Michael Caine and Eleanor Bron in Alfie (1966), directed by Lewis Gilbert, Courtesy: Photofest, © Paramount Pictures.

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in Breathless (A Bout de Souffle), 1959, directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Courtesy: Photofest.

The Role of the Jazz Score in Film from the 1950s to the Present

Denzel Washington as Bleek Gilliam in Mo’ Better Blues (1990), directed by Spike Lee, Courtesy: 40 Acres & a Mule, Filmworks / Universal / Photofest, © 40 Acres & a Mule Filmworks / Universal Pictures, Photographer: David Lee.

Paul Newman and Duke Ellington in Paris Blues (1961), directed by Martin Ritt with music by Duke Ellington, Courtesy: United Artists / Photofest, © United Artists.

Leila Goldoni and Anthony Ray in Shadows (1959) directed by John Cassavetes, Courtesy: Lion International/Photofest, © Lion International.

Christopher Reeve and Morgan Freeman in Street Smart (1987) directed by Jerry Schatzberg, Courtesy: Canon Group/Photofest, © Canon Group.

Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) directed by Elia Kazan, Courtesy: Warner Bros./Photofest, © Warner Bros.


Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York
The Roy and Niuta Titus1 and 2 lobbies
The Roy and Niuta Titus
1 and 2 theaters
Jazz Score
April 16-September 15, 2008

Jazz Score, a retrospective of 50 international films, illustrates the creative and collaborative relationship between postwar filmmakers and jazz composers.

The event celebrates some of the best original jazz composed for film from the 1950s to the present, with an emphasis on the rich and largely unexplored history of collaboration of postwar filmmakers and jazz composers, arrangers, and musicians.

The retrospective opens April 17, when director Arthur Penn introduces a weeklong theatrical run of his newly restored Mickey One (1965; score by Eddie Sauter, solos by Stan Getz). It continues with fiction features, experimental and animated shorts, and documentaries from France, Brazil, Japan, South Africa, and the United States. The selection includes classics like Louis Malle’s Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) (1959; score by Miles Davis), Lewis Gilbert’s Alfie (1965; score by Sonny Rollins), and Peter Yates’ Bullitt (1968; score by Lalo Schifrin). Also presented are rediscoveries including Kô Nakahira’s Crazed Fruit (1956; score by Tôru Takemitsu, Masaru Satô), Herbert Danska’s Sweet Love, Bitter (1967; score by Mal Waldron), and a weeklong run of Henning Carlsen’s Dilemma (1962; score by Max Roach, Gideon Nxumalo).

The gallery exhibition that opens April 16, celebrates the sophistication and realism that contemporary jazz brought to the art of live-action and animated films and the dramatic impact that this “new wave” of jazz expression had on the visual design of motion pictures and the graphics of film promotion. The exhibition opens with a sampling of jazz-influenced merchandising that includes a display of Polish and American film posters, soundtrack album covers, trailers, and title sequences. It culminates with a projected video compilation of jazz-scored scenes spanning five decades, and the large-scale installation of animation art from John and Faith Hubley’s landmark Adventures of an * (1957) and John Canemaker’s Bridgehampton (1998), juxtaposing art on paper with finished works.

Concerts presented in the Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1 feature contemporary musicians performing original jazz scores featured in the film program. The first concert, in May, will be Tomasz Stanko Quartet with special guest Billy Harper in a celebration of the film music of Krzysztof Komeda. Stanko, a Polish trumpeter and composer, and Harper, an American saxophonist, are considered two of the most acclaimed jazz improvisers in the world. They will perform Komeda's music for the films of Roman Polanski (Knife in the Water, Rosemary's Baby), Jerzy Skolimowski (Le Départ), and others.

Alex North’s Academy Award–nominated score for Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) is credited with opening up jazz scoring to a new generation of composers, including Elmer Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini, and Lalo Schifrin. Significantly, this development coincided with the breakup of the Hollywood studio system, which began in 1948, and with the commercial and artistic success of independent film directors like John Cassavetes, Shirley Clarke, and Herbert Danska, who experimented not only with film styles and techniques, but also with more improvisational forms of postwar jazz like hard bop, modal jazz, and Afro-Cuban jazz. This was equally true of European and Japanese filmmakers in the 1950s and 1960s — including Jean-Luc Godard, American expatriate Joseph Losey, Louis Malle, Mikio Naruse, Roman Polanski, Jerzy Skolimowski, and Roger Vadim — who enlisted such seminal artists as Gato Barbieri, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Krzysztof Komeda, John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet, Thelonious Monk, and others to compose jazz scores that would reinforce or provide a counterpoint to their disjointed imagery.

Jazz continues to be used in diverse ways in contemporary cinema, whether to evoke a writer’s paranoid fantasies in David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (1991, music by Howard Shore and Ornette Coleman); or the tragic devastation of the city that gave birth to jazz itself in Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006; music by Terence Blanchard). These collaborations, and other recent ones like those between Clint Eastwood and Lennie Niehaus, and Jim Jarmusch and John Lurie, are featured in the film retrospective.

The exhibition was organized by Joshua Siegel, Assistant Curator, Department of Film (film retrospective, concerts, and panel discussion); Ronald S. Magliozzi, Assistant Curator, Department of Film; and Joshua Siegel (gallery exhibition).

About the Curators: Joshua Siegel has organized or co-organized more than 90 exhibitions for MoMA, including India Now (2007); the gallery installation Projects 84: Josiah McElheny (2007); Tomorrowland: CalArts in Moving Pictures (2006); Killer Films (2005); and The Lodz Film School of Poland: 50 Years (1999). His monographic exhibitions include Peter Hutton (opening May 2008), Michael Haneke (2007), Gregory La Cava, Christopher Guest (both 2005), James Wong Howe (2004), Jem Cohen (2003), Jean Painlevé (2000), and Errol Morris (1999). Since 2000, he has co-organized the annual exhibition To Save and Project: The MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation. Mr. Siegel also co-organized the major reinstallation of the Museum, Open Ends, as part of MoMA2000, and co-edited the accompanying catalogue, Modern Contemporary: Art at MoMA Since 1980. He has lectured at Yale University, Columbia University, USC, Pixar, and the University of Warsaw; has served on grant panels for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and The Penny McCall Foundation; and has been a jury member of festivals including the Vancouver Film Festival.

Ronald S. Magliozzi, Research and Collections, has organized exhibits on animation and on early film and music. In 2007 he organized the Sensation and Sentiment exhibition of posters from the Museum's collection and co-organized, with Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, Panoramas of the Moving Image. He organized Rediscovering Roscoe: The Careers of "Fatty" Arbuckle; Joseph Jacoby: On the Edge of Hollywood; Franz Waxman: Music for the Cinema; with Leigh Goldstein, The Huston Family: 75 Years on Film (all 2006); and co-organized, with Steven Higgins, Curator, and Jenny He, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film, Pixar: 20 Years of Film (2005). He also organized Raising Foodini: A Tribute to Pioneer Puppet Master Morey Bunin (2003). Mr. Magliozzi's work has been published in Film History and Moving Image, he was the editor of the book Treasures from the Film Archives (1988) and producer of a CD compilation of silent era motion picture songs Let's Go In to a Picture Show (2006). From 1990 to 1996, he served as the head of the International Federation of Film Archives Documentation Commission.

Kathryn Grant (as Mary Pilant) and James Stewart (as Paul Biegler) in Anatomy of a Murder (1959), directed by Otto Preminger, Courtesy: Columbia Pictures / Photofest, © Columbia Pictures.

Seymour Cassel in Faces (1968), directed by John Cassavetes, Courtesy: Photofest.