Scotland’s first silent film festival takes place 18-20 March 2011 in Scotland’s first purpose-built cinema (or so it says in their brochure), at the Hippodrome cinema in Bo’ness. The enterprising weekend of silents and silent-related events is clearly directed at a general audience, and brings together classics with Scottish Screen Archive programmes, workshops and live events. There are chances to dress up as flappers or Chaplin, and a great idea of bringing along jamjars (used as currency by children keen to get into early film shows) to the screening of The Kid. At the heart of it all is pianist, raconteur and all round good egg Neil Brand, once again carrying the torch for silent films.
Here’s the main programme, with text taken from the online brochure:
Opening Night Gala: It
Celebrate Festival opening night with a glass of bubbly and an icon of the Roaring Twenties. Clara Bow stars in this sparkling comedy as Betty, a poor shop-girl, who sets her cap at her handsome new boss whilst seeing off moral reformers, inept suitors and upperclass snobs with a wicked smile and a devastating wink. She has ‘it’ by the bucket-load, and knows exactly how to use ‘it’ … Fast, jazzy and funny ‘It’ magnificently demonstrates Bow’s star-appeal (receiving over 45,000 fan letters a week at the time), and why her performance as a guileless flapper came to define an entire decade. Look out for a young Gary Cooper as the dashing cub reporter. We are privileged to present this rare UK screening of a print loaned by the British Film Institute’s National Archive… the perfect start to a very special festival.
Dir. Clarence G. Badger, Josef von Sternberg / US / 1927 / b&w / 1h 12m
With: Clara Bow, Antonio Moreno, William Austin
Live piano accompaniment by Neil Brand
Friday 18 March, 18:30 • screening starts 19:30
Tickets: £8 (£6 conc.) including ‘champagne reception’
Dress: Twenties glamour, flapper
A unique and immersive workshop for schools and home educators presented by musician Susan Appelbe and Falkirk Council Heritage Learning team. Susan performs her vibrant music to a new, silent animation of Robert Burns’ poem (created by Grangemouth Girls Youth Group with artist Emma Bowen). Susan’s live performance is followed by an improvised music session in which the whole audience becomes the orchestra, composing its own soundtrack for the animation, recorded for pupils to take back to school. All pupils will be supplied with instruments for the duration of the workshop, and are also welcome to bring any acoustic instruments of their own. No prior musical skills required.
Friday 18 March, 10:00 / 2hrs
Tickets: pupils £2.10, accompanying teachers/adults free
Schools workshop – Recommended P6 / People in the Past / Expressive Arts / Literacy
An Escape From Reality
If walls could talk, the Hippodrome could certainly tell a tale or two. Come for a cuppa and hear the stories of Scotland’s first purpose-built cinema or share your own cinema-going memories with your host, local author and scriptwriter Janet Paisley. Following a screening of ‘An Escape from Reality’, a documentary made by Bo’ness Academy students celebrating the Hippodrome through the memories of its patrons, Janet will be joined by local historians and the floor will be open for what promises to be an entertaining afternoon.
This event is sponsored by the Bo’ness Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI). The aim of the THI is to repair and restore historic buildings like the beautifully restored Hippodrome, encouraging town centre regeneration through the distribution of Heritage Lottery Funding.
Fri 18 Mar 14:00 / 1h 30m approx.
Tickets: £5.25 (incl. refreshments)
The Kid + shorts (2-for-1 Jeely Jar Special)
In the Hippodrome’s heyday youngsters could get their cinema ticket in exchange for a jeely (or jam) jar, so we’ve named our regular Saturday morning screenings of well-loved family films in honour of this tradition. Once a season we revive the custom at a Jeely Jar Special, when you can bring a clean jeely jar with matching lid and get two tickets for the price of one. We’ve chosen Chaplin’s first feature film in which the loveable Tramp teams up with an abandoned child showcasing Chaplin’s seemingly effortless combination of pathos and pantomimic comedy. Screening with animated shorts featuring Felix the Cat – celebrated US
predecessor of Mickey Mouse – and his mischievous British equivalent, Bonzo the Dog. Come dressed as the Tramp to be in with a chance to win our Charlie Chaplin fancy dress competition!
