At the Alamo Downtown: Two Star Symphony does 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari'

At the Alamo Lakecreek the Docuweek Multicity Documentary Tour

Saturday, Nov. 4, 7 and 9:30pm
Alamo Drafthouse Downtown
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Saturday, Nov. 4, 7 and 9:30pm Alamo Drafthouse Downtown and

We know what paranoia can look like, thanks to German director Robert Wiene and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, his 1920 masterpiece of expressionist filmmaking. Wiene's silent nightmare mirrors the shattered mind of its protagonist via the jarring use of chiaroscuro and disconcertingly canted sets and was the first popular film to delve into the psychology of madness and murder. Paranoia wears the mask of Cesare, the sleepwalker, and Conrad Veidt, the actor, whip-thin in fashionably Bauhaus black.

But what does paranoia sound like?

Come this weekend, it's going to sound a lot like the Houston-based string quartet Two Star Symphony, which will perform its new, original score for Wiene's influential phantasmagoria at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Downtown Saturday evening.

"This is our first score for a full-length feature film," says violinist Debra Brown, who makes up what has to be Houston's most singular "haunting and elegant" quartet along with cellist Margaret Lejeune, violist Jo Bird, and violinist Jerry Ochoa. With a sound that brings to mind Tim Burton battling Tom Waits for pride of place in Rasputina's bed, Two Star Symphony seems to be the ideal choice for this particularly autumnal live score screening in the Alamo's ongoing love affair with silent cinema.

Of composing their debut film score, Brown says, "Initially, we went to the museum and got them to do a live recording, reel-to-reel, of the actual film so that we could get the exact timing down. And then, after that, Margaret, Jo, and I would sit and watch the film, section by section, to try and get a feel for what we thought the emotions were for that particular sequence."

What's all the more remarkable is that Brown says the quartet wasn't familiar with Caligari before it was approached by the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to apply their unique vision to Weine's equally unique film; the resulting score was performed before a sellout crowd at the museum this past Sunday and is slated for recording in the near future, which should make recreational paranoia all the more enjoyable whether you're watching Weine, F.W. Murnau, or just idly wondering why your next-door neighbor has such pointy, pointy teeth. It's the soundtrack to uneasy dreams and pleasant nightmares.

At the Alamo Lakecreek the Docuweek Multicity Documentary Tour

Monday-Tuesday, Nov. 6-7

12:15pm Purvis of Overtown (D: Shaun Conrad and David Raccuglia)

2:20pm "Phoenix Dance" (D: Karina Epperlein)

3:30pm "My Favorite Hitler Youth: Just Like You and Me" (D: Mo Abersheid)

5pm The Trials of Darryl Hunt (D: Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg)

7:40pm An Unreasonable Man (D: Henriette Mantel, Stephen Skrovan)

10:40pm So Much So Fast (D: Steven Ascher, Jeanne Jordan)

For more information, including film descriptions, go to

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Two Star Symphony, Docuweek Multi-City Documentary Tour

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