28 March 2010

Silence is golden

tonight was a form of an encore of our friday night from two weeks ago.

we started out at the thai/vietnamese place called star anise. this time i got the yellow curry chicken i had wanted. it was good, but perhaps a bit more salty than i would have liked. dave got the fried tofu and mixed veggies with rice noodle soup. sounds simple, but it was delicious. i would get that next time.

then, after dinner we headed over to st pauls angelican church for the nights entertainment. we were going to see a silent film medley accompanied by a jazz pianist. so, after the acoustic concert a couple weeks ago, i signed up for the jazz east newsletter (jazz east is where the concert was located). the next email that came mentioned a small jazz festival on the last weekend of march. one night would include this silent film event. it sounded interesting.

dave and i had enjoyed many a buster keaton and charlie chaplin silent film while we lived in ann arbor, courtesy of my beloved DVD-R where i recorded all kinds of goodies from the TCM channel. anyway, silent films are actually fabulous if you can get through your first one with the ability to retrain/refocus your eyes, ears, and brain. its where the magic and creativity all started and they add lots of depth to the understanding of film and film history. at some point, we were also lucky enough to find a fabulous buster keaton silent film event at detroits DIA.

but, back to tonights event...we sat in the church pews facing a projector screen. a computer and projector were hooked up on the table in front and the piano was off to the side. the pianist had actually chosen the clips/films himself and written his own music to go with them. i dont know the history of whether every silent film used to come with its own custom music, or if theaters let their organist/pianist create something. of course, custom music means unique interpretation of the movies events. with different music the same scene could become more sinister, less exaggerated, happier, sadder, etc.

anyway, on to the things we saw...

the first thing we saw were a bunch of spliced together clips from the lumière brothers. they were among the first people to create moving pictures. most of their "films" were 50 seconds in length or shorter and typically focused on orchestrating scenes from everyday life. the first screenings of their movies were held in 1895. their film technologies and inventions laid the ground work for what the movie world is today.

i couldnt find a youtube clip with the scenes we saw, but this is a good collection of some of their work. the clips start to become more dynamic at around minute 3, so you could skip there if bored...



the second thing we watched was a short film by polish/russian director ladislaw starewicz. he created several extremely imaginative films back in his day. the one we watched was called "the cameramans revenge" and was made in 1912. he loved insects and so, for this, he used actual dead insect bodies to create stop-motion animation (like gumby, or tim burton, or fantastic mr fox). what an amazing use of that technology. the amount of patience he must have had is impressive. the motions are very fluid and the story is still fresh today. the humor seemed ahead of its time...or maybe its a timeless/classic theme?...cheating on your spouse.

i found the whole 13 minute movie on youtube complete with some music. its definitely worth checking out:



the final item we watched was a charlie chaplin film called "the circus" from 1928. the film gave chaplin his first academy award. its very much a physical comedy with his tramp character minding his own business, yet creating hilarious fun in the process.

found a clip of perhaps one of the more genius chaplin scenes from the circus. its about 4.5 minutes long, but at around 1.5 minutes is where my favorite physical comedy scene occurs.



so, we had a nice night doing something unusual and getting some laughs. its always a good time to get to watch films like that with live music and other film lovers. if you see such an event in your area, i encourage you to try it out.

1 comment:

Mary Ann said...

Likewise, I consider my DVR to be my "beloved". And where would I be without TCM? Their library of films has enriched my life immeasurably. I share your interest in the silents. If you ever get the chance to see Von Stroheim's Greed, it's my favorite.