clarity, and efficiently use the language of music, producing rich and distinct colors, shades and textures in their work”.

The Expert Council of the Wojciech Kilar Award includes many key figures in the Polish film music community including Polish Music Publishing Editor in Chief Daniel Cichy, who said, “In his work, Elliot Goldenthal combines respect for tradition, humility in relation to the composer’s craft, and remarkable ability to connect with orchestras and to fully feel and understand the medium of film.”

The award also is intended to raise the international profile of the man for whom it is named. When it was announced, organisers said, “With the award’s establishment, the name and accomplishments of Wojciech Kilar, one of the most recognizable Polish composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, will gain a new international dimension.”

Photo of Elliot Goldenthal: @Tomasz Cichocki

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Critical Hit dazzles with KFMF videogame music concert

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By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – U.S. orchestral rock outfit Critical Hit showed how infectious music from videogames can be with a 90-minute high-energy concert here last night that featured an ensemble of highly talented and glamorous performers.

The band, which will play at every Wizard World Comic Con in the United States this year, made its international debut at the Krakow Film Music Festival.

A sold-out crowd at the city’s 828-seat Kijow Centrum showed its enthusiasm for 20 pieces drawn from the earliest videogames up to current hits and one not yet released. It was an evening of driving drumbeats, video images and a whizbang light show.

Executive producer Michael Gluck substituted on synthesizer for Critical Hit co-founder Jason Hayes, who had to cancel at the last minute, and with regular drummer Kevin Dooley and Aleksander Milwiw-Baron, from the Polish version of “The Voice”, on guitar, provided the percussive force that drove most of the music.

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Five wildly attractive and accomplished female artists provided the dazzle for energetic performances of arrangements by Adam Gubman of themes familiar to the videogamers who made up much of the responsive audience.

Classically trained top Los Angeles concert and session players and recording artists Salome Scheidigger on piano, Caroline Campbell on Violin, Tina Guo on electronic cello and Sara Andon on flute, along with Poland’s Natalia Brzozwska on bass guitar, played with smiles on their faces as they obviously were having a great time.

fmf_main_enComposer Trevor Morris took a bow ahead of a performance of a new arrangement of his theme from “Dragon Age: Inquisition” and several other videogame music composers sent greetings via video.

They included Ari Pulkkinen, whose gypsy-inspired theme from “Angry Birds” was a highlight of the evening with Andon’s flute in full flight and barrell-roll piano contributions by Scheidigger.

Music ranged from “Tetris”, “Pokemon”, “Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” and “Super Mario Brothers” to “World of Warcraft”, “Diablo II”, “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Hearthstone”.

Tall and elegant violinist Campbell and vivacious cellist Guo kept busy on strings while Andon’s peerless flute floated within and above melodies as Scheidigger’s commanding piano leant heft to the proceedings.

Nobuo Uetmatso’s “To Zamarkand” from “Final Fantasy X” added some more plangent sounds from Milwiw-Baron’s acoustic guitar and Campbell’s violin but then the pace picked up again as the propulsive themes led to Harry Gregson-Williams’s score for the yet-to-be-released “Metal Gear Solid 2”.

After a standing ovation, Michael Gluck, a born showman, invited the entire crowd to greet the band in the lobby and said, “We are so grateful to be here in Krakow for our first international show.” The audience roared its approval.

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KFMF reflects ‘changing artistic landscape': artistic director

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By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – The 8th Krakow Film Music Festival kicked off today with morning masterclasses and a noon media conference in which artistic director Robert Piaskowski welcomed around 800 artists who will play at 10 concerts during the event.

He thanked Krakow Festival Office Director Izabella Helbin and Krakow Mayor Jacek Majchrowski for their support and praised the composers and musicians who will, he said, “reflect the changing artistic landscape that surrounds us”.

Helbin said she was very happy that “the great stars of film music have accepted our invitation” to attend the event: “Every year, it’s a better festival. There is no main thread this year, it’s a festival of diversity with music from videogames, television and film.”

