Around this time every year, the Alloy Orchestra makes a trip to the Detroit Film Theater to spend a weekend doing what they do best: accompanying silent films. I’ve gone to see them for the past few years and they’ve been amazing every time, so whenever late Summer rolls around, I find myself eagerly awaiting the DFT’s Fall schedule so I can see what the Alloy Orchestra will be playing this year. This year, they came to town with Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail, which is wonderful, but I saw that one last year. Then there were a couple groups of shorter silents, one called “Not Just for Kids” and another called “Wild and Weird.” Although “Wild and Weird” sounded intriguing, I was definitely most drawn to Sunday’s performance of 1922’s From Morning to Midnight.
I went into From Morning to Midnight with a fairly blank slate. I didn’t really know much about it other than it’s a German Expressionist film about a bank teller who gets caught up in the power of money. It’s not a movie I’ve heard my friends talk about, so I didn’t really know what to expect aside from that. Boy, was I in for a treat! From Morning to Midnight is completely unlike anything else I have ever seen. Even though I’m very familiar with German Expressionism and I know how extreme the sets and make-up can be, this was extremely stylized even by German Expressionist standards. If you think The Cabinet of Dr. Calligari had some extreme sets, just wait until you see the sets in From Morning to Midnight! Actually, the extreme stylization is what led to the movie not being released in Germany, theater owners didn’t want to show a movie with such a harsh style.
After From Morning to Midnight was made, a few press screenings were held in Germany before it was sent off to Japan, where it had a minor release before being put into a Japanese film archive where it sat until the 1960s. Even though it had been rediscovered in the 60s, it still went largely unseen. In 1987, its original German intertitles were restored based off the original censorship records, but again, it still went largely unseen. The Alloy Orchestra just debuted their score for From Morning to Midnight at the Telluride Film Festival a few weeks ago, which I think may have been the first major screening that movie has ever had. Detroit was actually the first city to have a non-festival screening of it.
It’s a little hard to write about From Morning to Midnight because it is such a visual movie. I already talked about the insane sets, but they really need to be seen to be believed. The plot is so perfect for the German Expressionist style. The print I saw looked incredible, it showed no signs of deterioration. But most importantly, the Alloy Orchestra completely nailed it! Their score was perfect and their performance ended with a very much deserved standing ovation. To see if the Alloy Orchestra will be performing From Morning to Midnight in a city near you, you should keep an eye on their tour schedule page. It looks like it will only be showing in a handful of cities for the rest of this year, but hopefully more will come in 2012.