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A Silent Pearl Pops With New Sound

'The Oyster Princess' screens with a live score by Bee Vs. Moth

By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 16, 2012

A Silent Pearl Pops With New Sound

Lovers of film comedy are familiar with that thing called the Lubitsch Touch, that ill-defined but readily identifiable quality that elevates Ernst Lubitsch's movies above the pack. The director's urbane comedies of manners are beloved for their intelligence and sophistication, sexual savoir faire, and humanistic understanding of social class. Often heady with excitement after watching great latter-day Lubitsch films such as Design for Living and Trouble in Paradise, viewers turn to his earlier silent films for greater insights into the filmmaker and wind up disappointed. Not only is so little of it available to view, but among what survives are several dramatic clunkers that demonstrate how even the great ones didn't always spring forth fully formed.

The Oyster Princess, an hour-long comedy from 1919, contains everything we have come to recognize as the Lubitsch Touch. The silent comedy tells the story of a rich oyster king and his daughter, Ossi, who becomes obsessed with the idea of marrying a prince. Her father locates an eligible monarch, who in turn sends his emissary, which leads to a royal mix-up. Austin's jazz/rock band Bee vs. Moth will accompany The Oyster Princess live with an original score it composed specifically for this silent film.


Thursday, March 15, noon, Alamo Ritz

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