Dir. Charles Chaplin / US / 1921 / b&w / pre-recorded orchestral score
‘Felix Wins and Loses’ / dir. Pat Sulllivan / US / 1925 / b&w
‘Bonzo Broadcasted’ / dir. W.A. Ward / UK / 1925 / b&w
Live piano accompaniment by Neil Brand (animation shorts only)
Saturday 19 March, 11:00 • Tickets: £2.10 / 1h 30m approx
Scottish Screen Archive & Cinema Theatres Association Event
Early Cinema in Scotland
Come and find out about the origins of early film and cinema at this enlightening and entertaining illustrated talk including stills and film screenings presented by cinema historian, Gordon Barr and Ruth Washbrook, a curator at the Scottish Screen Archive. Take a journey back in time through celluloid history to discover how and when Scotland’s first purpose-built cinemas were constructed, how cinema architecture and styles changed over time and experience some of the films early audiences would have enjoyed.
Saturday 19 March, 14:00 / 1h 30m approx
Tickets: £5.25 (£4 conc.)
Another Fine Mess with Laurel and Hardy
Laurel and Hardy never age, and these films prove they were at the peak of their careers before sound even arrived – action-packed, terrifying and masterly, these are the boys’ greatest silent films. Liberty, in which the pair are escaped convicts trying to reclaim their trousers. Big Business, where the duo’s business transaction with a customer (played by local Larbert lad James Finlayson), winds up with their trademark outbreak of destruction. Finally You’re Darn Tootin’ which finds Laurel and Hardy dismissed from a band and attempting to make ends meet as street musicians … where, of course, rumpus ensues. Prepare to laugh harder then you ever have before. Oh, and be prepared to ‘play along’!
Dir. Various / US / 1928-29 / b&w
Live piano accompaniment by Neil Brand (assisted by the audience!)
Saturday 19th March, 16:30 / 1h 30m • Tickets: £5.25 (£4 conc.)
Neil Brand – The Silent Pianist Speaks
The Hippodrome is proud to welcome Neil Brand to present his critically acclaimed live show. Using clips from some of the greatest moments in silent cinema to illustrate his 25-year career, Neil hosts a unique and memorable event celebrating the great silent filmmakers and the magic of the accompanists who breathed life and sound into their work. From the earliest, earthiest comedies and thrillers, through a silent cine-verité classic shot by a young Billy Wilder, to the glories of Hollywood glamour and the sublime Laurel and Hardy, Neil provides improv accompaniment and entertaining commentary including notes from his own live cinema disasters. The audience gets a chance to score a scene and the evening culminates in Neil accompanying a clip “sight unseen” whilst simultaneously describing his reactions to it. The result is a hilarious, sharp and ultimately moving show about cinema and music which pays tribute to the musicians of the silent era through the observations of one the world’s finest exponents.
Saturday 19 March, 19:30 / 1h 20m • Tickets: £8 (£6 conc.)
Slapstick with Plutôt la Vie
From Buster Keaton to Mr Bean, follow a comic tradition and learn some slapstick secrets. The early heroes of comedy relied on visual gags for their biggest laughs and this ancient form of comedy came into its own during the silent era, but can still be seen in modern cinema and theatre. The performance of slapstick comedy requires exquisite timing and skilful execution so join Tim Licata of acclaimed Scottish theatre company Plutôt la Vie (literally meaning “above all, is life”) as he teaches you some of the slapstick secrets of the silent stars.
