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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2015 5:40 pm 
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The new resto of Dupont's "Varieté" will not only see the light of day on February 6 at the Berlinale, but will be released on the same day on blu and dvd in Germany. See here. Probably the fastest release after a premiere ever ;)

Music by The Tiger Lilies. Does anyone know them? I'm generally skeptical about 'modern' soundtracks, though I could have well imagined a band like Tuxedomoon doing the music for this film.

In any case, MoC better hurry up announcing their version if they actually plan to release it, too. Normally, this should be a first-day blind buy if you don't need subs, especially as the new version seems to run 177 min. and thus is very considerably longer than all the old TV recordings floating around.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2015 6:17 pm 
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Can't wait!


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2015 7:02 pm 
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Tommaso wrote:
Music by The Tiger Lilies. Does anyone know them? .

On paper it seems a good call. They came to prominence a few years back with the theatre production Shockheaded Peter (Struwwelpeter) and made a CD with Kronos Quartet about Edward Gorey. Their music is a frothy cabaret/circus mix and there's plenty of chance to get samples off Amazon to get a flavour


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 7:49 am 

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Tommaso wrote:
In any case, MoC better hurry up announcing their version if they actually plan to release it, too. Normally, this should be a first-day blind buy if you don't need subs, especially as the new version seems to run 177 min. and thus is very considerably longer than all the old TV recordings floating around.

According to the amazon.de listing, the German release will include English subs (also French, Italian and Japanese) - all the more reason for MoC to hurry!

Unless we have a Metropolis-type situation, surely the quoted running time is an error or includes documentaries? Silent Era gives the film's original length as 2837 metres (another site quotes 2844m.) which would fall well short of 177 minutes even at a ridiculously slow 16fps. I don't know the frame rate used for the restoration, but I think around 117 minutes more likely!


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 8:12 am 
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Yes, you must be right. Well, let's hope they bring along some useful documentary, then.

Just listened a little to some Tiger Lillies stuff on youtube. I liked what I heard and can well imagine that they come up with something fine for "Varieté".


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 2:34 am 
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Here is a comparison of the new and old restoration:
http://youtu.be/5fHEEKqnMbw

I wonder if MoC will release this one or if it is to unknown to the masses?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2015 12:58 pm 
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While I'm still waiting for my pre-ordered DVD copy to ship, FWMS have revealed details about the new "Varieté"-disc. The length of the new resto is 95 min.; the 177 min. playing time of the disc is explained by the inclusion of the shortened US-cut (1926) as a bonus (with a cinema organ score by Peer Kleinschmidt). There will also be a 32-page booklet. Full article in German here.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2015 8:18 am 
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If MoC plans to license Dupont's Variete (1925), please provide us with a new soundtrack, a piano music by Stephen Horne or Neil Brand would be totally sufficient, anything is better than the music on the German DVD/Blu-Ray http://murnau-filmtheater.de/projekt-va ... auschnitte . The comments are already mounting from people who don't want to buy the Germandisc because of this s***.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2015 8:45 am 

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Thanks for the links. I feared the music might be a bit weird but all that tuneless screaming over accordions totally rules it out for me, regardless of the HD restoration. I find almost any vocal element in a silent film score unacceptable but this is ridiculous. I'll stick with my off-air German TV broadcast with fansubs if this "score" remains the only alternative.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2015 9:31 am 
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The 2nd video score's lyrics kindly describe the plot for those not paying attention to the visuals. ](*,)

And here I thought the Trip to the Moon score wouldn't be topped anytime, well except those Metal Nosferatu attempts. I guess this is why they invented the mute button.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2015 10:33 am 

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Minkin wrote:
The 2nd video score's lyrics kindly describe the plot for those not paying attention to the visuals. ](*,)

Yes, the problem of replaced English intertitles for a silent film made in another language pales beside having English lyrics...


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2015 6:10 pm 
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Unfortunately Lubitsch's warning came too late for me; I had already pre-ordered a copy of "Varieté" and received it today, and have just watched it.

I really tried to approach it with as open a mind as possible after reading the scathing reviews about the music here and elsewhere, but seriously: it's a complete disaster indeed. The problem is not so much the style of the music itself, which might actually have been somewhat fitting to the film in itself, but it's indeed the vocals. Someone must have told these guys that this was a Japanese film and that must have given them the idea to act as benshis, because it seems that practically every scene is 're-told' in the lyrics in a not exactly subtle manner. The worst thing is that the 'songs' created this way are not that bad at all, but exactly because of this they basically draw all the attention to themselves; it's like reducing this glorious film to the status of a music video, really. Perhaps if this were in an exotic language that most people don't understand anyway it would be somewhat bearable, but in English it's a real crime against the film.

