Film and Music Review: THE OYSTER PRINCESS (Peter Vermeersch and FLAT EARTH SOCIETY)

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by Harvey Perr on November 9, 2019

in Film,Music,Theater-Los Angeles


The announcement by Peter Vermeersch, the prodigiously talented composer and leader of Flat Earth Society, that two of its musicians were not allowed into the country despite a pre-planned tour, cast a pall over the evening. Why, one wondered, were they forced to stay behind. It could not, however, spoil an utterly enchanting evening of film and music, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Ernst Lubitsch’s The Oyster Princess, a delightfully funny satire of the clash between American capitalism and a decaying European aristocracy,

Vermeersch created marvelously idiosyncratic musical scores, played with an exuberant sense of fun by his orchestra, to not only a beautifully restored print of one of the earliest examples of what was to become known as the unique Lubitsch style, but to a lovely short documentary, Regen (Rain), in which Joris Ivens concocted a breezy city symphony, so representative of the kind of silent film many directors of the era took such pleasure in making, and a totally nutty assemblage of seemingly disconnected images created by Geert Dijkers and Marc Meeuwissen titled Ma Vout-O-Reenee which brought us up to date, from the silent era to 2011.

The centerpiece, however, was the Lubitsch picture, a wickedly naughty film that started out as a farcical take on the vulgarity of rich Americans, hilariously performed by everyone, and ended, as it should, as an intimate bedroom comedy. The set piece was a fox trot sequence that personified what we call “movies.” It moved so brilliantly and with such a visual sense of syncopation that one couldn’t help but feel that it could have existed without a live orchestra but which became even more deliciously gay, in the old-fashioned sense of the word, accompanied by the Flat Earth Society’s musically witty performance of Vermeersch’s ingenious and imaginative score. Too bad about those left-behind musicians.


photo by Geert Brams

The Oyster Princess (Die Austernprinzessin)
Peter Vermeersch & Flat Earth Society
reviewed at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater)
631 West 2nd St (under Disney Hall)
played on November 6, 2019
for tickets, call 213-972-8001 or visit REDCAT

for more info, visit Flat Earth Society

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