About ten years ago, I had the pleasure of working on this short film from Film Friday, called Dragonquest. I have been so in love with this little film since then, and even after all this time, I am always happy to encounter Melissa, Adam, Joseph, Cal and Matt. It hasn’t been online for me to share since then, so I’m really happy to be able to finally share this with you now.
Last year, on a whim, I rented the film, Broadway Idiot. Â I thought I was going to see a film about translating a product from an audio medium into a audio-visual medium. How could you give a story structure to something as abstract as Green Days’ American Idiot? I expected this to be a behind the scenes documentary, with a lot of information, but little drama. I was pretty wrong about that.
Broadway Idiot is a documentary that is advertised as telling the story of how Green Day’s American Idiot gotÂ to broadway. But its more than that. The documentary is really more about how Billie Joe Armstrong, a rock star who, out of necessity isolated himself from all but a few people, found a love for theatre through the development of the play, and found a family and a connection with the cast that can only exist in the theatre.
I highly recommend the film for any who loves theatre. Watching Billie Joe let his guard down over time was really something to see, and watching someone discover the power of theatre was something even better.
Buster Keaton’s was a great innovator in film. Â His Film Cops had the first use of a mobile camera (up to that point the camera was stationary and things moved around it). Â In The Playhouse, he comes up with one of the most spectacular special effects used to date: in the first part of the film, Keaton plays every part in the theatre, from all performers to audience members. Â There’s no CGI here, in order to come up with this effect, all parts of the camera lens, except where Keaton stood for this take were blocked, and the film shot, then the film was rolled back, and keaton moved to his new position (and if needed, new costume) and the film was re-exposed with the other spaces blocked. Â Time consuming, yes, but the gag is most definitely worth it.
The short, Cops contains theÂ aforeÂ mentioned use of the moving camera. Â It also displays Keaton’s acrobatic ability, which alone is worth the watch.
Chaplin’s The Pawnshop is an excellent example of the slapstick for which he was known. Also worth noting is how the Tramp goes from playful mischief to being ready to throw down in a flash, and how somehow the audience never loses the empathy they have with the character.
Today I finally saw The Artist, that modern silent Film that had everyone buzzing about a best picture Oscar.
Considering all the work I have done with Keystone Theatre you might be shocked that it took me this long to see it. Well it wasn’t for lack of trying. I have made a few attempts to see the film and each time it had been sold out. I supppse that was a a product of the theatre I was trying to see it at; a local theatre that caters more to the film buff crowd, and one that happened to be showing all the best film nominees.
Today I woke up early and decided to take in the earliest showing. The theatre was empty when I got there, but by the time the movie started, the place was pretty full.
So, what did I think of the movie? It was good, as a film, but it didn’t blow my mind. I supppse that if I hadn’t watched as much silent film in the last seven years as I have, then The Artist would definitely have blown my mind. Â I think I would have been surprised by how much can be conveyed without words, how deep a story that can be told, when the actors have to express what they are saying through non-verbal means. Â As Amanda pointed out, there’s a joy in The Artist, and an engagement with the audience as they invest themselves in the creation of the story and the characters. Watching films by Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin or Mary Pickford, you realize that you’re doing some of the work, as you imagine what the character sounds like, as you pay attention to the body language and facial expressions of the characters in the film. Â With silent film, you aren’t a passive audience member, like you are with most modern films: the audience is an integral part of the film experience, investing themselves in the characters on screen. Â For me, when a character “has me” (ie: I empathize and root for the character), I find myself involuntarily emoting along with the character. Â While watching The Artist, I did this quite a bit, as I invested in the journeys of both George Valentin and Peppy Miller. Â Because of this, The Artist succeeds in the recreation of the silent film genre, both visually and in the audience experience.
I enjoyed the film, and hope that it inspires more people to take the time to watch some classic silent films.
That was a longer day than I anticipated. But it was a lot of fun. The project was a short student film that had to be precisely two minutes in length. It was a simple little story about man trying to finish his jigsaw puzzle.
It was a fun day, but in the way of film, it was a long afternoon. When we finished the last shot before wrapping, I realized how sore my feet were. The shoes I had been wearing were not exactly comfortable. It was good to get back in my own clothes.
Now I’m on the train, heading home. Ready to get dinner and get to bed.