The BigPond Adelaide Film Festival this year features a series of silent films with live accompaniments titled ‘Silent Cinema in the 21st Century’. The third screening of the series displayed short films from the period 1905-1909, used in vaudeville entertainment in Australia by the Corrick Family Entertainers. Restored by the Australian National Film and Sound Archive, the films give a glimpse of what it must have been like to attend a Corrick evening of diversion at the beginning of the twentieth century in Australia.
This sampling presented films shot in France, Australia, Britain and Italy. They are either short humorous sketches or documentaries of novel phenomena such as snow or metallurgy. Especially amusing were the French films which capture the intricate work of comic actors and illusionists.
Mauro Colombis accompanied the films with fervour and skill by means of his own original improvisational material. This classically trained pianist has devoted his work to accompanying silent cinema and has created a compositional language of his own.
He plays watching the picture. His hands glide over the piano magically escorting all picture movement. The music is not vaudeville-like although it is simple. It draws on dramatic topoi and Romantic harmony, and is very effective in the way it enhances the cinematic experience.
Silent pictures were not meant to be silent. The experience would have been dull without the presence of live music. The piano music complemented the rhythm and pace of the picture, while heightening the emotional charge of the narrative. Yet, the music never deterred the viewers’ fixation on the screen.
A crowd of about fifty witnessed the first projection of these films in more than a century and the unique accompaniment style of Mauro Colombis. The screening of this archival material illuminated an important chapter of Australian film history.
2011 BigPond Adelaide Film Festival
Corrick Collection Films
with live performance by Mauro Colombis
Venue: Mercury Cinema
Date: 5 March 2011