As I wrote in April, Oscar Micheaux’s 1925 film “Body and Soul” was one the first 12 films that he made, from his start as a director, in 1919; though it’s only one of three from that period for which a print still exists. It is the film that firmly established what could be called the “Micheaux style,” and a seminal film in the history and advancement of black cinema.
Starring a young Paul Robeson is his very first film role, "Body & Soul" is an odd mix, with melodrama and soap opera, while also being a scathing indictment of the hypocrisy of the black church. In the film, Robeson plays an escaped prisoner who passes himself off as a preacher to swindle the population, until a woman, who he previously sexually assaulted, reveals him for the fraud that he is, in front of the entire congregation.
Actually, that’s one version of the film. In the original version, Robeson’s con man preacher has a twin brother who is in love with one of his brother’s victims. Micheaux was forced to re-edit the film when the New York film censorship board refused to approve it for theatrical showings, claiming that the film would "tend to incite to crime" and was "immoral" and "sacrilegious."
However, the film has survived; and a rare screening of a newly restored print of it, will take place in Chicago at the Studio Movie grill Chatham 14, on Thurs Oct 1, starting at 7PM.
The screening of will feature a new jazz score especially written for the film by famed composer/conductor Renee Baker, which will be performed live by her orchestra – the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project.
Ms Baker said that her goal with the new score "amounts to musical dialogue. So our approach was quite unique, giving voices to the characters and allowing them to establish sonic dialogues."
And there are plans for a similar event with one of Micheaux’s other surviving silent films – "The Symbol of the Unconquered".with a new score by Ms. Baker – in the future.
For more info go HERE.