WALT STRONY PLAYS FOR “THE CAMERAMAN”
Buster Keaton’s favorite film, “The Cameraman,” will screen for FREE at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 22, at PEACE. Nationally acclaimed organist Walt Strony will perform a score he has assembled especially for the film.
Keaton directed and starred in “The Cameraman,” released in 1928 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, now known as MGM. It marked the pinnacle of Keaton’s creative genius, displaying both the comedy and the pathos of “Great Stone Face.” Organist Strony plans live music that will underscore the emotions and actions on screen.
“It’s one of my favorite Buster Keaton films because it’s funny, yet it shows an emotional side to Keaton that you almost never see” in other films, Strony says. “Keaton is the master of deadpan humor, and yet there are scenes where his facial expressions show genuine sadness — but, then it gets funny again!
“And in true silent-era fashion, the major battle scene during tong war has gun smoke everywhere and windows breaking with people shooting at each other,” Strony adds. “Yet, no one seems to get wounded!”
A free reception will follow the concert-screening. “The Cameraman” is a production of Arts @ PEACE, the church’s program of cultural events both secular and sacred in western Nevada County.
Strony is returning silent film to western Nevada County after an absence of many decades in the Arts @ PEACE series, “Silent Movies with Walt Strony.” He performs at silent film festivals around the nation.
Peace is at 828 W. Main St., near downtown Grass Valley. The church offers ample parking and easy handicapped access.
WATCH FOR THE MONKEY
The premise of “Cameraman” relies on a news format that many locals will remember: the newsreel. These short films depicting current events typically opened every movie-house feature and were common in the United States until the late 1960s.
“Keaton’s character is trying to break into that career. He falters until, by chance, the girl he had fallen in love with and who works at a newsreel company gives him a tip that there may be a tong war,” Strony says. The film also is famous for a hilarious scene in a beachside changing room that underscores Keaton’s emphasis on sight gags. And, a trained monkey becomes his sidekick, playing a major role in the action.
Strony plans to highlight the comedy in that and other scenes, notably the tong fight, by contrasting it with appropriate and authentic silent movie music. Event-goers can listen for less-familiar selections from Amilcare Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” and Albert Ketèlbey’s “In a Chinese Temple Garden.”
“The music is very campy,” Strony promises. “This is pure comedy.”