Arts & Leisure

Buster Keaton comedy concludes silent film series

BUSTER KEATON STARS in 'College' (1927), a silent film comedy to be screened with live music on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center.

A VINTAGE POSTER for ‘College’ (1927), a silent film comedy starring Buster Keaton to be screened with live music on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center.

BRANDON — He never smiled on camera, earning him the nickname of “the Great Stone Face.” But Buster Keaton’s comedies rocked Hollywood’s silent era with laughter throughout the 1920s.

Acclaimed for their originality, clever visual gags, and amazing stunts, Keaton’s films remain popular crowd-pleasers today. See for yourself with a screening of ‘College’ (1927), one of Keaton’s landmark feature films, on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall.

‘College’ follows the story of a hapless university bookworm (Keaton) who is forced to become a star athlete to win the attention of his dream girl. Can Buster complete the transformation in time to woo her from his rival? And along the way, can he also rescue the campus from sports-related shame?

The film was released in 1927, at the crest of a national fascination with college life. In addition to being a great Keaton comedy, ‘College’ offers vintage glimpses into what higher education was like nearly a century ago.

Keaton, along with Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, stands today as one of the silent screen’s three great clowns. Some critics regard Keaton as the best of all. Roger Ebert wrote in 2002, that “in an extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, (Keaton) worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies.”

As a performer, Keaton was uniquely suited to the demands of silent comedy. Born in 1895, he made his stage debut as a toddler, joining his family’s knockabout vaudeville act and learning to take falls and do acrobatic stunts at an early age. A remarkable pantomime artist, Keaton naturally used his whole body to communicate emotions from sadness to surprise. And in an era with no post-production special effects, Keaton’s acrobatic talents enabled him to perform all of his own stunts, including some spectacular examples in ‘College.’

SILENT FILM ACCOMPANIST Jeff Rapsis will provide a live musical score to Buster Keaton’s ‘College’ (1927), a send-up of campus life to be screened on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center.

In reviving Keaton’s ‘College,’ the Brandon Town Hall shows silent film as it was meant to be seen — in restored prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience. “All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience,” said Rapsis, who will accompany the film. “Recreate those conditions, and classics of early Hollywood, such as ‘College,’ leap back to life in ways that audiences still find entertaining.”

Rapsis performs on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra, creating a traditional “movie score” sound. He improvises the complete score in real time during the screening.

“Creating a movie score on the fly is kind of a high-wire act, but it can often make for more excitement than if everything is planned out in advance,” Rapsis said, also encouraging people unfamiliar with silent film to give ‘College’ a try.

“If you haven’t seen a silent film the way it was intended to be shown, then you’re missing a unique experience,” he said. “At their best, silent films still do connect with cinema-goers. They retain a tremendous power to cast a spell, engage an audience, tap into elemental emotions, and provoke strong reactions.”

For more information, visit www.brandontownhall.com. For more about the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com. The screening is sponsored by local residents Lucy and Dick Rouse, Edward Loedding and Dorothy Leysath, Sam and Sharon Glaser, Peter and Louise Kelley, and Bar Harbor Bank and Trust.

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