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Silent Film Comes to Bainbridge Island as BIMA presents the Frank Buxton Silent Film Festival

Bainbridge Island Museum of Art in collaboration with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) is proud to present the debut of the Frank Buxton Silent Film Festival, a two-day cinematic excursion exploring the pleasures, history and lost art of American silent film. Spanning classic comedies, dramatic features and rare cinematic treats, these film classics are brought to life with live piano or ensemble accompaniment and original scores. Selected to draw attention to the powerful chemistry that exists between the cinematic image and music, these offerings are outstanding examples of how musical scoring can be more powerful than dialogue, imbuing the cinematic material with rich significance and expression. The Frank Buxton Film Festival takes place Friday and Saturday, November 16 and 17 at BIMA’s Buxton Auditorium.

The Festival is a tribute to Frank Buxton, a longtime champion, advocate and appreciator of the arts. During his lifetime, Frank made significant contributions in film, television, comedy and theater. Beyond his own contributions, Frank was a consummate champion, advocate, historian and fan of the work of other artists. He particularly delighted in sharing special work with others, increasing their understanding and appreciation of adventurous, excellent and innovative cinematic works. The Festival is made possible through contributions in memory of Frank Buxton, including Capital Group Private Reserve, Perkins Coie Law Firm, and VWC Business Management.

The Festival is curated by his friend and program collaborator John Ellis, with collaboration from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. In celebration of the festival, BIMA’s Orientation Gallery will feature a three-week exhibition of rare and historical posters, photos and ephemera from the Silent Film era from Buxton’s extensive collection.

Tickets will be available at the door prior to each screening. Ticket proceeds will help underwrite the year-round film program at BIMA, which Frank Buxton championed.

The Festival offers special thanks to John Ellis, Rob Byrne and the leadership at San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Rachelle Benbow, Joe Lumarda, Jovino Santos Neto, Erin O’Hara, and Seattle Theater Group’s Vicky Lee.

WEEKEND PROGRAM

Friday, November 16, 7:30pm

Blackmail (1929) Alfred Hitchcock’s silent film, starring Anny Ondre, with original score from Erin O’Hara

The Frank Buxton Silent Film Festival kicks off with a rare screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s silent version of Blackmail, one of his earliest and most atmospheric films. The dark drama is orchestrated by Erin O’Hara, who created the entire score from the point of view of Alice, Anny Ondre’s character who murders her would be rapist with a bread knife. With an ensemble of electric and acoustic instruments and voices, O’Hara expresses the interior voice of heroine Alice, as she navigates her way through a journey of assault, survival and the murky search for justice. One reviewer said, “Her soundtrack is both a singular contribution to Hitchcock’s art and a bold rejoinder to it.

Saturday, November 17, 10:00am

Classic Comedy Shorts: One Week (1920), The Immigrant (1917), Battle of the Century (1927) – Delightful musical accompaniment is provided by “Miles and Karina” – David Miles Keenan and Nova Karina Devonie.

This lively selection features three of the most memorable, classic comedic works of the silent repertoire. In One Week, Buster Keaton and Sybil Seeley star as newlyweds who receive a portable house as a wedding gift. This vintage physical comedy gets more and more improbable as he tries to construct the house, and then move it.

Written and directed by Charlie Chaplin, The Immigrant is an American silent romantic comedy short. Chaplin‘s Tramp character is an immigrant coming to the United States, who is accused of theft on the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, and falls in love with a beautiful young woman along the way. The film has was deemed to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” and it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. 

The selections culminate in a special screening of the restored version of Laurel & Hardy’s The Battle of the Century. The hilarious film claims a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for famously using over 3,000 creampies in the film’s climactic pie fight. For many years its second reel, containing the fight, only survived in fragments that were included in the documentaries of Robert Youngson, but the complete reel was rediscovered in 2015 and restored.

 

Saturday, November 17, 2:00pm

Louise Brooks Tribute: It’s the Old Army Game (1926), Now We’re In the Air (1927) – Delightful musical accompaniment is provided by “Miles and Karina” – David Miles Keenan and Nova Karina Devonie.

It’s the Old Army Game is an American silent comedy film starring W. C. Fields and Louise Brooks. The “army game” is another word for the shell game, a con-trick which W. C. Fields observes being played. This uproarious silent film is a non-stop comedy of errors. Fields plays Elmer Prettywillie, a druggist kept awake by clamorous garbage collectors, a nosy woman seeking a 2-cent stamp, bogus land deals, and phony fortunes.

BIMA’s proud to present a special feature that’s been “Saved From the Flames.” Long believed to be a lost film, fragments of Now We’re in the Air featuring Raymond Hatton and Wallace Beery, were discovered through the work of SFSFF’s Robert Byrne. A search through a Czech archive revealed an incomplete and badly deteriorated 22 minutes of the film, suffering nitrate decomposition, out-of-order scenes and Czech-language titles in place of the original American titles. Byrne spent more than eight months reconstructing the surviving material, including restoring the film’s original English-language inter-titles and original tinting. The preserved print was shown for the first time at SFSFF on June 2, 2017. The delightful World War I comedy follows a pair of fliers who wander onto a battlefield near the front lines and get tangled up with a traveling circus and a spy.

 

Saturday, November 17, 7:30pm

The Unknown (1927) – with original score composed and performed live by Jovino Santos Neto Quarteto.

The Unknown is an American silent horror film directed by Tod Browning, a story of yearning, frustration, resentment and betrayal. Lon Chaney stars as carnival knife thrower “Alonzo the Armless” and Joan Crawford is the scantily clad carnival girl he hopes to marry. The film is brought to life by a live score composed and performed by Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto, a five-piece local jazz ensemble led by Brazilian jazz pianist Jovino Santos Neto. Neto offers a fresh take on the musical conventions of silent film accompaniment by mining the deep, dark melancholy conveyed by the actors’ facial expressions to create a 50-minute suite that blends sounds, textures and improv from vibraphone, bandoneon, bass, drums, percussion, piano, flute, melodica and electronics. Special thanks to Seattle Theater Group. Join film-goers for a short after-party.