Piaskowski said that tonight’s videogame concert at Kijow Centrum in Krakow, featuring the U.S. orchestral rock band Critical Hit, had sold out in three hours: “We could put on three videogame concerts and they would be sold out.”

fmf_main_enCritical Hit co-founder Michael Gluck said the show will reflect the growth in videogame music from the earliest games to current productions and games not yet released with 20 pieces. The original games lacked the technology to have more than one melody, he noted, but then the technology became more accommodating to greater sophistication. Critical Hit, he said, is “the Trans-Siberian Orchestra of videogames”.

Cellist Tina Guo, who also plays electronic cello and has been with Critical Hit for three years, said she was not a frequent gamer “but I did play ‘Super Mario’ and ‘Zelda’ when I was a little Chinese girl”. Guo played on Hans Zimmer’s scores for “Sherlock Holmes” and “Gladiator” and she has just released a video of her version of “Now We Are Free (Gladiator Main Theme)”.

Piaskowski noted that for the Polish Music Gala: Scoring4Wajda on May 28 the festival had to recreate orchestral scores for classic Polish soundtracks “to regain our cultural heritage”. Andrzej Wajda and some other composers will be guests of honour at the show, which will feature cues by Wojciech Kilar, Zygmunt Konieczny, Krzysztof Komeda, Andrzej Markowski, Krzysztof Penderecki, Pawel Mykietyn, and Andrzej Korziński. The performance features the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice with the Choir of Karol Szymanowski Philharmonic in Krakow conducted by Alexander Leibriech.

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The Shakespeare in Concert event on May 29, Piaskowski said, will be “for many of us a dream come true”. It will feature music by Miklós Rózsa, Prokofiev, Ennio Morricone and Patrick Doyle plus Jocelyn Pook and Stephen Warbeck, who will both be there.

Elliot Goldenthal, who will be the recipient of the first Kilar Award at this year’s KFMF, has created for the concert a 40-minute suite that combines music from his ballet “Othello” with themes from the movies “Titus”, “The Tempest” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” directed by his partner Julie Taymor, who will be on hand with Goldenthal for the performance.

Christian Schumann will conduct the Beethoven Academy Orchestra and the soloists will include Reeve Carney, who originated the role of Peter Parker in Taymor’s Broadway show “Spider-Man”. Piaskowksi said Carney will sing “Full Fathom Five”, the song performed by Ben Whishaw in Taymor’s “The Tempest”.

The artistic director noted the FMF4Kids concerts “The Gruffalo” and FMF Youth Orchestra on May 30, and the “Star Trek” live orchestral concert on May 31, and said he was delighted that KFMF will present the world premieres of several television show themes in the International TV Series Gala, also on May 30.

Canadian composer Trevor Morris said he was pleased to return to the festival after two years to introduce his music from “The Borgias”, “The Tudors” and “Vikings”. American composer Daniel Licht said it would be the first time his music for (“Dexter”) had been performed by an orchestra but he also has brought along the saws and knives and other found instruments that he uses for the score.

Asked at the media conference if he had found a difference between his home nation of Iceland and America, Atli Örvarsson (“Chicago Fire”) observed drily that he found the weather in Los Angeles to be different. He noted that Icelanders of his generation had been introduced to rock and roll through the U.S. Army base in Iceland but he said “the biggest influence is the landscape and energy of Iceland itself”.

Other TV composers who will be at the concert include Jeff Beal (“House of Cards”, “The Dovekeepers”, HBO Overture”), John Lunn (“Downton Abbey”), Lukasz Targosz (“The Pack”), Cliff Martinez (“The Knick”) and Ramin Djawadi (“Game of Thrones”).

 

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Edinburgh film fest announces 2015 programme

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By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – The 69th Edinburgh International Film Festival announced today that it will screen 164 feature films from 36 nations including 24 world premieres, 8 international, 16 European, 84 U.K. and two Scottish premieres.

New artistic director, former Screen critic Mark Adams, who made the announcement in Edinburgh, promised something for everyone: “We are delighted to be presenting such a thrilling, fun, challenging, provocative, exciting and balanced programme.”

