Little Lieutenant is a look back at the late Weimar era with its struggles and celebrations leading up to world war, a period piece. Scored to John Zorn’s arrangement of the Kurt Weill song, “Little Lieutenant of the Loving God”, and drawing its imagery both from the original song and its somewhat idiosyncratic rearrangement, the film presents an internal reading of Silvers’ solo scored to the same musical piece, “Along the Skid Mark of Recorded History”. Closely following the Zorn arrangement, the film was storyboarded in 30 scenes (the arrangement changes approximately every 4 measures) and principally shot in a small studio employing rear screen projection, with foreground movement choreographed to interact with the projected imagery which reflects themes apparent in the song and its arrangement (Weimar cabaret scenes, labor footage, empty industrial landscapes, water, slides of moody photographs by James Casebere, a kinescope of Silvers’ performance of the solo at the Joyce Theatre, battle newsreels, Walther Ruttmann’s film “Berlin: Symphony of a Great City”, and a restructured animation, “The Youth Machine”). Scenes range through a “Citizen Kane”-esque pan up a forboding structure, idyllic lovers in both pastoral and industrial settings, labor marches, a lonely walk down a deserted alley, a bar brawl, a Motown-ish girl group, a dream sequence, and a giddy animation, up to the terrors of war and a bittersweet conclusion: an elaborate music video. Silvers and Cydney Wilkes portray dual aspects of the Salvation Army Lieutenant who sang the song in the Brecht/Weill play “Happy End”, with Kumiko Kimoto and Leonard Cruz as the lovers and Pilar Alamo and Toby Vann filling out the group. The film was conceived by Zorn, Silvers, and Hills, co-directed by Silvers and Hills, choreographed by Silvers, shot and edited by Hills, and funded by a grant from the NEA Dance Program, with assistance from the Segue Foundation and the loan of a rear screen by Ken Jacobs.
John Zorn’s score for Little Lieutenant : slideshow
Catalysts: Little Lieutenant : pdf download