So I'm sad to say that I have to advise everyone NOT to buy this edition unless they are prepared to watch the film entirely silent. Alternatively, you may do as I did after 15 minutes of listening to this disc: put on the In The Nursery soundtrack cd for Joe May's "Asphalt" (probably their scores for "Hindle Wakes" or "A Page of Madness" will also work); it reasonable transports you through this or any other Weimar film which isn't a comedy (and I've been abusing their music far too often for such purposes recently), but I'm afraid this was really only a desperate attempt on my side to somehow get this film to work with music.

In other words: Murnau-Stiftung should immediately recall this disc, get some decent pianist indeed to provide an alternative soundtrack, and replace any discs sold until now free of charge. They owe it to themselves, but as we all know, this will never happen. In other words: we really need MoC or the BFI to come to the rescue. But given the fact that the FWMS-disc not only has subs in four different languages but also menus entirely in English (and even the copyright warning is in English!), and the DVD is Region 0, something tells me that another edition is unlikely to happen...

BTW, and lest I forget: the resto looks great; with a nice sepia tint that may be slightly irritating at first if you've only seen the film in pure black and white before, but which feels very good after a few minutes (so certainly not a reason for debate à la "Nibelungen"). The runtime at 91 min. (PAL) is actually about 10 min. shorter than on the old TV recording (PAL, too) Jonathan S. mentions, so they used a slightly faster fps, which in a few scenes I thought was not a wise decision. But it's certainly nothing to worry about, either.

@ the mods: I wonder whether this whole discussion should be shifted to the "Silent Films on DVD" thread as it has nothing to do with MoC, apart from Lubitsch's initial post. But probably it gets more attention here in this MoC thread, and attention is definitely what is needed.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2015 3:40 am 
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I am rather shocked after watching those short clips. How on earth could they come up with such a soundtrack?!?!
I was quite close to pre-order this bluray but with this info I think I will pass this one which is a bit sad when you see the picture quality. :|


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2015 4:42 am 
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If you look up The Tiger Lillies (here is their Wikipedia page), you can see how this might have seemed like a daring and brilliant idea in someone's head, and in principle such an approach might work if it actually served to complement what's happening on the screen. But judging from those clips, the musicians don't seem remotely in tune with the tone of those scenes, or the subtleties of Jannings' performance. It feels like they're bored by the film, and are trying to liven it up.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2015 6:04 am 
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Those kind of soundtracks should always, always be a second option. It should be a law or something, but our governments never care about what really matter!
I guess Murnau-Stiftung didn't have the funds to do so and decided that between the more authentic score and the modern one, it's the last one that would generate more sales... at least from fans of the band (I don't know what else?)... But judging from the clips it seems the film became secondary, and you're mostly buying a Tiger Lillies music clip project of some sort. So we, silent film fans, are somewhat left alone. Sad. Variété is an excellent film. I like some modern/experimental scores! And they are some I'd like to hear (whatever happened to the Portishead/Goldfrapp Joan of Arc score?) but I never want to hear them on a first viewing, I'm too concerned about the film.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2015 6:07 am 
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For everyone who has not ordered a copy of Varieté:
http://www.criterionforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=507062#p507062

Thank you for the review Tommaso.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 2:50 pm 
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For anyone who has not seen the Variete Blu yet, the Tiger Lilies score is outright perplexing. It's as bad a choice as the Art Zoyd "industrial" Nosferatu put out by Kino/FWMS about a decade ago.

Stuff like this really baffles me. There are actually LYRICS to the damned score, with some guy reciting a "poem" about Huller in the beginning when Boss is called by the jailer to confess finally and unburden himself of his sins.

This is for the German reconstruction of the original version. For the Jesse Lasky version from the US Library of Congress there is a more suitable organ score which works.

As for the restorations themselves of the two different "versions" of the film (I put quotes around versions because the source material for the German reconstruction used insert material taken from the US print), they are stunning. Like the export print held by the US Library of Congress for Tartuffe, these prints have lovely sepia printing running throughout, with no modulations for nighttime, although for one scene where
[Reveal] Spoiler:
the infidelity between Artinelli and diPutti's character are played out,
the fireworks in the background are pinkish toned.

The German version looks more 35 mm-ish, whereas I can't tell if the US version is a 16 reduction or not.

