Film series: Silent Film/Live Music

Student working on film projector

image of musicians Min Xiao-Fen and Rez Abbasi plus image from the silent film THE GODDESS

An image from the Chinese silent film THE GODDESS (1934) accompanied by (L-R) Min Xiao-Fen, a virtuoso on the Chinese stringed instrument pipa, and guitarist Rez Abbasi

We missed presenting any silent films with live musical accompaniment last year, so we’re thrilled to offer these two very special events this semester!

First up is Wu Yonggang’s The Goddess (1934), a masterpiece of Chinese cinema's silent era. It will be presented on September 23 accompanied live by Min Xiao-Fen, a virtuoso on the Chinese stringed instrument pipa, and acclaimed guitarist Rez Abbasi. Min's score was released as the album White Lotus in June, and the duo performed with the film at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in August.

“The music [Min Xiao-Fen] has written draws from across the spectrum of Chinese heritage, including references to Tibetan chants as well as other folk forms, while remaining in contact with her jazz influences.” (NY Times)

Read more about the film and the musicians here, where you can also watch a clip from a previous performance.

The film is being shown as part of, but in advance of, the inaugural National Silent Movie Day (September 29), dedicated to celebrating, preserving, and creating access to silent movies. 

The Goddess is cosponsored with the Cornell Council for the Arts, PMA, the Dept of Music, the East Asia Program, Asian Studies and the Wharton Studio Museum. 

Later in the semester, join us for a screening of Frank Powell’s A Fool There Was (1915), one of only three silent films that remain intact starring one of America’s most famous silent film actresses, Theda Bara. (She made 40 films between 1915 and 1919.)

A Fool There Was was Bara’s first starring role and it’s the only one of the  extant films that displays her as her celebrated persona of a vamp—a woman who preys upon men and exploits their emotional and sexual frailties. According to the Eastman Museum, the film “is not a dated relic of its time, but ultimately a very human and disturbing film, a landmark in early American cinema.”

It was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2015. We will be showing a recent restoration that will be accompanied live by a score for chamber ensemble by Dr. Philip C. Carli, who, with his ensemble, delighted audiences in February ’20 with his score for The Wheels of Chance.

Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation/National Park Service and The Film Foundation. 

Cosponsored with the CCA and the Wharton Studio Museum.

Related films

image from the film The Goddess

The Goddess


image from the film A Fool There Was

A Fool There Was