Blackmail with strings

Opening title of the silent version of Blackmail, from

As a follow-up to yesterday’s item on the small band of British silents on DVD, here’s some heartening news. A special feature of this year’s Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival at Bologna will feature Neil Brand‘s new score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail (1929), with sixty-piece orchestra – the Opera Orchestra of Bologna, conducted by Timothy Brock. The event will take place at the Piazza Maggiore on July 1st, while the full festival (which includes silent cinema sections on Monta Bell, Comic Actresses and Suffragettes, Lev Kuleshov, Josef von Strenberg, Emilio Ghione, and films from 100 years ago) runs 28 June-5 July.

This may be the first orchestral score treatment of a British silent since the silent days. There have been small ensemble pieces (indeed, the Matrix Ensemble played Jonathan Lloyd’s score for Blackmail at the Barbican a couple of years ago), and in 2006 the documentary film The Battle of the Somme (1916) featured at the Royal Festival Hall with Laura Rossi‘s score for full orchestra, played by the Royal Philharmonia. But this – so far as I know – is the first time a British silent fiction film has been given the full works in modern times. Congratulations to Neil, bravo the Bologna festival for sponsoring it, and let’s hope it’s possible for to hear and see it elsewhere.

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