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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Silent movies + Live music

I had the chance to do a bit of time travel last night, visiting the Palace of Fine Arts for an evening of silent films with live music.

It felt like the chimes of coincidence were ringing in perfect tune...the Palace was built in 1915, and the movies being screened were also made in that year (one was from 1916). Also, the star of the three films was Roscoe `Fatty' Arbuckle, who in 1921 was arrested and accused of rape and murder after a three-day party at the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square. (Arbuckle was eventually exonerated after three trials, but the publicity, fueled by San Francisco Examiner publisher William Randolph Hearst, ended his career.)

The movies, "Adrift," "Mabel's Wilful Way," and "Fatty's Plucky Pup," are hugely entertaining and inventive. (It was my first time seeing all three.) You can practically feel everyone involved straining against the limits of what the camera could do and the film could capture. "Adrift" has some beautiful shots of Fatty and Mabel's cottage floating on the ocean, and "Mabel's" had a nice bit of backward footage that came as a sweet surprise.

Dave Douglas, the jazz trumpeter who has composed scores for these and other Arbuckle films, is heading off for a European tour, so if you're on that continent, catch him in Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Span, or Lithuania. It's a stupendous show.