Screened as part of NZIFF 2009
A highlight of any movie-going year, this year's Live Cinema collaboration between the Festival and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra offers laughter and spectacle. Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush is one of the great, endlessly rewatchable cinema comedies and its presentation with live music is exactly the kind of experience that The Civic was originally designed to deliver so grandly. Conductor/composer Timothy Brock has worked with the Chaplin Estate since 1999 to reconstruct Chaplin's own superb film scores. He completes that project with his work on The Gold Rush. He returns to the Festival to conduct the Auckland Philharmonia in this single New Zealand performance and to prove once again how gloriously far from silent the cinema we mistakenly call by that name actually was. Like Keaton's immortal The General, the 1925 The Gold Rush places its comic anti-hero at the centre of an historical epic. He is The Lone Prospector, a gentle soul among the throngs who've headed to Alaska hungry for gold. We see him first traipsing nimbly along the rim of a ridge high on a mountain pass, blithely unaware that he's being followed by a large black bear...
The Gold Rush was the last movie Chaplin made before the spectre of technological change – the ‘talkies’ – began to haunt him. Its brilliant set-pieces – the Little Tramp making dinner rolls dance, ravenous Mack Swain mistaking the Tramp for a large chicken, Swain and the Tramp feasting upon the latter's shoe, and the cabin teetering on the edge of the abyss – are classic moments of silent-film comedy. Though it is probably Chaplin's most famous film, The Gold Rush is atypical in several ways. Its snowy wastes are far removed from his usual urban and rural settings and the film has a happy ending, with the Tramp becoming a millionaire. The Museum of Modern Art's notes suggest that The Gold Rush “captured Chaplin in a time of relative contentment – one of the medium's great geniuses at a moment of confidence in his ability to control his destiny and his art.” — BG
“Although it was another generation's children who promised to be good all week if they could see a Chaplin comedy, the bantam tramp with his flapping shoes, battered derby hat, jaunty bamboo cane, absurd black moustache, shabby defiant clothes, is not dated. The craftsmanship of his effortless performance – the innocent waddle, the peculiar childlike kick, the desperate elegance, the poignant gallantry – is still high comedy.” — James Agee, Time
Since the premiere of his Piano Concerto in G minor (1980) at the age of 17, Timothy Brock has been an active composer and conductor who has specialised in concert works of the early 20th century and silent film. In 1999 he was asked by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, in cooperation with the Chaplin Estate, to restore and reconstruct for live performance Charlie Chaplin's 1936 score for Modern Times. This led to an enduring involvement in the reconstruction and international performance of Chaplin's scores - and brought him to the Festival for the first time in 2000. In 2001, on a commission from the Festival, and in cooperation with Boosey and Hawkes, London, he restored the 1929 manuscript of Dmitri Shostakovich's only silent film work, New Babylon, and gave that restored score's live cinematic premiere in Auckland. Subsequently he has conducted this work in many performances throughout Europe. In 2007 he was commissioned to restore the last of the great Chaplin features, The Gold Rush, which he will perform in Auckland before traveling to Wellington to conduct his friend and colleague Neil Brand's score for The Cat and the Canary (performed in Auckland in 2007).