Buster Keaton Night with talk by Neil Brand
Last month’s event was a real treat. Neil Brand, composer, author and presenter of BBC Four’s Sound of Cinema: The Music that Made the Movies presented a night of Buster Keaton at The Garden City Cinema.
Using clips and photos from Buster’s films and life Neil Brand offers a view into Keaton’s motivation and innovation when it comes to his style of filmmaking and comedy. Most people are aware of Keaton as an actor but Brand’s talk, which comes across more as a conversation than a lecture, enlightens those not in the know to his directorial skills. Keaton understood the camera and was able to dabble to some early camera trickery including undercranking, which involves filming at a slower frame rate so that the action is sped up when played back and clever editing cuts.
Keaton’s comic timing is spot on and his facial expressions, or lack thereof, make him the straight man to his own comedic foil. Brand says Keaton has “a dancer’s ability” when it comes to the physicality of his acting. Having started in vaudeville at a very young age, Keaton had learned over the years how to take a fall, how to use his body as part of the comedy and even if it meant putting his life in danger, it was always worth the risk.
Neil Brand is not just a fan of Buster Keaton, he talks about his skill as a comedian and filmmaker with warmth and understanding giving a clear insight into one of comedy’s most iconic figures in silent cinema.
An accomplished musician Brand is well known as a silent film music accompanist and the music he played during last night’s screening of Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill Jr was outstanding. Having live accompaniment helps to take you back in time, the authentic experience. How these silent classics were meant to be seen and heard.
I feel it’s important that events like these that celebrate the early start of cinema continue. In my opinion you cannot call yourself a cinephile without an appreciation and or knowledge of silent film. This is where it all started. We wouldn’t have the blockbuster extravaganzas that we have today if not for the people who pushed boundaries back when cinema was in it’s infancy.
Neil Brand is touring with his Buster Keaton night so keep an eye on his website (www.neilbrand.com) for your chance to catch this superb talk and beautifully restored silent comedy classic.