Back to Brooklyn: roots, and beyond

It was such a pleasure to return to Brooklyn Public Library’s “Silent Movie Matinee” series – last year was my first time appearing at this series, and curator Ken Gordon was kind enough to bring me back this year, not once but twice: October for some Chaplin shorts, then yesterday for Ozu’s “I WAS BORN, BUT…” Both programs were very meaningful for me in different ways.

Chaplin, of course, is the king of comedy and one of the greatest comedian of silent era. Yet, for some strange reason, I have yet to play for only a select few of his films. So, it was quite a challenge for me to play for not one, but three (more on this shortly!), of his films in one sitting. The way Ken programmed these three films was really nice – he presented to the audience to see these three films as sequels of a sort, rather than three individual pieces, to tell a story about homelessness – the birth of his signature “trump” character – and all the pathos surrounding it. That perspective helped me a lot to create a musical “flow” – and it was a nice surprise that I got to play for “DOG’S LIFE” too, unplanned/impromptu.

*”DOG’S LIFE” has Chaplin’s original orchestral score, and it needs to be always screened with it. However, Dweck Center upgraded their projection gear to Blu-ray-compatible right before this date, and the sound wasn’t working in this new setup – so Ken made an executive decision to have me provide a live accompaniment, rather than screening it completely silent.

“I WAS BORN, BUT…” is the very first silent film I ever got to accompany back in 2003. It is regarded as the masterpiece among Ozu’s existing silent films, and I was lucky enough to accompany it for a few times since – all in Japan. This BPL screening was my first time playing for it in the US, after 10 years of playing for silents – it was such a joy to present it to the audience at BPL, who are so very enthusiastic and appreciative. I joined the post-screening conversation, and the feedback from them was truly exciting and thought-provoking.

Back to Brooklyn, back to the classic, and back to where I started… what a great way to start my 11th year as a silent film pianist! Can’t wait to come back to BPL to continue to share my adventure in the silent film world. :)

Monday November 3rd, 2014 by Makia Matsumura
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