The two sold-out screenings of Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin” at the Regent Theater in downtown L.A. on Tuesday night, accompanied by live performances of the score conducted by the film’s composer Mica Levi, were tantamount to a rock concert.
Lines snaked up Main Street for both performances, and the 7 p.m. screening started 40 minutes late, de rigueur for a rock show, as was the tinkling of glasses at the full-service bar in the back of the vintage space that accommodates 500 people — right up until the first images from the movie flickered onscreen.
It was just the kind of high art-meets-pop culture event that seemed tailor-made for L.A.’s movie-centric crowd. Among the fashionably attired twentysomethings were quite a few industry notables, including KCRW d.j. Chris Douridas, songwriter-producer Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange), filmmaker Gus Van Sant and “Breaking Bad” music supervisor Thomas Golubić, who noted the event “was definitely the place to be on Tuesday night in L.A.”
“People are hungry for a different kind of experience,” said Liz Hart, Levi’s manager, who dreamed up the affair more than a year ago over Christmas dinner with Ronen Givony, the founder and producer of Wordless Music, a New York-based promoter. “People don’t often get to be that physically close to stringed instruments being played.”
Not unlike the Hollywood Bowl screening of “West Side Story” accompanied by the L.A. Phil in the summer of 2012, Monday night’s screening stripped out the score from the film while maintaining the dialogue, ambient sound and found music. Levi, whose unsettling, string-heavy score might be described as Bernard Herrmann on acid, waved her arms in front of a 25-piece orchestra while the film played behind them. To say that her music is avant-garde would be an understatement.
The orchestra was culled from Wordless Music’s own inhouse ensemble, and wild Up, which calls itself a modern music collective “committed to creating visceral, thought-provoking happenings.”
“We try both in our film concerts and our regular music events to bring people who ordinarily would not attend a classical music concert and use the opportunity to play music that they wouldn’t hear otherwise,” says Givony.
The organizers, who included the folks at the Regent, and Liz Garo, the booker at Spaceland Productions, which programs shows at the Echo and the Echoplex, relied almost exclusively on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word along with some ticket giveaways from KCRW and Amoeba Music.
Wordless has been down this road before, having produced screenings of “Palo Alto” and “There Will Be Blood” last year with Hynes and Jonny Greenwood, respectively, as well as a screening of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” with composer Dan Romer in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park two summers ago. The “Beasts” show ended up traveling to London, and will make a return engagement Jan. 23-24 at New York’s Symphony Space.
And while Levi might be an alien to members of the Academy who determine who merits Oscar consideration, she has already been honored at the European Film Awards in December and will pick up an award this weekend from the L.A. Film Critics Association, which shared its best score kudo between Levi and Greenwood, for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice.”
“The soundtrack’s been selling very well for a film that only grossed about $2 million,” said Hart. “It’s really crucial in advancing the plot — there’s so little dialogue. A lot of the emotion and content is really carried by the score.”