Thursday, December 25, 2014

Not So Silent Cinema presents rare Buster Keaton shorts with live music!

Four early 1920s Keaton classics screen Thursday at International House - with live musical accompaniment from the Not So Silent Trio.

Not So Silent Cinema presents rare Buster Keaton shorts with live music!

Newlyweds Sybil Seely and Buster Keaton look flummoxed.
Newlyweds Sybil Seely and Buster Keaton look flummoxed.

The late Roger Ebert once called sad-eyed Buster Keaton “the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies.” On Thursday night, April 18, Not So Silent Cinema – a project created by Philly/Boston composer Brendan Cooney, dedicated to presenting vintage silents with newly minted live musical accompaniment -- will put Ebert’s decree to the test, offering up four early ‘20s Keaton gems: “The High Sign,” “The Goat,” “Cops” and “One Week.”

Cooney, a founding member of the West Philadelphia Orchestra, plays piano for the evening’s screenings, joined by Andy Bergman on clarinet and Kyle Tuttle on banjo. The Not So Silent Trio’s new work for the Keaton shorts is rooted in, yes, American roots music – ragtime, old-timey blues and bluegrass, Klezmer and hot jazz.

These Keaton pieces are absolutely wonderful. In “The Goat” (1921), Buster is mistaken for Dead Shot Dan, a “highly intelligent and kindly faced murderer,” and comic mishaps ensue.   In “The High Sign” (1920) he plays a truly conflicted dude – a drifter hired to operate an amusement park shooting gallery who then gets recruited to both protect a businessman and kill him. The opening inter-title sums up the existential dilemma: “Our Hero came from Nowhere  -- he wasn’t going Anywhere and got kicked off Somewhere.”

In “Cops” (1922), our sad sack hero is mistaken for a bomb-slinging anarchist, pursued by the entire police force. And in “One Week” (1920) -- the film that launched the Great Stone Face’s solo cinema career – he and his new bride (the beautiful Sybil Seely) try to assemble a prefabricated home. But Sybil’s jealous ex has renumbered the crates, making things difficult – and hysterical – in the extreme.

For info on Not So Silent Cinema’s Buster Keaton night at International House, go to: http://ihousephilly.org/events/not-so-silent-cinema-presents-buster-keaton-shorts/  or http://www.notsosilentcinema.com/    

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
About this blog

Steven Rea has been an Inquirer movie critic since 1992. He was born in London, raised in New York City, and has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Iowa City, Iowa. His column, "On Movies," appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment, his reviews appear in the Weekend section on Fridays, and his blog, On Movies Online, can be found here. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

Steven Rea's previous blog posts can be found here. Read his most recent columns and reviews, here. He is the author of the book “Hollywood Rides a Bike,” and also curates the movie stars and bicycling photo blog, Rides A Bike.

Reach Steven at srea@phillynews.com.

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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