Friday, January 18, 2008

Reliving the Vintage Movie Experience at LACMA

Wilshire Blvd. Entrance, Los Angeles County Musuem of Art.
Photo: By/COPYRIGHT Ross Care

This week (January 15, 2008) I saw FORT APACHE at the Tuesday Matinee series at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). It’s a great chance to see classic films on the big screen and with a very appreciative though not necessarily academic or hardcore buff audiences. It’s mostly older people from the Wilshire/6th St. area who remember and love these films (as I do).

Seeing a John Ford film (or any classic film) under such circumstances is a wonderful experience because the audience responds so well to the many nuances and Ford, particularly the characterizations/performances and comic touches. You can really see how effectively he produced these films for general audiences (and, at these screenings, how effectively and enduringly he still reaches them).

I am currently reading Kathryn Kalinak book, How the West Was Sung, (University of California Press, Berkeley, 2007), a detailed study of music in the films of John Ford. It’s an excellent a much needed definitive statement on the subject. APACHE seemed almost fully underscored and I did love what seemed to be composer Richard Hageman’s original cues and intersperced with the familiar (and not so familiar) American folk and popular ltunes Ford loved..

Somehow I always feel reduced (elevated?) to tears when those simple, familiar melodies resound in the Main Title.

I especially love the none-commissioned officer’s dance sequence later in this film, to me the sustaining of such civilized formality and grace in such a hostile, primitive setting seems ineffably touching for some reason.

(Martin Scorsese pays homage to this dance sequence in the ballroom scene in his AGE OF INNOCENCE).

I feel the same way about the more spontaneous and joyous dance sequence in WAGON MASTER, which has also been screened several times on the Tuesday series.

And in the face of so much published trivia, as I remarked to a friend, Kalinac’s film music writing is so reasoned and detailed it’s almost therapeutic. (The friend was Charles Leayman, himself an inspired writer on film when so motivated). Some years ago Chuck and I attended the Virginia Film Festival where Kalinak was one of the guest speakers, and we have been fans of her work ever since. One of her other books is the equally excellent Settling the Score: Music and the Classical Hollywood Score.

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