Slapstick hits the spot

Bristol’s annual Slapstick festival returns in January, with its tried and tested mixture of classic silent comedy and today’s TV and radio comedians making a crowd-pleasing combination. The festival runs 26-29 January 2012, with a pre-event on the 21st. Here are the programme details:

Saturday 21 January 2012 – pre-festival event

Les Bubb’s Silent Slapstick Funnies PG with Les Bubb

1300hrs, Venue: Watershed, Cinema 1 £4.60/£3.60 concs

Discover the delights of Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy and Snub Pollard with a little help from world-renowned visual comedy performer and choreographer Les Bubb, with live piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

+ Cinekids: Slapstick Workshop with Les Bubb 8 – 12 years-olds

1500hrs – 1630hrs, Venue: Watershed Waterside 3 £2 per child

Ever wondered how silent comedy clowns make you laugh so much? After the Slaptick’s Silent Funnies screening, join international visual comedy performer Les Bubb for an action packed workshop to explore (and practice!) some of the techniques used by the silent comedy clowns. Wear comfy clothing and prepare for lots of laughter and some falling over.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Buster Keaton: Brownlow and Garden

1740hrs £7.20/£5.60, Venue: Watershed, Cinema 1

The first of two exceptional events dedicated to “The Great Stone Face”, hosted by Oscar-winner Kevin Brownlow, here in conversation with fellow-enthusiast Graeme Garden (of The Goodies and Sorry I Haven’t a Clue). Rare film illustrations recall Brownlow’s meetings with Keaton in the 1960s, his restoration of The General, and collaboration with David Gill on the definitive Keaton documentary, A Hard Act to Follow.

“Stupid Boy!”: Celebrating Dad’s Army with Ian Lavender
An Audience with Private Pike

1930hrs £16/£14, Venue: Hall 2 (Colston Hall)

A unique chance to hear Ian Lavender discuss in his own words what it was like being in one of the UK’s favourite comedies and playing one of our best loved comedy characters – Private Pike in Dad’s Army.

Ian comes to Bristol’s Slapstick Festival with stories of his time on the Dad’s Army set.

Ian will be onstage with writer/broadcaster Matthew Sweet and the evening will include favourite clips from Dad’s Army, a showing of a complete episode, music – and more. Plus there’s a special questions and answers session where you get the chance to ask Ian a question.

A delightful evening of family entertainment in celebration of one of our best loved television series.

Friday 27 January 2012

The Clown Princes

1400hrs Venue: Arnolfini £7/£5.50

Chaplin, Buster Keaton & Harold Lloyd were the undisputed kings of silent comedy – or were they?

Thousands more comedies were made in the silent era starring many, many more comedians. Some even rivalled the top names and occasionally surpassed them in the laughter stakes.

David Wyatt presents his selection of some of the finest and funniest; Charley Chase, Lloyd Hamilton, Max Davidson & Larry Semon among them. For those with Keaton withdrawal symptoms though, Buster may make a surprise appearance (or two?).

Buster Keaton: “A Hard Act to Follow” with Kevin Brownlow

1600hrs Venue: Watershed, Cinema 3 £7.20/£5.60

Kevin Brownlow presents documentary footage to illustrate his work, experiences and encounters in filming the definitive Keaton documentary A Hard Act to Follow (1986) with its spectacular sequences recreating the filming of the collapsing railway bridge in The General – the most elaborate scene in all silent comedy. A unique opportunity to discover the creative methods of one of the greatest figures of film comedy, through the eyes of the world’s most honoured film historian.

Griff Rhys Jones: Silent Comedy Spectacular
A star-studded evening of classic comedy featuring Buster Keaton’s masterpiece The General (1926)

Special guest host Griff Rhys Jones

1930hrs Venue: Colston Hall £18/£16/£8

Slapstick festival’s annual silent comedy gala presents three comic masterpieces celebrating the great silent comedians of yesteryear. Hosted by the inimitable comic actor and writer Griff Rhys Jones plus ‘master of ceremonies’ Chris Serle.

Buster Keaton’s The General (1926) is considered an undisputed masterpiece of cinema. Set in the American Civil War, Buster Keaton plays Jonnie Gray unable to enlist in the Confederate army because he is needed as a railroad engineer. His sweetheart, who thinks he’s a coward, won’t talk to him until he’s in uniform. Plus Laurel & Hardy in The Finishing Touch (1928) and Charlie Chaplin in The Adventurer (1916).

