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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer music accompanies silent US film

Khmer music accompanies silent US film

Khmer music accompanies silent US film


Cambodian musicians provide original score to 1923 silent film Safety Last

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Image from the film Safety First.

IN perhaps the most iconic sequence in the history of silent films, a bespectacled man played by Harold Lloyd dangles from a clock on the side of a skyscraper. Holding onto the clock hands for dear life, he tries desperately to climb up the building to reach the girl as the clock face begins to pop out from its moorings.

The 1923 American film, Safety Last, contains the most enduring image of its era, but no sound - that is, until 6:30pm this Friday.

The musicians from Battambang's Phare Ponleu Selpak, an organisation that trains a range of artists, from acrobats to cartoonists, will provide an original score inspired by traditional Khmer music at an outdoor showing of the film at Wat Botum in Phnom Penh.

Marie de Pibrac, the cultural coordinator at the French Cultural Centre who is putting on the show, has high hopes for the performance and thinks it will appeal to a broad audience.

"It's a very popular movie. It's burlesque, it's comic and the music will be very good," she said.

The director of Phare Ponleu Selpak, Mao Kasol, said they have been working on the score for an entire year.

The fast-paced action of the movie provides a challenge for the musicians, but Mao Kasol is confident that his students will rise to the occasion.

"It's great that my students have the skill to show the traditional music to Cambodians and tourists, and to fit the traditional music with a foreign movie," he said.

The one thing Mao Kasol hopes the audience will take away from the performance is that they "hear the skill of the local students".

Having heard the group accompany a silent movie before, Pibrac is excited about hearing these musicians again.

"There is really an energy and a creativity with these musicians," she said.

Prior to the performance, Santa Claus will make an appearance - despite his busy pre-Christmas schedule - and hand out presents to the audience. The French Cultural Centre also said that children will be treated to tales and cartoons in both French and Khmer before the movie begins.

The event will take place this Friday at 6:30 pm at Wat Botum.


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