Sat, Feb 19|
THE LAST COMMAND w/ Pipe Organ Performance by Jeff Rapsis
Celebrate Oscar season with Josef von Sternberg's groundbreaking 1928 psychological drama, which won 'Best Actor' for Emil Jannings at the first-ever Academy Awards. Deeply intertextual, this "film within a film" explores shifting power dynamics and motivations during the Russian Revolution.
Time & Location
Feb 19, 2022, 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St, Brattleboro, VT 05301, USA
About the Event
Emil Jannings won the first best actor Academy Award for his performance as a sympathetic tyrant: an exiled Czarist General who is reduced to penury after the collapse of Imperial Russia. An old adversary, now a successful director hires the general to re-enact the revolution which deposed him. Silent film accompanist, Jeff Rapsis will perform an improvisational live musical score on our historic Estey pipe organ.
Josef von Sternberg’s groundbreaking The Last Command is a brilliantly realized silent melodrama and a witty critique of the Hollywood machine, featuring virtuoso cinematography, grandly designed sets and effects, and rousing Russian Revolution sequences. Towering above it all is the passionate, heartbreaking Jannings, whose portrayal of a man losing his grip on reality is one for the history books.
Director Sternberg, a master of lighting and black-and-white photography, created The Last Command as a visual tour de force. One of early Hollywood's most creative and challenging looks at the global conflicts that contributed to World War I, and surprsingly deep with intertextuality, this "film within a film" explores shifting power dynamics, and the tension between personal and political motivations. Often cited as a prime example of the emotional range and visual accomplishment of silent films at their height, just prior to the coming of pictures with recorded soundtracks. It also stars a young William Powell as the Hollywood movie director who crossed paths with the general during the Revolution, and 1920s starlet Evelyn Brent as a seductive revolutionary.
"Making up the music on the spot is kind of a high wire act," Rapsis said. "But there's nothing like the energy and excitement that comes with improvised live performance, especially when accompanying a silent film." In addition to the organ, he will also be playing a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of a full orchestra.
Rapsis said great silent film dramas such as 'The Last Command' (1928) told stories that concentrate on the "big" emotions such as Love, Despair, Anger, and Joy. Because of this, audiences continue to respond to them in the 21st century, especially if they're presented as intended—in a theater on the big screen, with a live audience and live music. "Dramas such as 'The Last Command' were created to be consumed as a communal experience," Rapsis continues. "With an audience and live music, they come to life as their creators intended them to. This screening at Epsilon Spires is a great chance to experience films that first caused people to fall in love with the movies."
Jeff Rapsis lives in Bedford, New Hampshire, and accompanies silent film programs in venues throughout New England. A lifelong silent film fan, he began creating original musical scores and staging silent film programs in 2007 as a way to keep the form vibrant before the public. His technique is rooted in a traditional approach and texture, while applying imporovisation using contemporary scoring methods when appropriate to connect with today's audiences. Outside New England, he has accompanied films at the New York Public Library’s “Meet the Musicmakers” series and the Kansas Silent Film Festival. Rapsis has also provided original music for several silent film DVD releases by Looser Than Loose Vintage Entertainment of Manchester, N.H., and scored the independent feature film Dangerous Crosswinds (2005). His recorded scores also include piano music for Kino Lorber's reissue of Gloria Swanson's 'Zaza' (1923) and music for Reel Classic DVD's reissue of 'The Bells' (1926) starring Lionel Barrymore and Boris Karloff. As a composer, his 'Kilimanjaro Suite' for large orchestra was premiered in 2017 by the N.H. Philharmonic. A journalist by profession, Rapsis is co-founder and associate publisher of HippoPress, a weekly newspaper based in Manchester, N.H. He also serves as executive director of the Aviation Museum of N.H., a non-profit educational center based at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
The Last Command
Admission for one to THE LAST COMMAND with live pipe organ soundtrack by Jeff Rapsis! This is your confirmation- no need to print anything out we will have your name at Roll-call. Refreshments will be provided. Please choose your seating with respect for others and let us know if you require special arrangements. $2 from every ticket goes directly towards the historic preservation of the venue. Thank you for your support! Enjoy the program