The World Premiere of a new score for The General will be conducted by Guenter A. Buchwald and performed by The European Silent Screen Virtuosi and Bristol Ensemble. Plus music from The Matinee Idles (featuring Paul McGann).

Saturday 28 January 2012

Charles Chaplin: Bridging Three Centuries

With David Robinson

0930hrs Venue: Arnolfini £7/£5.50

David Robinson is recognised as the definitive biographer and a world expert on Chaplin. In this presentation, richly illustrated with film and rare stills, he considers the phenomenon of an artist who was already on stage in the 19th century, became the most universally recognised personality of the 20th century; and in the 21st century still maintains his power as human symbol and supreme entertainer.

Since his definitive 1985 biography Chaplin: His Life and Art, David Robinson has been recognised as a world expert on the great comedian. In this presentation, richly illustrated with film and rare stills, he considers the phenomenon of an artist who was already at work as a stage artist in the 19th century, was to become the most universally recognised personality of the 20th century; and in the 21st century maintains his power, both as symbol and supreme entertainer, inspiring constant revaluation and study, and constantly attracting new young audiences. Chaplin has a unique place not just in cinema, but in the history of world art.

Grame Garden on Charley Chase

1100hrs Venue: Arnolfini £7/£5.50

To say Charley Chase is one of the comic greats of all time is no exaggeration: this brilliantly inventive and prolific comedian contributed to over 300 films as writer, director, or actor (sometimes as all three) before his untimely death at the age of 46. Chase worked with almost every major name in early film comedy including Chaplin, Arbuckle, Lloyd, Laurel & Hardy, and the Three Stooges. Chase made many comedy shorts in the twenties as a hugely popular comic/performer in his own right. Chase admirer, Goodie and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue panellist, Graeme Garden selects his favourite shorts from this period to reveal Chase at his finest and funniest.

With live piano accompaniment by John Sweeney.

Harold Lloyd: Double Bill (U) with Barry Cryer

1400hrs Venue: Arnolfini £8/£6

Barry Cryer introduces two of Harold Lloyd’s finest comedies:

An Eastern Westerner (1920)
Dir Hal Roach USA 23mins

One of Lloyd’s funniest shorts An Eastern Westerner is consistently clever and amusing, well-paced and packed with gags. An immature playboy is shipped off out west in order to curb his outlandish behaviour, and ends up in a number of scrapes, in this amusing Harold Lloyd short.

Plus Grandma’s Boy (1922)
Dir Fred C. Newmeyer 60 mins

A rare chance to see Lloyd’s first feature film on the big screen. Harold plays an awkward, shy boy who is afraid of everything, including his own shadow. After a bully runs him off from the girl that he loves his Grandma tells him about a magic charm his Grandfather used to gain courage. After Harold begins carrying the charm he singlehandedly captures a killer and teaches the bully a lesson.

Featuring live musical accompaniment by The European Silent Screen Virtuosi.

Bill Oddie’s Top Comedy Moments in conversation with Chris Serle

1600hrs Venue: Watershed, Cinema 1 £7.20/£5.60

Whose first records were produced by George Martin, and who had two singles banned by the BBC? Who earned rave reviews on Broadway for his dancing? Who rode on the back seat of the Goodies’ tandem? Who has been called ‘Britain’s best-known birdwatcher?’ The answer to all of the above is… Bill Oddie.

A national treasure, Bill Oddie was one third of UK’s top comedy hit of the 70s – The Goodies and the UK’s favourite wildlife presenter regularly fronting Springwatch and Autumnwatch.

Witty, Candid and unconventional Bill invites you to join him as he recounts his working relationships with some of the greatest comic talents of his generation, including John Cleese, Jonathan Miller and fellow Goodies whilst delighting us with his top onscreen comedy moments from the last century. You can expect some Laurel & Hardy but otherwise Bill is not giving anything away in advance, and we don’t blame him! A fascinating insight into the comic influences of this unique comic performer.

He’s Not The Messiah He’s…Terry Jones!
Monty Python’s Terry Jones presents Life of Brian

Plus on stage discussion with Sanjeev Bhaskar.

