Bologna Modern Times

Bologna Modern Times

Alessandra Garofalo

Modern Times opens with the sequence of the mass of workers/sheep that go in a hurry to the factory and this year on July 4th, a similar mass of people was seen rushing inside a theatre to watch the movie itself. The theatre was the Teatro Comunale di Bologna and the screening was a special one: the projection of Modern Times with Charlie Chaplin’s musical score newly restored by Timothy Brock and the 64 instruments of the orchestra of the Teatro Comunale performing it. There is no doubt that the occasion deserved a mass scene as mentioned and I feel so lucky to have been one of those little sheep.

Teatro Comunale at BolognaThe evening started at 9 o’clock when Michael and Christopher Chaplin were invited on the stage of the Teatro to say a few words (with the prompt translation of Cecilia Cenciarelli) about their famous father and to give a special thank-you to the organization and the sponsors. The frame of the Teatro Comunale was also amazing for it is a very old theatre opened in 1763 and recently restored with its gold decorated boxes that were crowded for the occasion. Soon after the speech, the lights went down and the clock of the opening title appeared while Timothy Brock gave the initial flick of his baton, which started the orchestra. Now, until that moment I was wondering how a restored soundtrack would be, especially because I already loved the music as it is in the recorded version. Would the restored version be much different from it? Would it have some new tunes?

Timothy BrockWell, already from the start, being a total novice of music culture as I am, I confirmed my suspicions that hearing a soundtrack played by a great orchestra is already a totally different experience than listening to the recorded version, even if that were played in Dolby Surround-sound. Of course with a live orchestra you have the pleasure of appreciating various passages from the various instruments that could be lost during the recording. Anyway, it is very emotional to hear so many instruments playing the lovely Modern Times musical score. I’ve learned later that the orchestra director worked very diligently in restoring the score, for he concentrated on it for 16 months and had to check the various partitures that all together formed a pile of over a half meter in height.

The movie went on with the usual laughing in the background that has distinguished its performance for 71 years now and that I think will never end. The first explosion was for the Factory Director when he gives up the too-difficult puzzle and starts reading Tarzan comics. As usual, the movie ended too early. I guess that laughter in an audience gives you the freedom to laugh even louder than when watching the film alone and so the time flies even faster. At the end the public reserved an ovation of nearly 10 minutes for Tim Brock who, naturally, then directed it to the master, Charlie Chaplin.

Modern Times is a very well known masterpiece and among all its qualities, there is also the one that makes it a never-ending joy to see, for watching Charlie’s gimmicks are even more funny when you realize: “hey, these things happen to me, too!” And then it is impossible to keep from laughing. I wonder how many people can imagine themselves in the restroom scene in which the Director of the factory has installed a big screen and scolds Charlie for wasting his time? I can easily feel a little like Charlie when some of my work has to be done so quickly that I rush, even in those private moments.

About the author:

An admirer of Charlie Chaplin and other things cinematic, Alessandra Garofalo lives in Trieste, Italy and has an engineering degree in naval construction, working now for a large Italian ship construction company. Her biggest hobbies are photography, history and traveling and she is a former volunteer firefighter.

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