For many years, we have attended the Hollywood Bowl Movie nights and enjoyed the live orchestra as an accompaniment to the images that they show on the screen. Last night was a similar experience but instead of scenes or clips we got the whole film with a live symphony.
movie cannot be faulted in any way. Almost universally "The Godfather"
is recognized as one of the great achievements in cinema. It is another
reminder of the second golden age in Hollywood that lasted most of the
decade of the 1970s. The music from the movie is iconic. It is
immediately identifiable and has become iconic. A few notes and suddenly
anyone in listening range will be transported to the violent,
romanticized world of the mafia from the mid-20th Century. The sounds of
the film have been used in a million parodies because everyone knows
the central themes.
This was my first visit
to the Nokia Theater in the L.A. Live plaza. The theater, which has
been seen by many on a dozen award shows, seats over 7,000 which is
comparable and maybe even a little larger than the Radio City Music Hall
in NYC. We arrived early because the Will Call message said there would
be line ups, but we were so early I could walk right up. With some time
on our hands, the three of us walked over to have dinner at the Lawry's
Carvery on the corner. This is an informal dining experience that
features some of the same foods served at my favorite dining
establishment, Lawry's The Prime Rib. We each ordered a prime rib based
sandwich, and a drink, as well as a dessert to share. The total was just
over $60, that is until they ran my VIP card and discovered my
accumulated points. The three of us ended up dining on .48 cents. That
was a nice treat.
walked back to the theater and enjoyed all the lighted marquees for the
restaurants and events and movies and television programs that were
being advertised. The Electronic marquee of the Nokia had the logo for
the event on it in dramatic red, white and black. There was a minor
glitch in trying to enter the theater. I had three sets of keys in my
pocket and on two of the key rings I have small tools which include
knife blades that are maybe an inch long. I hardly every think of these,
much less consider them as potential weapons, but the woman at the
metal detector was having none of it so I sent my wife and daughter in
and I walked back to the car to unload my dangerous tools.
returning to the theater, I sought my companions but I ended up on the
mezzanine level instead of the loge level and had to be redirected. The
theater is impressive in size and elegantly simple. It is not overly
ornamented but it has some classic lines and there are subtle colored
florescent accent lights on the loge boxes on the sides of the theater.
we first sat down, the seats were nearly empty, we were almost forty
minutes away from the start of the program. By the time 8:00 arrived,
every seat was filled. Seven thousand people had shown up to see a movie
that is forty three years old.That is the power that "The Godfather"
still holds over cinema lovers.
of one large screen, there were three. One located immediately above
the orchestra on stage and then one on either side of the stage. You
would have a very clear view no matter were you sat in the venue. The
movie would be digitally projected, which must certainly simplify the
process of synching up the score as played by the musicians with the
images on the screen. It was never distracting to me, but I could see
that the conductor had a computer screen on the podium in front of him,
with the click track imposed on top of the film images so that
everything would be timed perfectly. For three hours that is exactly
The score by Nino Rota, is
filled with original music but also traditional Italian melodies and
American popular jazz of the 1940s. The musicians moved seamlessly from
style to style and they were all excellent. Special notice should
however be given to the lead trumpet, the pianist, the mandolin player,
and the principle cellist. They had to work the hardest and there are
several sections in the movie where they are unaccompanied by any of the
other musicians and their solo work was excellent.
thing that is very noticeable when watching a film with an orchestra
playing the music, is the number of times that there is no background
music. The dialogue in so many scenes weaves a musical tapestry all by
itself. At the convocation of mobsters, the voice of Marlon Brando, and
the words that he speaks, flow smoothly through the scene as if they
were a music passage. The sounds of gravel and crickets in Sicily, and
the noisy children and gunfire on the New York City streets also fill
the atmosphere a number of times with any musical sweetening. Of course
when a dramatic act takes place, there is a powerful punctuation of the
emotion with a fanfare or motif that fits just as it should.
of the first dates I took my wife on, was a double feature of "The
Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II", at the State theater in
Pasadena, California. Together, the two films are almost six and a half
hours long. At that distant screening way back in 1976, as the first
movie ended and we stood up to take advantage of a break, the lights
suddenly went down again and the second film stared almost immediately.
We sat right back down and made it through both movies without a break.
Last night, the screening inserted an intermission right after Michael
assassinates Sollozzo and Captain McClusky. I know all too well that
there was no intermission in the original film, but it worked well last
night and I'm sure it was as much for the musicians benefit as it was
for the audience. That
gave us an opportunity to narcissisticly have our picture taken in
our seats. Those are very genuine smiles because we were having a
wonderful time. The love song from "The Godfather", "Speak Softly Love"
was the music we played at our wedding back in 1980. The minister at my
childhood church questioned us about it a little but she understood that
it was a love song and not really an endorsement of the gangsters in
the film and she went along with our preference very easily.
the end of the film, when I was waiting in the lobby for my companions
in the ladies room, I checked my phone and saw there was a message on my
Facebook page. I'd posted that we were attending and an old high school
friend messaged me that he was there as well. I would have loved
connecting with him for a few minutes, we haven't really seen each other
in forty years but it looks like the movies of that decade still hold
sway over those of us who came of age at that time. Next time Ron.
heard someone in the bathroom suggest "Lawrence of Arabia" for a
similar experience. I am already waiting for such an announcement, "long
live classic movie music!". I
know that this event played in New York last summer, I hope it makes it
to your town so that you can share the experience of a great film with a
magnificent score, performed right in front of you by professionals
that really know how to bring it all home. Here in Southern California,
we have the finest studio musicians in the world and they did this movie
and it's score proud.