A screening of René Clair's 1927 French silent film comedy masterpiece, The Italian Straw Hat, and his intriguing 1928 silent film documentary short, The Eiffel Tower, will occur on Saturday, September 9, 2017, at 7:30 PM at Lincoln Theater, University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT. Admission is free. The films will be screened with new piano accompaniments 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, celebration of movement, intuition of comic timing, and fascination with the surreal. 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 I Married a Witch (1942), It Happened Tomorrow (1944), 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 mindset. 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, Clair transposes the play to 1895 -- the birth year of narrative cinema -- and recreates with fastidious attention to detail, costume, and design, the remarkable world captured by the first movies. This subtle, 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, digital restoration. The Italian Straw Hat and The Eiffel Tower are being screened with the permission of Flicker Alley Films, Los Angeles, CA.
Patrick Miller is co-director of the academic and contemporary studies division and the 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 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).