Highlights, he said, will include the U.K. premiere of Asif Kapadia’s documentary “Amy”, about the late Amy Winehouse; the latest Disney-Pixar animation “Inside Out”,  Arnold Schwarzenegger as a tormented father with a zombie daughter in “Maggie”, Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul’s “The D-Train” starring Jack Black and James Marsden, John Cusack and Paul Dano as Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson at different ages in “Love and Mercy”, and for Noel Marshall’s 1981 cult film about a big cat, “Roar”.

EIFF will present a series of In-Person events with guests such as Ewan McGregor, who will attend with his new film “Last Days in the Desert” (pictured),  Jane Seymour and Malcolm McDowell with “Bereave”, Hong-Kong director Johnnie To with “Exiled”, and EIFF Honorary Patron Seamus McGarvey who returns with his cinematography In Conversation series with two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, “Bound for Glory”).

For more details of the programme and other information about the festival, which runs June 17-28, see here

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When Peggy Lee wondered ‘is that all there is?’

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Miss Peggy Lee, who was born 95 years ago today and died on Jan. 21 2002 aged 81, had come close to death in 1985 and she laughed when she told me, “Don’t you know that people tried to avoid playing ‘Is That All There Is?’ during that time. I was prepared to go if it was necessary. You know, ‘Is this trip really necessary?’”

Lee survived double-bypass heart surgery in New Orleans but complications required a second operation two weeks later. When I interviewed her one evening the following May at her home in the Bel Air section of Beverly Hills, she was slim and fit again.

Peggy Lee Is That all there is? album x325She also exuded her trademark sensuality that evoked more of the U.S. South than her North Dakota home where she was born Norma Egstrom.

Lee was one of the most beloved vocalists and one of my favourites. I had seen Ella Fitzgerald with Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan with Count Basie and Cleo Laine with John Dankworth, and Miss Peggy Lee was right up there with them.

She was thankful for her loyal following and she was especially grateful after her surgery and when she returned to the concert hall in 1986 in “Spring Fever” at the Westwood Playhouse in Los Angeles.

She said, “One of the things I noticed, both at the hospital in New Orleans and at St. John’s here, was the love; the honest, no-faking love that these people had. And the messages that I got from people, when I was able to understand that I was being given messages. I wasn’t there for a while. But I thank those people for their prayers and their cards. It was a lovely experience to know that people cared so much. So then, you have to make it. You have an obligation.”

Of her time in hospital, she said, “You wouldn’t want the details. There were complications. Serious ones. But they’ve cleared up, and I’m doing just fine. It took a while. Six months. I’m walking a lot, and today I’ve been rehearsing since noon, so I’m holding up. I’ve always been sort of careful of my health.”

Peggy Lee autiobiography x325Lee credited her recovery to the reading and meditating that she has done all her life – “It all helped me, because I wasn’t afraid” – and to the outpouring of concern she received, athough she viewed it with typically wry humour.

She always sang Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s classic “Is That All There Is?” with the understated optimism that there is always more and to have life’s ultimate trip postponed left her even more determined to pass that message on.

She told me: “There’s a tremendous amount of gratitude going on in my thoughts, not only for the things that others did, but just that I was allowed to live. They say that when you have an experience like that, there is something else that you have to do. I don’t know what it is yet, but it’s something that I would like to do for people. You know, when you’re given that large a gift and are allowed to stay here, it’s more to give something back. Maybe some work I’m going to do. Something.”

What she did was to continue to work, later even when she was in a wheelchair, and the start was her appearance that year in concert. Besides her classic songs, she perfomed numbers such as  “Where Can I Go Without You?,” a venture into country with a subtle waltz treatment of “You Don’t Know Me,” and she introduced a new song she wrote with guitarist John Chiodini called “I’ll Give It All to You.”

Spotted and hired first by Benny Goodman, Lee had a 50-year career in the end and ranked at the top end of singers of jazz and standards with hits like “Is That All There Is?”, “I’m a Woman”, “Fever”, “Till There Was You” and “I Don’t Want to Play in Your Yard”.

