Friday, July 31, 2020

Need a laugh? Silent film screenings return to Flying Monkey with Keaton's 'Three Ages'

Buster practices pre-historic self-sanitization in 'Three Ages' (1923), to be screened on Wednesday, Aug. 5 at the Flying Monkey.

In these times of trouble, how about some timeless comedy?

To provide just that, we're running Buster Keaton's 'Three Ages' (1923) to restart silent film screenings next week at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse in Plymouth, N.H.

Think of it as a public service: an attempt to alleviate the Great Levity Shortage of 2020.

'Three Ages,' Buster's send-up of D.W. Griffith's epic drama 'Intolerance' (1916), will be shown on Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 6:30 p.m. General admission is $10 per person.

The Keaton screening ends an intermission of more than four months at the Flying Monkey, where the last film I accompanied was a Western, 'Wild Horse Mesa' (1925), in mid-March.

But we're back in business, with a varied program of silents all with live music, and all scheduled to run (well, mostly) on the last Wednesday of each month.

One necessary nod to today's reality: the Flying Monkey is following all local public health and CDC guidelines to keep patrons safe. Masks, limited capacity, social distancing, hand sanitizing: they're all part of the show.

With Buster, only the laughter should be contagious. And boy, could we ever use a big dose of that.

Hope to see you there! For more about 'Three Ages,' and a preview of other films scheduled for later months, check out the press release below.

And let me note here that if 'Three Ages' isn't enough to cure your Keaton withdrawal, we have 'The General' (1926) and 'Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) running next month as part of Silent Film Comedy Week at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H.

More on that later, but check out this story posted on the web site of Box Office Pro.

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Classic comedy in classical times: Buster Keaton in 'Three Ages' (1923)>

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Silent film with live music returns to Flying Monkey on Wednesday, Aug. 5

Monthly series to open with 'Three Ages,' classic 1923 comedy starring Buster Keaton

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—It's a comeback worth making some noise about.

After a four-month hiatus due to Covid-19, the long-running silent film series at the Flying Monkey will resume in August.

First up is Buster Keaton's classic 1923 comedy 'Three Ages,' to be shown on Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 S. Main St., Plymouth, N.H.

General admission is $10 per person.

At the reopened Flying Monkey, accommodations will be made to keep patrons safe in the Covid-19 era.

Face-coverings are required to enter the theater, and should remain on at all times until movie-goers take their seats. Capacity will be limited to 50 percent; audience members are asked to observe social distancing in choosing seats.

The screening will be accompanied with live music by Jeff Rapsis.

"In these times, we need laughter more than ever," Rapsis said. "So it was only natural to restart our silent film series with one of the era's legendary comedians, Buster Keaton."

Keaton himself never smiled on camera, earning him the nickname of "the Great Stone Face." But his comedies rocked Hollywood's silent era with laughter throughout the 1920s.

'Three Ages,' a send-up of the then-famous drama 'Intolerance' (1916), weaves together similar love stories told in three different epochs: the Stone Age, the Roman Age, and "Modern" (1920s) times.

The three-stories-in-one approach was Keaton's first attempt at a feature-length comedy. If 'Three Ages' ran into box office trouble, Keaton planned to split it up into three shorter films to be released separately.

But the picture was a hit, due to inspired comic touches that still shine through today. 'Three Ages' launched Keaton's spectacular run of classic comic features that lasted until the industry's transition to sound pictures in 1929.

Although 'Three Ages' spans three historical eras, Keaton performs jaw-dropping physical comedy in each of them.

The "caveman" sequences feature knockabout comedy with Buster in a bearskin outfit; the Roman scenes include a wild chariot race held during a snowstorm; and the modern era scenes include one of the great silent film chases.

A smitten Keaton counts flower petals.

Live music for 'Three Ages' will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, who uses a digital synthesizer to create a traditional full orchestra "movie score" sound.

"If you've never seen a silent comedy in a theater with an audience and live music, you're missing one of the cinema's great experiences," said Rapsis, who accompanies more than 100 silent film programs each year.

Rapsis emphasized the unique experience of seeing early cinema as it was originally presented.

"These films were designed for the big screen, live music, and large audiences. Put it all together again, and you get a sense of why people first fell in love with the movies," Rapsis said.

'Three Ages' opens a monthly series of silent film programs at the Flying Monkey that include more comedy, plus drama, horror, and an unusual Russian documentary. On the schedule:

• Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 6:30 p.m.: 'Why Worry?' (1923) starring Harold Lloyd. Wealthy hypochondriac Harold gets caught up in a south-of-the-border uprising, finding romance along the way. One of Lloyd's wackiest outings; he co-stars with an actual giant. Perfect escapist fun for these worrisome times!

• Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 6:30 p.m.: 'Man With A Movie Camera' (1928). Russian director Dziga Vertov's celebration of daily life in the Soviet Union. Experimental documentary with no story and no actors, but filled with eye-popping visuals that anticipate later music/image films such as 'Koyaanisqatsi.'

• Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m.: The original 'Nosferatu' (1922). Celebrate Halloween by experiencing the original silent film adaptation of Bram Stoker's famous 'Dracula' story. Still scary after all these years—in fact, some critics believe this version is the best ever done, and has become creepier with the passage of time.

• Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m.: 'Broken Blossoms' (1919). Can two outcasts in Edwardian London find peace and happiness in a cruel world? Will Lillian Gish overcome her abusive father? Can Richard Barthelmess find love in a forbidden relationship? Great D.W. Griffith drama, with stellar performance from iconic silent actress Gish.

• Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 6:30 p.m.: Planes, Trains and Monty Banks. Rediscover forgotten silent comedian Monty Banks, born "Mario Bianchi" in Italy. In 'Flying Luck,' (1927), hapless aviator joins the U.S. Army Air Corps, with hilarious results. Preceded by an excerpt from 'Play Safe' (1927), a hair-raising chase sequence set aboard an out-of-control freight train.

'Three Ages' (1923) starring Buster Keaton will be screened with live music on Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 S. Main St., Plymouth, N.H. General admission $10 per person. For more info, visit or call (603) 536-2551.

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