The BFI have been involved in a campaign over the last couple of years to ‘Save the Hitchcock 9′. These 9 early films shot by renowned director, Alfred Hitchcock in the 1920′s are in great need of restoration and thus a funding campaign was set into motion, involving a big donation made by Martin Scorsese’s charity, The Film Foundation.
There is no doubt that the genius of Hitchcock in the world of cinema is ingrained within our lives and culture, References and homages will continue, as the years progress. The BFI are celebrating his genius with a season of every one of his films through to October 2012.
What makes this project very interesting is giving an audience to his first foray into a genre that would define much of our understanding of him. Being a member of the British Film Institute, which I would highly recommend, gave me early access to purchase tickets to see ‘The Lodger’, Hitchcock’s first thriller, a silent film that follows a series of ‘Jack The Ripper’ style murders around London town by a character known as ‘The Avenger’, based on a book that purported Jack The Ripper to have lodged in a local guest house. Released in 1927, this movie showed the thinking behind many of Hitchcock trademark approaches to theatrical filming and his unique approach to storytelling through the lens.
Colouring and toning effects were employed directly to the negatives, giving the movie added depth and colour cues. We were given an introduction to the project and a quick extra glimpse into the restoration process with before and after shots. Although this movie was remastered fairly recently, current digital technology has allowed a much clearer and precise restoration.
The Lodger also gave us Hitchcock’s first cameo appearance.
Part of the restoration process involved commissioning a new score, and musician Nitin Sawhney was tasked with delivering his interpretation . The audience in the Barbican and those in cinema theatres around Britain were the first to experience the fully restored movie with a score performed LIVE by Nitin Sawhney’s Band and the London Symphony Orchestra. The acoustics and performance worked wonderfully I initially found it hard to just watch the movie, but after the first couple of minutes immanaged to focus my eyes away from the musicians and just let them do their thing. It was impressive the way the lighting for the orchestra synced with the negative colouting/toning used between the scenes, as the screen hues changed, so did the illumination around the orchestra, it allowed for an immersive experience and the ears to follow the sound and the eyes to stay on the screen.
So on the whole I was impressed by the score. Beautiful strings, voices and motifs used to create narratives that weaved between the suspense, comedy and love story. It worked suprisingly well, given the nature of the original novel by Marie Belloc. Great use of drums and percussion throughout, mixed and performed extremely well.
I couldn’t help but notice traces of Nitin’s work from previous albums creeping into the soundscape, subtle string phrases reminiscent of Nitin’s earlier album Prophesy sprang to mind. It was diverse and fitting with a lashings of Psycho and North By Northwest, add in some period atmosphere and a bit of Metropolis. I heard some much Hitchcock in it, yet it had such a distinctive sound that was very much Nitin Sawney. The score sounded full and timed perfectly, my congratulations go out to the Nitin, the band and the LSO.
Experiences like these are what make the world of cinema so special. I fully intend to try and catch future movies with LIVE accompaniment. It is just that one of my pet peeves about the cinema industry centres around poor projection or care in the sound department, something that is changing with digital cinema. When its being played LIVE for you, its a totally different experience. The Barbican has great acoustics, so it is well worth catching performances there if you can.
You will be able to see The Lodger with the new score at the BFI from Aug 10th – there will also be a conversation with Nitin Sawhney that evening.
Nitin Sawhney on twitter @thenitinsawhney
Nicki Wells on twitter @nickiwellsmusic
British Film Institute