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She had a brief movie career and she was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actress for Jack Webb’s  “Pete Kelly’s Blues” (1955, pictured right) and she had four marriages, which all ended in divorce.

With Sonny Burke, she wrote the songs for the 1955 Disney animated film “Lady and the Tramp”, and 36 years later  she sued the studio for a share in the profits of the video sale of the film and a California court awarded her $2.3 million.

It pleased Lee that her popularity covered many generations: “I’m so lucky. I have a lot of young fans, because they like jazz. Then I have the ones who enjoy ‘Lady and the Tramp’, so there’s always someone fresh to talk to. I’m pleased when their taste in music goes up and up. It makes me very happy. It doesn’t have to be mine, just as long as they like good things.”

As she approached her 66th birthday, she said she wished that more attention would be paid to society’s elders. “Learning, and growing by learning, that’s what we have to leave with our young people.

“I am in no way a prude, but just in the basic things of living and trying to make something of their lives, let’s apply what we’ve learned. There’s nothing like rehearsal, and this is a big rehearsal. If only we could take advantage of some of these things, we wouldn’t have to bump our heads so much.”

A version of this story appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News and the Chicago Tribune.

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Krakow Film Music Festival kicks off on Wednesday

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – The 8th Krakow Film Music Festival (KFMF) gets under way on Wednesday and on Friday there, I will moderate a Q&A session with top composers on the topic of history and politics in screen music.

My panel will feature composers Jeff Beal (“House of Cards”, “The Newsroom”, “Rome”), Ramin Djawadi (“Game of Thrones”, “Clash of the Titans”, “Safe House”), Trevor Morris “Vikings”, “The Borgias”, “The Tudors”),  and John Lunn (“Downton Abbey”, “The White Queen”, “Cambridge Spies”) and writer/producer Michael Hirst (“Vikings”, “The Tudors”, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”).

fmf_main_enOne of the top dates in the international film music calendar, the Krakow shindig has moved this year from fall to the spring due to the busy schedule of festivals and other gatherings in the city, which is Poland’s cultural centre.

Highlights this year will include a videogame music concert featuring the artists of Critical Hit, a Polish music gala: Scoring4Wadja; a composer recital presented by Varese Sarabande to feature Sara Andon, Jeff Beal and Elliot Goldenthal, hosted by the label’s Robert Townson; a concert of music from film versions of Shakespeare, an international TV series music gala, and a live orchestral performance to accompany the 2009 film, “Star Trek”.

Other composers who will be on hand will include Andrzej Wajda, Cliff Martinez, Stephen Warbeck, and Jocelyn Pook, along with stage and film director Julie Taymor, many industry folk from Los Angeles and London, and, of course, a strong representation of composers and artists from Poland.

Taymor will take part in part in a panel session on music for Shakespeare along with Goldenthal, Pook and Warbeck with ASCAP’s Simon Greenaway as moderator, and she will join Pook, Maria Giacchino and BMI’s Doreen Ringer-Ross to discuss women in the film industry, with Michal Oleszczyk as host.

There will be many other discussions, masterclasses and live scoring and mixing sessions for aspiring composers during the festival.

I will post stories through the week and afterwards. My photo is from last year’s KFMF.

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FILM REVIEW: Howard Hawks’ ‘Only Angels Have Wings’

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – With a sparkling new 4K digital restoration, “Only Angels Have Wings”, directed in 1939 by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and Rita Hayworth, is back in UK cinemas thanks to distributor Park Circus.

Written by prolific former newspaperman Jules Furthman, whose credits include “To Have and Have Not”, “The Big Sleep” and “Rio Bravo”, it’s an entertaining tale of flyboys who go up in rickety crates to deliver the mail in all kinds of weather in the Andes.

Though shot on a soundstage in black-and-white with the square Academy ratio, the art direction by Lionel Banks (“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “His Girl Friday”), cinematography by Joseph Walker (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “It Happened One Night”), and visual effects by Roy Davidson (“Lost Horizon:, “The Outlaw”) help Hawks spin a credible and exciting yarn about danger in the sky and heartbreak on the ground. Walker and Davidson were both nominated for Academy Awards for the picture.

