Poster for this week’s silent film with live music at the Balboa (from the Balboa Web site)
Once again, the Balboa Theatre will present an evening that brings the performance of live music together with cinema. Last month the occasion involved the screening of four short films from Kerry Laitala’s City Luminous Series. This week there will be a one-night only screening of a classic silent film with live music accompanied by a sextet, all of whose members are skilled improvisers. Appropriately enough, the film itself is about a musician.
The Hands of Orlac is a story about a world-famous pianist, named Paul Orlac, who loses his hands in a railway accident. His wife Yvonne then pleads with a surgeon to provide him with transplanted hands. The surgeon find a suitable pair of hands as a result of the recent execution of a murderer named Vasseur. Orlac learns of the hands’ origin only after the surgery has taken place, and they prove to be his undoing. Not only can he not play the piano, but also Vasseur had committed other murders that had not yet been discovered by the police. The rest of the narrative follows the downward spiral of Orlac’s life.
The film was made in Austria by Robert Wiene in 1924. Wiene is probably best known for having made The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 1920. In that film Conrad Veidt played the murderous somnambulist, and he worked again with Wiene to play the role of Orlac. The running time of the film is 90 minutes.
The sextet will provide accompaniment with a diverse assortment of instruments suiting the different moods of the images. Only bassist Lisa Mezzacappa will play a single instrument. Allison Lovejoy will play a variety of keyboard instruments (including an accordion). Charith Premawardhana will alternate between violin and viola. David Boyce will play reeds, different sizes of saxophone and bass clarinet, as well as electronics. Eric Moffat will play Fender Jaguar and provide real-time control of sound sources and soundscapes. Finally, David Mihaly will divide his time between percussion and a Foley array of devices for sound effects.
This screening and performance will begin at 8 p.m. tomorrow evening, September 11. The Balboa Theatre is located in the Outer Richmond District at 3630 Balboa Street, which is between 37th Avenue and 38th Avenue. It can be reached easily by the Muni 38 line. Admission will be $15, and the Balboa Theatre has created an event page for advance purchase of tickets online.