Screened as part of NZIFF 2008
The Vector Wellington Orchestra returns to the Wellington Film Festival and to the Embassy to perform Carl Davis’ lovely jazz-age styled score for Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman, one of the most popular comedies of the 20s. Lloyd was the most successful comedian of the silent era, more popular than Buster Keaton and in more films than Charlie Chaplin. Though he made a pair of spectacles his trademark, he was as physically daring a movie actor as ever lived. He’s best known as an iconic image of his era, scaling a skyscraper in the hilariously nerve-wracking Safety Last, but this satire of the 20s mania for American college culture was the Lloyd film that made the biggest impact in its day. Lloyd’s persona – decent, motivated, getting out of scrapes – was always the most purely American of the silent clowns and the least shaded with pathos. But his essential optimism takes some knocks in The Freshman where he’s the ultimate freshie, so tragically eager to please that he can only fail. The film’s extraordinary set-pieces, a college dance at which his suit is constantly falling apart and being repaired on-the-hoof by his drunken tailor; and a football match in which he plays an improbably heroic role, are silent era nonsense of the most wonderfully complicated variety, no contemporary comedian comes close to this man’s ability to construct and build a comic sequence, and then just keep it spinning. — BG
“What one could and should say is that The Freshman… is that it is surely his masterpiece, the one Lloyd feature nobody seems to dispute as belonging in the same class as the best of Chaplin, Keaton, Langdon, and Laurel and Hardy – and one of the comic screen’s indisputable masterpieces… In this film he finally achieved – without apparently noticing it – a true comedy of character. Moreover, and again without seeming to be entirely aware of it, he achieved a subtle satire on the values so many commentators blithely insisted he always upheld – American optimism and go-getterism, the drive to be popular at any cost. In fact, it may be said that this is the only Lloyd film constructed around a desire to satirise a contemporary fad – the inordinate public interest in college life.” — Richard Schickel, Harold Lloyd: The Shape of Laughter
Carl Davis is the doyen of contemporary composers for silent film. His big symphonic scores for The Wedding March and The Wind have thrilled Wellington Live Cinema audiences. His score for The Freshman, composed for nine players, pays homage to the so-called jazz age. As always the originality of Davis’ melodic lines and the intricacy of synchronisation refine the art of film accompaniment far beyond the capacities of the old cinema pit bands.
Marc Taddei has previously conducted the Vector Wellington Orchestra in the Festival’s Live Cinema performances of Carl Davis’ score for The Wind. Taddei, a Masters graduate of the Juilliard School in Manhattan, has conducted in North America and Europe and is a frequent guest conductor throughout New Zealand. In 2007 he became Music Director of the Vector Wellington Orchestra. An advocate of new media in performance, and extra-musical collaboration as a means of enriching the artistic experience, Marc has worked with many of New Zealand’s finest composers and visual artists in groundbreaking orchestral and visual collaborations.