Grant is impressive as Geoff Carter, the tough leader of a group of pilots who risk their lives constantly for their love of flying. Writer Furthman gives him and his crew the rough-and-ready fatalism of reporters as they deal with the death of one of their own.

Jean Arthur makes a delightful entrance as a spunky showgirl named Bonnie Lee who misses her boat because she’s drinking with the fellas but is not afraid to put up in the ramshackle hotel where the fliers are based. She makes a play for Carter but he spurns her because he has already lost one love who ran off because he wouldn’t quit his dangerous job.

There’s a reason Carter insists that the mail gets through every day no matter the weather and things get more complicated when one of the men dies in a plane crash and a pilot with a bad reputation named Bat MacPherson (Richard Barthelmess) signs up to fly the mail.

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That breeds resentment among the men and it doesn’t help that the new flyer’s wife Judy, played by the young Rita Hayworth (with Grant above), is the reason Carter is bitter about women. Arnold steals all her scenes with her attractive playfulness but when Hayworth walks on, oh my. She’s good, too.

The camaraderie of the men is depicted in sharp and funny scenes in which they scoff at the danger they face each day, and Hawks builds suspense with plausible effects of the planes, tailspins and crashes. There’s a grand score by Dimitri Tiomkin.

Maybe it’s not enough for teenagers who insist on Marvel CGI, but for movie lovers, it’s a dandy picture with thrills and a tone that’s thoroughly grownup.

The original nitrate picture negative and composite duplicate negative were used by Sony Pictures Entertainment at Colorworks for the 4K version. Cineric Inc. did the 4K scanning with digital image restoration by MTI film and sound restoration from the original soundrack negative by Chace Audio. They did a fine job.

Cast: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth, Richard Barthelmess, Thomas Mitchell, Sig Ruman, Donald Barry, Noah Beery Jr., Allyn Joslyn, Victor Kilian, John Carroll; Director, producer: Howard Hawks; Writer: Jules Furthman; Director of photography: Joseph Walker; Art direction: Lionel Banks; Music: Dimitri Tiomkin; Editor: Viola Lawrence; Costume designer: Robert Kalloch; Special effects: Roy Davidson; Chief Pilot: Paul Mantz; running time, 121 minutes.

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Timothy Ackroyd’s ‘The Fuse’ in talks for TV

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Timothy Ackroyd said he is in discussions to adapt for television his production of the courtroom drama “The Fuse”, which he wrote with the late Beryl Bainbridge.

The sardonic and gripping play, which was presented recently as a Radio Theatre Production at the National Liberal Club, deals with the Old Bailey murder trial of Brian Donald Hume in 1950.

the fuse-x 325Ackroyd – Sir Timothy off the stage – plays Hume, a shrewd fantasist who was charged with the murder of a shady London businessman and was freed when the jury could not reach a verdict.

He later pleaded guilty as an accessory after the fact and was jailed for 12 years. Knowing he could not be tried again for murder, when he was released he sold a colourful confession to the tabloid press and left for the Continent.

The play covers the first trial with Hume as a wisecracking observer of his own fate who claims to have been an RAF flyer and mocks the evidence that involves body parts on a plane, a Nazi dagger and a mistreated dog.

Just as Orson Welles did decades ago, Ackroyd commissioned a short black-and-white film to precede the play with an outline of the crime and the publicity it generated. Directed by Edward Andrews with music by James Wilson-Rhead, cinematography by Joshua C. Fry, editing by Edward Andrews and art direction by Jenna Highcazony, it benefited from the art and wisdom of Ackroyd’s great friend, the filmmaker Nicholas Roeg.

The short film plays just like the old Warner Bros. montages with spinning headlines, off-kilter shots and lots of chiaroscuro. It is crisp and intriguing and a dynamic tease for the play. Roeg would play a key role in the development of a TV adaptation, Ayckroyd tells me.

