The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari heralded in the era of German Expressionism in film, and became, in the process, one of the most influential and hotly debated cinematic triumphs of all time. The 1920 silent was as shocking as it was innovative, incorporating theater, abstract art and eerie psychopolitical symbolism into a medium that was not quite prepared for its effect on a public accustomed to movies as cheap entertainment and not much more. Even today, in all its crudity, Caligaristill manages to enthrall, its superweird, surrealistic sets and sinister characters catapulting the viewer into a nightmarish world that jolts, jangles and thoroughly disturbs. We don't know exactly what music accompanied the film's premiere, but certainly the new expressionist music of the period -- atonality, as exemplified by pioneers like Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern -- would have fit perfectly with the agitating visuals. In recent years, numerous original scores have been composed for Caligari, and this weekend you can hear yet another, when double bass player/composer Tom Peters performs his own live electronic music to a digitally restored print as part of the Pasadena Arts and Ideas Festival.
Sat., Oct. 24, 8 p.m., 2009