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The Philip Glass effect on film: Transforming ‘Dracula’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Director Brett Morgen said recently on former Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer’s podcast, “Scheer Intelligence,” that maybe it hadn’t been such a hot idea to premiere his new documentary, “Jane,” with Philip Glass’ soundtrack played live at the Hollywood Bowl a couple weeks ago. All those months of meticulous sound editing were thrown out the window by having an actual orchestra onstage.

That’s a peculiar, even somewhat obnoxious argument, but it’s not new and it’s understandable. Glass’ extensive relationship to film ranges from unobtrusive background noodling to treating celluloid and its digital manifestations as performative material, as theater and even opera. A film director, on the other hand, is by job description a control freak. It can’t always work.

The inherent collaboration or conflict between any composer and director might help explain why Glass has turned to two cinema classics: Tod Browning’s 1931 “Dracula,” starring Bela Lugosi, and Jean Cocteau’s beloved “La Belle et la Bête” (Beauty and the Beast) from 1946. By curious coincidence, both could be encountered, back-to-back, over the weekend.

The Philharmonic Society of Orange County and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts presented “Dracula” on Saturday night, with Glass himself on keyboards, joining the Kronos Quartet, for whom he wrote the film’s new score. On Sunday afternoon at the Theatre at Ace Hotel, Los Angeles Opera presented the second of its three performances of “La Belle et la Bête,” the opera Glass wrote to be sung and played along with the picture (the original soundtrack — and all its sound editing effort — discarded).