Last Saturday morning Owen Shapiro spoke by cell phone from Prospect Park in New York City, where he'd just dropped off his granddaughter at a birthday party. He was already anticipating this Friday evening, when he'll introduce the screening of Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu's early film, "A Woman of Tokyo" (1933), centerpiece of the final event of this year's 16-day Cazenovia Counterpoints arts festival.
"Ozu is one of the most important filmmakers -- period!" Shapiro said. "Not just for Japan. This is a very early work, but in his insight into the human condition and his depiction of women -- their role in society and their personal angst -- he was always ahead of his time."
Shapiro heads up Syracuse International Film Festival, held each April. As one on-going popular program, SIFF presents classic silent films with live musicians performing new scores. This year's collaboration with Neva Pilgrim and the Society for New Music, held at the Everson Museum, had some bumps in the road.
"We originally intended to do 'L'Age d'Or,' but then couldn't," Shapiro said.
That 1930 film, Spanish director Luis Bu uel's first feature and a collaboration with fellow surrealist Salvador Dali, caused riots when first screened in Paris.
"But," Shapiro went on, "Neva Pilgrim knew Wayne Horvitz had done music for a number of films, including 'A Woman of Tokyo,' and he agreed to come."
The Seattle-based pianist/composer also released his Gravitas Quartet's "One Dance Alone" in April on the Songlines label. That CD contains a track titled "Waltz from Woman of Tokyo," excerpted from Horvitz's new score for the 47-minute Ozu film.
Then freak storms cancelled Horvitz's April flight to Syracuse.
But Shapiro always run a film festival committed to regional outreach. That means screenings year-round across central New York, so moving the Ozu/Horvitz program to Cazenovia Counterpoints through the Society for New Music's connection was a natural. Commissioned by the Seattle Film Festival, the full film score has not been recorded and Friday's performance is the Northeast premiere.