Either way, seeing this masterwork in this shape is beyond amazing, with Karl Freund at his absolute finest, illustrating for me once again why he has always been my favorite cameraman (the played out nature of so many of these well known Murnau/Lang/etc films be damned). The man was just a magician. Without him to facilitate the ideas of DuPont, who was a workingman's director with a couple of really well punctuated films to his credit (but no Lang, no Paul Leni, no Murnau, not even a Pabst) this would have been a far different film. This catches Freund right in that extraordinary period of peak experimental creativity with Murnau via Der Letzte Mann/Tartuffe, Lang with Metropolis, Dreyer with Mikael, and here with DuPont on Variete. It's likely the supreme period of his career where he took the cinema and the camera from Lupu Pick's opening moves of highly psychological tracking, and blasted it like an artillery shell into the sky. There is so much foundational material in this film, particularly for Murnau, who mined from it heavily in Four Devils. . . also the burning eyes of George OBrien as he advances on Janet Gaynor in the boat in Sunrise is a direct lift of
[Reveal] Spoiler:
Janning's advance on the drunken Artinelli in the hotel room.


Versus the various stages of copies I've had of this film over the past twenty or so years, this is just heaven. I had no idea this disc was even coming a month ago. Then--KERPOWIE!

Grand stuff. Anyone with a passing interest in cinema should grab this Blu prontissimo. English subs on board.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 4:14 pm 
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I just watched one of those Youtube clips with that score by the Tiger Lillies, and it is surely the most disastrous accompaniment to a silent film that I have heard so far. There is no way I could ever make it through the entire film with that thing going. It's the silent film version of a Regietheater production of Wagner's Siegfried set in a MacDonald's with Siegfried dressed as Ronald MacDonald, Mime as the Hamburgler, the Wanderer as Mayor McCheese, and Brünnhilde as Birdie the Early Bird, only without any evident sense of humor.

If the restoration also gets released in the US with the Tiger Lillies score as the only option, I'll buy the Blu-ray but watch it with another film score that has about the same running time. Silent film scores with vocal parts are almost always a really bad idea, because the words compete with the images and intertitles.


Last edited by jsteffe on Tue Mar 03, 2015 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 4:14 pm 
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Tommaso wrote:
Unfortunately Lubitsch's warning came too late for me; I had already pre-ordered a copy of "Varieté" and received it today, and have just watched it.

I really tried to approach it with as open a mind as possible after reading the scathing reviews about the music here and elsewhere, but seriously: it's a complete disaster indeed. The problem is not so much the style of the music itself, which might actually have been somewhat fitting to the film in itself, but it's indeed the vocals. Someone must have told these guys that this was a Japanese film and that must have given them the idea to act as benshis, because it seems that practically every scene is 're-told' in the lyrics in a not exactly subtle manner. The worst thing is that the 'songs' created this way are not that bad at all, but exactly because of this they basically draw all the attention to themselves; it's like reducing this glorious film to the status of a music video, really. Perhaps if this were in an exotic language that most people don't understand anyway it would be somewhat bearable, but in English it's a real crime against the film.

So I'm sad to say that I have to advise everyone NOT to buy this edition unless they are prepared to watch the film entirely silent. Alternatively, you may do as I did after 15 minutes of listening to this disc: put on the In The Nursery soundtrack cd for Joe May's "Asphalt" (probably their scores for "Hindle Wakes" or "A Page of Madness" will also work); it reasonable transports you through this or any other Weimar film which isn't a comedy (and I've been abusing their music far too often for such purposes recently), but I'm afraid this was really only a desperate attempt on my side to somehow get this film to work with music.

In other words: Murnau-Stiftung should immediately recall this disc, get some decent pianist indeed to provide an alternative soundtrack, and replace any discs sold until now free of charge. They owe it to themselves, but as we all know, this will never happen. In other words: we really need MoC or the BFI to come to the rescue. But given the fact that the FWMS-disc not only has subs in four different languages but also menus entirely in English (and even the copyright warning is in English!), and the DVD is Region 0, something tells me that another edition is unlikely to happen...

BTW, and lest I forget: the resto looks great; with a nice sepia tint that may be slightly irritating at first if you've only seen the film in pure black and white before, but which feels very good after a few minutes (so certainly not a reason for debate à la "Nibelungen"). The runtime at 91 min. (PAL) is actually about 10 min. shorter than on the old TV recording (PAL, too) Jonathan S. mentions, so they used a slightly faster fps, which in a few scenes I thought was not a wise decision. But it's certainly nothing to worry about, either.