Venue: Bo’ness Town Hall, Stewart Avenue, Bo’ness EH51 9NJ
Wear comfortable clothes/shoes
Sunday 20 March, 10:00 / 2h 30m • Tickets: £8
Age: 12+ pre booking essential
Note: Plutôt la Vie’s will be performing their fast and funny
family show: ‘By the Seat of Your Pants’at FTH on
Sunday 13 March • 14:00 • http://www.falkirk.gov.uk/cultural
The Scottish Screen Archive Presents…
Scottish Comedy Capers
Enjoy a wonderful treat of silent comedy films from the Scottish Screen Archive with a specially curated programme of short films ranging from early comedy favourites to amateur comedy dramas and films made by Cine Societies and Film Clubs. This diverse collection of films will leave you laughing with uncouth Highlanders, pantomime horses, crazed lawnmowers, cantankerous witches, naughty children and husbands causing mischief on a weekend away from their wives. There is something for everyone in this fun-packed programme of Scottish archive film delights.
Live piano accompaniment by Neil Brand
Sunday 20 March, 11:00 / 1h 30m approx
Tickets: £5.25 (£4 conc.)
New Found Sound
Take four young composers, three talented schools orchestras, a silent film from the Scottish Screen Archive – and you get New Found Sound. A culmination of hard work and creativity, New Found Sound offers a unique opportunity to experience the world première of a silent film soundtrack commissioned by the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema. The music has been composed by pupils from the Falkirk Council area and will be performed by young musicians in the regional school orchestras: the Falkirk Schools Orchestra, the Falkirk Schools Wind Band, and the Falkirk Baroque Ensemble. Involving secondary school pupils currently studying music and receiving instrumental instruction, New Found Sound showcases the outstanding talent and commitment of young people in the region.
Sunday 20 March, 14:00 / 1h approx
Tickets : £4 (£3 conc.)
Sherlock Jr. + Never Weaken
No self-respecting silent film festival could ignore two of the era’s biggest stars, so here’s a double bill that offers twice the genius for more than double the value. Buster Keaton stars as a humble movie projectionist living out his dream as “the world’s greatest detective”: ‘Sherlock Jr’. The film not only brought Keaton to his artistic maturity, it influenced the structure of Monty Python, according to Terry Gilliam. The last twenty minutes is an anarchic firestorm of stunts and physical gags, while the surreal central sequence, in which Buster walks into an onscreen drama which changes around him, is still as breathtaking as it was 85 years ago. Plus, Harold Lloyd, the lovelorn hero of ‘Never Weaken’ and real-life vertigosufferer, goes all-out to show that there is nothing funnier than a man in glasses whose life hangs by a thread thirty storeys up!
‘Sherlock Jr.’: Dir. Buster Keaton / US / 1924 / b&w / 45m
With: Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Ward Crane
‘Never Weaken’: Dir. Fred C Newmeyer / US / 1921 / b&w / 29m
With: Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Roy Brooks
Live piano accompaniment by Neil Brand
Sunday 20 March, 16:30 / 1h 20m approx • Tickets: £5.25 (£4 conc.)
Closing Night Gala: Nosferatu
This screening of F. W. Murnau’s silent classic horror film with live music accompaniment is the dramatic finale of the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema. Max Schreck is the terrifying Count Orlok, a vampire who thirsts after the body and soul of a young clerk and his beautiful wife. David Allison’s beguiling score reveals a distinctly Celtic twist with its Scottish voice depicting the nineteenth century author Emily Gerard leading us through the narrative. Originally from Airdrie, Gerard is believed to have been a major influence on Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ and Murnau’s celluloid portrayal through her writings on Transylvanian folklore. Fans of the modern slew of on-screen vampires will recognise the sensuality, immortality and suspense in ‘Nosferatu’, the genesis of bloodsucking horror on the big screen. “A stunning presentation.” Edinburgh Evening News
Dir. F. W. Murnau / US / 1922 / b&w / 1h 24m
With: Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schröder
Live musical accompaniment by David Allison of The Island Tapes
Sunday 20 March, 19:30
Tickets: £8 (£6 conc.)
Well, there’s bucket-loads of enthusiasm, and I hope they are rewarded with good audiences. The festival is now open for bookings, and there are full details of how to get there and how to have the best of times once you have done so on the festival site.