The Princess Bride at the TSO

The Princess Bride is showing at Roy Thomson Hall, accompanied by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra who play the accompaniment live.

It’s the perfect film for 2022. How?

It features a tyrannical villain who lies shamelessly, just like certain people we see on the news.

At one point we’re told by Fezzik that “People in masks cannot be trusted” which got a big laugh, in a theatre full of masked patrons. There was an even bigger laugh when Fezzik asked the Man in Black why he’s in a mask, to be told “they’re terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.” Not bad for a film released in 1987.

Not only were we masked, not only is the capacity at Roy Thomson Hall still reduced for safety, but they even asked us for our vaccination passports even though the law doesn’t require it anymore. For those of us who are still hesitant about venturing out, it’s a relief.

If you’ve seen other films in the TSO series – such as the Star Wars films, Vertigo, or Back to the Future—in each case you were listening and watching the orchestra re-creating the musical score played by an orchestra that was heard in the original.

But for The Princess Bride? it’s slightly different, as you can hear in this CP24 interview of conductor Lucas Waldin from earlier this week.

I was there to see it tonight and agree with Waldin’s description. They’ve taken the original score by Mark Knopfler, that featured guitar and subtle electronics mimicking orchestral sounds.

Lucas Waldin, conductor

What’s remarkable in this case is we get something that Waldin calls “reverse-engineered”. That’s another way of saying that it’s a transcription, something like what we get taking Mussorgsky’s piano piece “Pictures at an Exhibition” in Ravel’s flamboyant orchestral version. As with Ravel’s piece, there’s an expansion of the original. It’s subtle because the music mustn’t interfere with the film.

The score serves an important dramaturgical purpose in the film. You will recall that the grandfather (Peter Falk) tells a story to his grandson (Fred Savage), although from time to time the boy resists the romance of the story. At those moments the music abruptly cuts out, because the illusion is ripped apart by his questions or complaints. Whenever we’re immersed in the tale, we’re bathing in the music.

Listening to Waldin’s comments, I wonder if they might try to assemble other films that employed electronics for us to watch at the TSO. You may recall Blade Runner or Chariots of Fire, both employing wonderful electronic scores from Vangelis. OR there’s the pre-recorded music that Stanley Kubrick used in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Judging from the rhapsodic response of the audience, I know there’s an appetite for this kind of concert performance of cinema.

The Princess Bride will have two more showings Saturday March 5th at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm, in Roy Thomson Hall.

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