@ the mods: I wonder whether this whole discussion should be shifted to the "Silent Films on DVD" thread as it has nothing to do with MoC, apart from Lubitsch's initial post. But probably it gets more attention here in this MoC thread, and attention is definitely what is needed.


Had no idea this discussion had been going on over here since I haven't been around much lately, nor would I have expected it since this hadn't been announced by MoC (at least I don't think so).

But yea Tommy and Lubitsch are absolutely right regarding the utter retardation of the music selection on this disc. What brain damaged idiot at the FWMS thought this would be a stroke of musical genius (please, please let that person be a subscriber to this forum so he knows I along with everyone else think that he singlehandedly botched through either hubris nepotism or rampant bad taste what is one of the most striking before-after restorations we have seen)?

A critical release . . . in a sea of rehashes of Metropolis, the same old Langs and Murnaus, over and over again. Digitally remastered. Then scanned from an HD master. Then a new restoration. Now in Blu Ray. Same freaking titles over and over again.

Putting Variete out was like putting Scherben out or something. Not quite as unexpected or obscure as maybe a Gerlach or something. . . but beyond a battered old Grapevine analog VHS Variete had never seen release on home vid.

So, mister producer, your mind produced a misfire for the ages--a bad thing not only for the film but it put the Tiger Lilies (who may well be--have no clue or interest--a decent band out in the regular world) inna completely impossible position asking them to write something completely beyond their ken; now they have a big black splat of a turd on their musical resume. Brilliant bit of production.

There are so many examples where the human voice/hyper contemporary music had legendarily ruined a home video release-- the "Hutter"'s on Nosferatu, the prayers on King of Kings (Donald Sosin purgatory)... the Sanford & Son funk on the old SD Kino Penalty. Art Zoyd--shoot me now.

Don't worry guys--Kino will probably release this in the USA. With Al jourgensen and 10,000 Homo DJ's providing the soundtrack. So all will be *cough* well. >flump<


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 4:22 pm 
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My third time posting on this subject today--partially to say "Hi Jim," but also to say it's looking like those recitations go throughout the rest of the film beyond the scene with the jailer in the beginning with Jannings "acting with his back."

But I wouldn't know it-- I shut the soundtrack off after five minutes... I couldn't stand those Pee Wee Hermanesque groans of the vocalist and just watched it in silence. When I watch silent films silent I actually hear some sort of ambient soundtrack in my head triggered by the images, especially when powerful as Variete. It's a great sickness to have.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 4:31 pm 
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Greetings, HerrSchreck! Yes--his combination of falsetto and vocal fry frays the nerves. It would be fine for a concert performance, and I'm sure they're an inventive group, but it adds greatly to the annoyance factor of a soundtrack concept that doesn't work to begin with.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 5:03 pm 
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Kino can start a kickstarter campaign to record a new score for the film...


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 5:16 pm 
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The funniest thing about this whole affair is that in the past weeks there have been two positive reviews of the new "Varieté" disc at amamzon.de - among an overwhelming amount of rightly negative ones - which tried to defend the Tiger Lillies' score, and both of them came from people directly involved with Murnau-Stiftung or their new distribution company. However, these people were unclever enough to use their real name for their 'review', and so their professional connection to the makers of this disc could easily be identified, not least thanks to one alert person who is a well-known member here. One of these positive reviews has since been removed; the other is still available here at the time of writing. People who can read German will be rather amused, I guess.

This desperate attempt at raising the average amazon 'stars' only goes to show that Murnau-Stiftung are already very much aware of the fatal mistake they made by releasing this wonderful film (indeed, everything that Schreck said!) without an alternative soundtrack. But I still have my doubts that they will right the situation any time soon. And unfortunately, so far nothing from MoC or another company about an alternative release, either.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 5:20 pm 
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HerrSchreck wrote:
When I watch silent films silent I actually hear some sort of ambient soundtrack in my head triggered by the images, especially when powerful as Variete. It's a great sickness to have.

I frankly prefer Ozu silents truly silent -- partly because that is how I fist encountered them; second, because the visually implied scores are better than the ones actually supplied -- this is especially true with "noisy" films like I Was Born But and Dragnet Girl.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2015 5:29 pm 
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Burroughs called it "listening down into yourself;" whatever we call it, the ability to clear the mind and allow it to produce it's own accompaniment to life or the supplied images of a silent film is what delineates a creative mind... those who can clear the "input" of sound away, and allow the mind to produce some all on its own.

The writing of music and or poetry, all variants of the same process; rather than triggered by a film, the mind produces music via the imagery of life; the artist saves it for later and reproduces these precious moments for all to enjoy.


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