1930hrs Venue: Colston Hall £16/£14

Terry Jones, one of Britain’s most famous comic writer/performers hosts a special screening of the Life of Brian, arguably the funniest British movie of all time, at Slapstick Festival.

This is a rare opportunity for Monty Python fans to enjoy this iconic film alongside the man who uttered the immortal words “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!” The legendary Monty Python comic will introduce the film and also join ‘Kumars at no42’ and ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ star Sanjeev Bhaskar to discuss the film and Terry’s role as Actor/Director.

It is consistently highly ranked in comedy and film polls by The Guardian, IMDB and BFI, remaining one of Britain’s greatest achievements in comedy and film.

Sunday 29 January 2012

Slapstick Spoofs Hosted by David Wyatt

0930hrs Venue: Arnolfini £7/£5.50

Long before AIRPLANE and NAKED GUN there were silent spoofs of current epics like BENDING HUR, MUD AND SAND and THE 3 MUST GET -THERES. Before Laurel & Hardy, Stan Laurel almost made a career out of it. See Buster Keaton parodying western star William S.Hart, Ben Turpin reducing Von Stroheim to rubble, Max Linder doing Doug Fairbanks and Will Rogers just about everyone else. Don’t miss Rogers’ UNCENSORED MOVIES, Laurel’s absolute classic THE SOILERS – and much more.

My Chaplin: with Sanjeev Bhaskar

1100hrs Venue: Arnolfini £7/£5.50

‘Goodness Gracious Me’ and ‘Kumars at No 42’ star Sanjeev Bhaskar selects his favourite shorts and shares his passion for Charlie Chaplin with Chaplin historian and film critic David Robinson. The best of Chaplin with one of our best loved comic writer/performers. With live piano accompaniment .

Buster Keaton: Young Keaton (U)

1400hrs Venue: Arnolfini £8.00/£6.00 Concs & Bristol Silents Members

Between 1919 and 1922 Buster Keaton completed 22 comedy shorts. Many feel this was the most prolific and productive period of his life and festival patrons and Keaton admirers Bill, Tim, Barry and Ian have each selected a short to reveal Keaton at his freshest, most spontaneous and inventive. Films include THE BOAT (1921) and THE SCARECROW (1920). Featuring live musical accompaniment by members of the European Silent Screen Virtuosi.

Pierre Etaix: The Laughter Returns

1600hrs Venue: Watershed, CINEMA 1 £7.20/£5.60

Throughout the sixties Etaix consistently produced some of the finest visual comedies onscreen yet due to a disastrous rights deal his films have not been seen for almost 40 years. Étaix is a clown, magician, illustrator and cabaret artist whose films recall the genius of Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd. He worked with Jacques Tati on “Mon Oncle” (1958), then found an ideal collaborator for his own film projects in Jean-Claude Carrière.

In conversation with Sir Christopher Frayling this special event co-presented with Bristol Festival of Ideas celebrates the work of this neglected film maker and performer. Plus a complete screening of Etaix’s first comedy short Rupture (1962).

La Grande Amour (1969) introduced by Pierre Etaix
87 mins Dir by Etaix Fr

2000hrs £7.20/£5.60 Venue: Watershed, Cinema 3

To conclude Slapstick Festival we present one of Pierre Etaix’s best observed and accomplished features. Etaix plays Pierre, married to Florence (Annie Fratellini), though he figures he could have married one of numerous other women. Despite the salacious gossip of the elderly local women who watch his every move, he has enjoyed a largely happy marriage and a satisfactory, albeit not exactly stimulating, life. Then the arrival of a new secretary, 18 year old Agnes (Nicole Calfan), turns his world upside down.

Consumed by a passion which he is convinced must be love, he indulges in increasingly absurd and charmingly innocent romantic fantasies, utterly distracted from his day to day life. Over time, he becomes convinced that the only way he can be happy is to consummate his love. But the dilemmas this presents him with are overwhelming.

A bold mixture of the familiar and the surprising (I’ve never seen a Pierre Etaix film – he will be attending the festival and will become the fourth recipient of their annual Aardman/Slapstick Award for ‘Excellence in Visual Comedy’), put over with the right balance of knowledge and enthusiasm. More details, including information on previous Slapstick festivals, from the festival site. Booking is now open.

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