The recent production, presented by Ragamuffin Productions and sponsored by EFG, featured professional actors such as Royce Mills, Simon Dutton, Nick Bayly, and Risemary Tross, along with Ackroyd. It also included non-pros and on first night there was some early nervousness that was dispelled on subsequent nights as the production gained more fizz and spirit.

Mills has some funny moments as the often confused judge and while Ackroyd is naturally suave and charming as Hume, also he captures the man’s psycopathy so that by the end he has created a portrait of evil that is truly sinister.

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Elliot Goldenthal wins Krakow FMF’s new Wojciech Kilar Award

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Oscar-winning composer Elliot Goldenthal (pictured above) has been named as the first winner of the new Wojciech Kilar Award to be presented at the Krakow Film Music Festival on May 28.

The new prize aims to raise the profile of Kilar (pictured below), who died on Dec. 29 2013 aged 81, as it honours composers whose film work has a vigorous life beyond the screen. Pianist and composer Kilar was nominated for a Bafta Award for his score to Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning film “The Pianist” and he wrote the music for more than 130 films including “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “Portrait of a Lady”.

Wojciech_Kilar x325jpgOrganisers said the primary goals of the new award are to honour and celebrate the memory of Wojciech Kilar and emphasise the importance of the ethos of the composer in the interdisciplinary world of film: “With the award’s establishment, the name and accomplishments of Wojciech Kilar, one of the most recognizable Polish composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, will gain a new international dimension.”

The first honouree, American composer Goldenthal, won the Academy Award for his score to partner Julie Taymor’s “Frida” and also scored her films “Titus”, “Across the Universe” and “The Tempest”. He was nominated for best score for Francis Ford Coppola’s “Interview with a Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” and Neil Jordan’s “Michael Collins”.

He scored Jordan’s “The Butcher Boy” and “The Good Thief” amid a range of films that include “Alien3”, “Batman Forever”, “Batman & Robin” and “Heat”. Busy in the concert hall, Goldenthal composes chamber music and writes music for  symphonies, ballets and operas. As well as the Academy Award, he has won two Golden Globes, three Grammy Awards and two Tony Awards.

Festival organisers said the Kilar Award is granted for lifetime achievement to composers of film music who “remain faithful to the traditional art of composing, write scores that in isolation from the image do not lose clarity”, and use the language of music efficiently to produce “rich and distinct colours, shades and textures in their work”.

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Krakow FMF Artistic Director Robert Piaskowski noted that the award aims to recognise those who “turn away from the quest for industrialisation and the primacy of special effects in film music soundtracks”.

Piaskowski said: “Founding this award is to a way to take part in the debate by juxtaposing the traditional art of composing film music with its assembly line, business-like alternative.”

The vast majority of composers “produce music as if in a factory and do not have direct contact with autonomous work”, he said: “Often standing at the forefront, the composer is just the author of several themes that are harmonized, instrumented and prepared by a staff of anonymous musicians. Our duty is to emphasise the importance and worth of film music often called ‘the new classical’.”

The festival assembled a council of experts to choose the recipient and organisers said Goldenthal was an almost unanimous choice. The FMF said, “In his music, Goldenthal balances between dissonant, atonal music and classical harmony, often during a single phrase, blending traditional orchestral music with jazz and rock, as well as electronic music.”

The announcement noted that the composer is comfortable working on pieces that are extensive symphonically and chorally as well as more ambient and intimate as he creates both traditional and unusual compositions: “Goldenthal is highly valued for his unique, dark, and almost dense style. None of the contemporary composers of film music use their talent in creating works in such a variety of musical genres.”

National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra Director Joanna Wnuk-Nazarowa said, “He engages with his craft brilliantly and stands in line with such great composers as Wagner, Strauss, Mahler or Bruckner. His scores are dense and extremely professional; he maintains the balance between melody and harmony, creates a very personal narrative and style, and possesses strong understanding of the whole form. This is a truly novelistic musical narrative.”

Here’s more about the Krakow Film Music Festival and more about Elliot Goldenthal

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