The 18th annual April in Paris Film Festival at Cinestudio, Trinity College, will present a special screening of René Clair's 1927 French silent film masterpiece, The Italian Straw Hat, on Sunday April 2, 2017, at 2:30 PM at Cinestudio, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. General admission is $10.00. The theme of the 18th annual April in Paris Film Festival is crossing borders. The film will be screened with a new piano accompaniment prepared and performed by Patrick Miller, Associate Professor of Music Theory at The Hartt School, University of Hartford.
René Clair (1898-1981) is remembered today as one of the pioneering and visionary directors of French and world cinema. In 1920, Clair began playing leads in films but disliked acting and was fascinated with filmmaking. In 1923, he completed his first film as writer-director, Paris qui dort, which displayed the basic elements of his cinematic style -- engaging charm, exhilarating wit, the celebration of movement, an intuitive sense of comic timing, and disarmingly surreal fantasy. All these elements would coalesce with The Italian Straw Hat (1927) and would continue with his brilliant early groundbreaking sound films Sous les Toits de Paris (1930), Le Million (1931), A Nous la Liberté (1931) and with his remarkable American films The Flame of New Orleans (1941), I Married a Witch (1942), and And Then There Were None (1945).
The Italian Straw Hat (1927) is a scintillating comedy of manners and an inspired satire on the propriety and behavior of the bourgeois mind-set. Adapting the Eugène Labiche and Marc Michel's perennial stage farce from 1851, which French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) used to illustrate his theory of comedy, and transposing the play to 1895 -- the birth year of narrative cinema -- Clair recreates, with fastidious attention to detail, costume, and design, the remarkable world captured by the first movies. This sophisticated and suave film consists of a dozen eccentric characters desperately trying to keep up appearances in the face of disaster and disgrace. The film stars Albert Préjean as the bridegroom and the extraordinary art direction is by Lazare Meerson. The Italian Straw Hat will be shown in a new, complete, high-definition digital restoration. The screening will also include René Clair's fascinating silent film documentary short on the Eiffel Tower, The Tower (1928).
Patrick Miller is is co-director of the academic and contemporary studies division and chair of the music theory program at The Hartt School, University of Hartford. He studied at the University of Kansas (B.Mus., M.Mus.) and the University of Michigan (Ph.D.) and since 1982 has performed his piano accompaniments for silent film screenings throughout New England with performances at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Mount Holyoke College, University of Hartford, University of Connecticut, Connecticut College, Wesleyan University, and Yale University. He has studied silent film music at the George Eastman House (Rochester, NY), the Museum of Modern Art, and the Library of Congress and has accompanied the masterworks of American and international silent cinema from Intolerance (D. W. Griffith, USA, 1916) to The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, France, 1928). Since 2001, he has accompanied silent film screenings for the April in Paris Film Festival at Cinestudio, Trinity College.