This summer, the Minneapolis gem Trylon Cinema is presenting an impressively large film series. Arranged as a celebration of the moon landing's 50th anniversary, the four-part, 25-film series, Magnificent Desolation, is poised to celebrate "journeys both real and imagined, into the vastness of outer space". Among the films planned are many monumental film scores that have left their mark on generations of composers, including some in the Twin Cities.
"The inspiration for this series came more than five years ago," said John Moret, Trylon's programmer. "I learned my wife was pregnant with twins, and I mourned the future of their inherited world. Around that time, I stumbled across Silent Running for the first time. The film presents a bleak and imaginative vision of the future, which depicts humanity no longer in need of our planet's forests and wildernesses.
"Afterward, I sought out and rewatched every space film I could find. Anticipating the anniversary of the moon landing in 2019, we held back on booking certain films, keeping our eyes open for rare prints and searching continually for others, hoping that it would all come together."
And come together it did. After so much planning and development, the series will run the entire summer, with films screening in multiple theaters.
"After viewing a whole lot of space films, it felt impossible to leave so many out," Moret said. "My series just kept growing and growing. I eventually became overwhelmed by it. Barry Kryshka, Trylon's director, had the idea about splitting it up into a series to make it more digestible for audiences and also to help me organize it all."
Of the more recognizable films in the series are Alien and Aliens. Minnesota-based composer and orchestrator Robert Elhai, who worked on the score for Alien 3 with Elliot Goldenthal, said, "We were somewhat influenced by the scores to the first two, but mostly we wanted to avoid sounding like them."
Also on the program is Stanley Kubrick's masterwork 2001: A Space Odyssey in a special "unrestored" 70-millimeter print made from the original negative in 2018, thanks to the Heights Theater in Columbia Heights.
"Ever since my mom brought me to a midnight screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey as a kid, the film has mesmerized me," said Twin Cities composer Charlie McCarron, who facilitates the local Film Score Fest. "And it's due in large part to the iconic soundtrack Kubrick picked for his film, from the epic brass and timpani opening of Richard Strauss to the lonely, atonal strings of Gyorgy Ligeti."
Moret couldn't agree more: "Would 2001 be what it is without that gorgeous music by Richard Strauss?"
McCarron continued, "Few people know that composer Alex North was hired to score the entire film, which he did, and the entire score was recorded by an orchestra. But Kubrick chose to not use any of North's scoring, and instead went with his original choices of pre-existing classical music. I can't imagine how frustrating that must have been.
"This all reminds me, as a composer, that sometimes you can't and shouldn't fight the musical choices directors make," he added. "Instead, I try to see what's possible with the pre-existing music and maybe even remix it. Most recently for the new short film Fragile White Boy, the director had found an ironically powerful Wagner piece to incorporate, so we found a public domain recording and I twisted and remixed it to fit the film."
Alongside these monoliths of science fiction are also fan favorites and some rarely screened films that have been instrumental to the evolving world of film scoring.
"We wanted as wide of a variety of films as we could find," MOret said. "There are Russian, French and Czech films, silent films, new restorations, classic 35-millimeter prints, a 70-millimeter print of 2001: A Space Odyssey, a wild jazz oddity by Sun Ra and a beautiful, experimental documentary with a Brian Eno score called For All Mankind."
Danny Boyle's 2007 film Sunshine makes an appearance with its wildly experimental, sound-design-driven score from composer John Murphy and the band Underworld. There is also the beloved Forbidden Planet from 1956, which Twin Cities film composer Paul Fonfara said was instrumental in his development as a composer.
"Forbidden Planet set the tone for ambient music rather than referential orchestral cues," Fonfara said.
Moret added, "Luis and Bebe Barron's overture for Forbidden Planet is the first all-electronic soundscape as a film score and creates a haunting effect. I can't wait to experience that in a cinema."
He continued, "There are certain films that made the cut simply because their scores stand out, such as Forbidden World. For that, Susan Justin's pioneering new-wave synth score is a big part of the reason the film works."
So, what is Moret's favorite score?
"That is a tough one," he said. "I absolutely adore Van Cleave's score for Robinson Crusoe on Mars. It exudes classic science fiction. Susan Justin's before-mentioned score is great. Likewise, Clint Mansell's beautiful score for Moon is an inspiration. I listened to that regularly while thinking through this series and writing parts of the calendar."
But, his true inspiration for the series?
"Silent Running deserves more attention than it's had. I was so blown away with it, that it inspired all of this."
The Magnificent Desolation series runs through Aug. 25.