Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Last night Garbo, tomorrow Valentino!

A screening of 'The Kiss' (1929) last night (Tuesday, Feb. 7) at the Manchester (N.H.) Public Library drew about 50 folks to check out Garbo's last silent. And tomorrow night, it's a Rudolph Valentino double feature at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center in Plymouth, N.H.

Geez, can you tell Valentine's Day is coming up soon?

And so our mini-festival of silent film romance continues here in the Granite State: up to Plymouth on Thursday, Feb. 9 for 'The Sheik' (1921) and 'Son of the Sheik' (1926) starting at 6 p.m., and then to the Wilton Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H. on Sunday, Feb. 12 for a 4:30 p.m. screening of F.W. Murnau's legendary romance 'Sunrise' (1927).

I have especially high hopes for interest in 'Sunrise,' and not only because it's a good flick for Valentine's Day. What with 'The Artist' (2011) up for a slew of Oscars, and the status of 'Sunrise' as a winner in the very-first Academy Awards, it might just prompt a few curious folks out to the theater to see one of the originals. I saw 'The Artist' recently and enjoyed it, but was bothered by the low quality of the 35mm print that a local theater was running: it was on color stock and done very inconsistently, with some parts having a greenish tinge to them and others looking gold. I've heard a few people advising movie-goers to see it in digital if at all possible, where the black & white looks reasonably good. But of course most silent films weren't truly black & white in their original releases, so...well, let's not get into it here. :)

I was pleasantly surprised at the turnout for 'The Kiss,' which was well above what we've been getting at the monthly Manchester library screenings. We'll typically get about a dozen, maybe 20 people, tops. But with the Garbo film, probably 50 people piled in. As I was warming up, they kept on coming and coming, all adding up to a good crowd.

And they were with the film the whole way, reacting strongly to all parts of it, including the comedy interspersed among the serious sequences. I did the score entirely in strings, without any change in settings on the sythesizer, and I think it worked quite well, given the film's content and mood. As an added bonus, everyone stayed for a Q&A session that lasted a good half-hour, and then more conversation afterwards. All in all, a good night for silent film in 2012.

We'll see how we do with Valentino at the Flying Monkey, where attendance has also lagged this winter. I mean, last month's screening of 'The Birth of a Nation' (1915) drew a total of five people, a new low. A snow squall (one of very few this season) blowing through our area that day didn't help, but still. I don't mind, really, because these screenings are valuable as opportunities to practice the craft.

But at some point, if the audience isn't turning up, you have to decide if all the effort is worthwhile. I still have hope for the monthly silent film series at the Flying Monkey, as we have some blockbusters coming up this spring and titles are scheduled through June. So we'll see.


  1. My friend and I attended the Garbo silent film event and loved it! Well worth the time and effort to get to Manchester (she lives in Canterbury and I live in Northwood). We'll be back. Next time, maybe we'll invite the husbands!

  2. Thanks so much for attending the screening, and for your comments as well! Great to know that 'The Kiss' was enjoyable. And yes, invite the husbands — the more, the merrier!