The Reel Film Society is putting on eight screenings over the semester, focusing on youth, adolescence, and growing up. This first event, held in School III, was a success, with the entire lecture hall filled (which is more than I can say for the lectures I’ve attended there.) The audience seemed eager for what is in this day and age a novelty – a prerecorded performance paired with a live one.
Part of the charm of the event was watching two films I might never have seen. The first film One Week, a short slapstick comedy and the first in Buster Keaton’s illustrious career, follows a young newlywed couple as they first attempt married life. Keaton’s work, like Charlie Chaplin, is always a crowd-pleaser and consistently had the audience in fits. The second film was Dragnet Girl, a Japanese film about a young woman and her boyfriend who struggle to reform from a life in a gang. As a graduating fourth year, I connected with stories of young people facing the challenges of growing up and settling down, a theme relevant to most students. Both films were a pleasure to watch, but the highlight of the event was the live performance.
Composer Jane Gardner, along with musicians Roddy Long and Hazel Morrison, performed original scores for both films, and won the Silent London’s 2014 “Best Film Screening with a Small Ensemble” poll. Although I’m not a trained ear, I don’t believe any of the three missed a beat, even when Dragnet froze for a few seconds. Between their piano, violin, and percussion, the musicians brought out the emotions of each film and allowed an inexperienced audience to understand the tone of scenes that might otherwise have been confusing to a modern viewer. Before the revolution of the talkie, cinema almost always involved live musical accompaniment, ranging from a lone violinist to an entire orchestra. Most silent films available nowadays have prerecorded score attached; so modern viewers do not usually have the pleasure of enjoying a silent film in their original atmosphere. The night was a return to the adolescence of cinema.
Their next event is a screening of Boyhood (2014), which was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture. The director spent twelve years filming with the same actors, making it an exciting cinematic prospect. The best part is, you get to see it for free! Join them again, 7pm in School III next Thursday.