Film Critics Laud Berklee Silent Film Orchestra’s Score for Varieté

Mike Keefe-Feldman
November 2, 2017
2016 Berklee graduate Kanako Hashiyama conducts during a Berklee Silent Film Orchestra rehearsal.
2016 Berklee graduate Kanako Hashiyama conducts during a Berklee Silent Film Orchestra rehearsal.

Leading film critic and historian Leonard Maltin, author of dozens of popular books on film, recently praised the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO) in an article on his website. Maltin reviewed Kino Lorber’s recent release of E.A. Dupont’s silent film Varieté, which depicts the tale of a former acrobat turned circus owner who is driven to dramatic extremes by jealousy and lust. Maltin notes, “I’m happy to report that the Kino disc includes the magnificent score I heard in San Francisco, composed and performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra. What a treat it is to experience the film—with its big emotions—accompanied by a such a rich music track.”

The score has also drawn praise from silent film critic Fritzi Kramer, the voice behind the Movies Silently blog. In reviewing the Blu-ray and DVD release, Kramer writes, “The big selling point of this disc and the reason why it is so anticipated is the new score by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, which played at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival to universal praise.” Kramer concludes that the score has a “fresh, youthful quality” that is “something else” and “most excellent.”

Writing for Home Media Magazine, critic Mike Clark lists concerns with a previous score to the film before noting that, for the new Kino Lorber release, “typically classy Berklee happily comes to the rescue.” The score was written, under the direction of Berklee professor and Emmy-nominated composer Sheldon Mirowitz, by student composers who came to Berklee from all over the world: Nathan Drube (U.S.), Larry Hong (U.S.), Kanako Hashiyama (Japan), Austin Matthews (U.S.), Mateo Rodo (Argentina), and Hyunju Yun (South Korea).

The film is available on Blu-ray and on DVD.

Watch students and Mirowitz discuss the scoring process in this video:

The BSFO will present its score to Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and a new score to Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs in 2018.