Archive for the MUSIC Category

The St. Valentine’s Day Intertitle #1

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , on February 14, 2015 by dcairns


Friday Night at the Wash House (Portobello Community Centre) for a screening of THE BLACK PIRATE with music by the Jane Gardner Trio. Seen it before, and with the same accompaniment (wildly romantic, witty), but that was at a bandstand in broad daylight with the film “projected” on two screens rather like scoreboards. The Wash House turns out to be a terrific venue, with good sound and projection and a fun audience — a genuine community (apart from us) with plenty of old folks and kids, who all got into it and laughed in the right places and also spontaneously cheered at the grand climaxes.


Shona Thomson, introducing the show, also informed me that Donald Crisp, the comedy relief one-armed pirate sidekick (complete with tam-o-shanter and Scots dialect intertitles, was another BOGUS SCOTSMAN. There’s a plaque in his honour in Aberfeldy but he was actually born in East London, the swine. Just as with Chaplin’s hulking foe, Eric Campbell, we have a case of an actor who just liked the idea of being Scottish, and so reinvented himself.

(How different from Donald Sutherland, Canadian of Scots descent, who was mortified at the idea of being a Scot. “I thought, ‘If only I could be Irish or Jewish, that would at least be SOMETHING.'”)

Tonight, the Trio play once more, accompanying Buster Keaton’s ONE WEEK and SEVEN CHANCES — Fiona and I shall be there. What better way to celebrate romance than with a silent comedian being chased through Los Angeles by a hundred brides?


Although, admittedly, Doug’s proposal (top) is better than Buster’s (above).

I Was Hippodrome’s First Victim

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2015 by dcairns


I got an early heads-up on the programme for this year’s Hippodrome Festival of Silent Film, unspooling in scenic Bo’ness in March (18th-22nd), and it’s exciting stuff. I think the choices have been getting bolder each year as the films play to packed houses. It’s one thing to run Chaplin films with live music, it’s another to add Ozu to the mix. This year we have forgotten movie stars and filmmakers known to silent buffs but unfamiliar to the general public, but the loyal audiences of Bo’ness can be trusted to trust the Fest in turn and show up, knowing it’ll be worthwhile, even as a devoted crowd of silent movie buffs descends on the sleepy town for whing-ding, I believe it’s called.

Very excited about William S. Hart’s HELL’S HINGES, to be accompanied by Neil Brand and the Dodge Brothers. They performed along to BEGGARS OF LIFE last year and it was unbelievably entertaining. There’s still a lot of love for westerns among the older generation in Scotland so I think this chance to discover one of the earliest important cowboy stars will only create an appetite for more. This could be addressed further down the line with Tom Mix, Borzage’s early self-starring oaters, or THE COVERED WAGON and THE IRON HORSE.


The screening of ANNIE LAURIE pleases me greatly because it was something I suggested a couple of years ago — I have no idea if my hint found its way to the right ears, or if it’s just a coincidence. The Scottish connection makes it a natural choice, and Lillian Gish is overdue for an appearance. It’ll be great to finally see a good print, especially with the Technicolor sequence.

Also Scottish-themed, in a way, is Oscar-winner Kevin MacDonald’s documentary CHAPLIN’S GOLIATH, telling the story Eric Campbell (he of the eyebrows), who liked to claim he was from Dunoon (due west of Bo’ness on the opposite coast). Fresh information, as they call it, has since come to light, but I’m glad MacDonald got his Scottish-funded doc made before research cut the legs from under it… It’ll also be great to see the man-mountain E.C. on the big screen, menacing Charlie as usual.

Surprise choices CHILDREN OF NO IMPORTANCE and SALT FOR SVANETIA continue to broaden the fest’s scope in bold new directions. I’m excited about the rarely-seen SYNTHETIC SIN with Colleen Moore, and favourites PICCADILLY, THE NAVIGATOR and the Barrymore DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE all make appearances with exciting new music.

A shame there’s no Jane Gardner this year, but addicts can check out her trio at The Wash House, Portobello this weekend, with screenings of THE BLACK PIRATE on Friday and SEVEN CHANCES (with ONE WEEK) on Saturday. Yay!

That Inner Voice

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on February 7, 2015 by dcairns




Naturally, I bought a bunch of books when I was in New York earlier this week. I always find when I go to Strand that they have a gazillion books but nothing I need (though the first time I visited I was astonished to bump into Mark Cousins: two guys from Edinburgh in the film section, whaddayaknow?), whereas the lovely Mercer Street Books & Records is built on a human scale: there’s one row of shelves on film, and I can look through it in a leisurely and comfortable fashion with jazz playing, and always find at least four or five things I want. This time there were two nice books of interviews with film editors. One had Dede Allen and Anne V. Coates, but was more expensive. It’s probably still there, New Yorkers! I went for Gabriella Oldham’s First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors, the cheaper paperback. Opening it at random I looked at the piece of Sidney Levin, who cut NASHVILLE and a bunch of Martin Ritt films. I don’t know Ritt’s work well, so I wondered how interesting it would be. It was EXTREMELY interesting.

Oldham asks a question about music and gets an answer that dovetails into addressing Universal Artistic Principles.


Martin Ritt’s SOUNDER, edited by Sidney Levin.

“If you cut to the beat, you’re being predictable, which is okay. And it will help you if you want to pull the rug out from under the audience later by an unexpected change of rhythm; that’s fun to do. On an emotional scene, I will often cut rhythmically until something’s about to happen, then I’ll throw everything off so you get tripped. It’s the art of seduction. You’re always seducing. You’re seducing the audiences, your lovers, your readers. You’re seducing everybody into giving away their protection. By setting up a structure, you’re allowing them to be protected. Suddenly you pull the structure out, they’re unprotected but they feel safe, and that’s the art of seduction. Then you go ahead and do what you have to do. I don’t know if I can say any more than that because how can you articulate something that’s instinctive? You just know. And the process of becoming an artist is to trust when you know. The problem with many directors and producers is that they don’t know what they know! They see it, but they don’t believe it. They’re afraid to believe what they’ve seen. You have to learn to trust that inner voice that never lies. But if you’re full of fear, you can’t hear that voice. And then you’ll try to codify what it is that makes something right. You realize, of course, that can’t be done.”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 514 other followers