Scheduled on Tuesday April 10th at the unusual time of 12:30 pm and costing just a fiver, it sounds like a fun way to give everyone’s Tuesday a lift. Perhaps it is directed at moms dealing with school vacation week, but even for adults, who minds a few youngsters having fun when that is the whole idea behind Alloy’s work.
Dragging out the “Rack of Junk”
Alloy Orchestra has composed scores for full length films, but this time it is four shorter films that Terry Donahue, Roger Miller and Ken Winokur have been making some great new music for. Utilizing its famous “rack of junk”, they thrash and grind soulful music from an unusual combination of found percussion and state-of-the-art electronics that give the Orchestra the ability to create any sound imaginable in a spectacular variety of styles. They can be a musicologists nightmare: how do you explain a combination of Music for Elevators mixed with Spike Jones in a scholarly way?
The films to get the full Alloy treatment include:
Red Spectre (France, 1907), an impressive trick film was made for Pathé by Ferdinand Zecca and Segundo de Chomon. Works dealing with the netherworld and the supernatural were much in vogue at the time. The color was hand-screened on to each print by Pathé’s superb stencil process, introduced in 1904 and used throughout the silent film era. The original print from which this copy is reproduced was rescued for $25 from a junkyard in Guanajuato, Mexico.
Artheme Swallows his Clarinet (France, 1912) which was produced by the short-lived Eclipse Company. Few Eclipse films survive, and when this delightful comedy was found, the print was decomposed along the edges and the end had melted away. Ten years later, another print miraculously surfaced, free of rot but very choppy. This edition is digitally reconstructed from both, almost frame by frame.
Dream of a Rarebit Fiend: The Pet (1921) based on a 1904 strip by Winsor McCay (renowned for such comic strips as Little Nemo in Slumberland) features a character who claims his horrible nightmares were caused by eating Welsh rarebit (a highly seasoned dish made with melted cheese and beer). In 1911 McCay began film animation, personally drawing every frame on rice paper. He made four films based upon his Rarebit Fiend series; note the amazingly complex pan across the city following the monster, when the sky is filled with planes and a zeppelin, each freshly-drawn for every frame!
One Week which stars Buster Keaton, Sybil Seely, and Joe Roberts, was released just one month before Keaton’s first feature length film, The Saphead. It was an immediate hit and Keaton himself commented that One Week was, more than any other film in his career, responsible for putting him at the forefront of the silent comedians. Like so much of his work, this film contrasts Keaton’s deadpan facade with hilarious physical comedy and stunning sets and mechanical gags. Actress Sybil Seely’s sweet and supportive character is the perfect foil for “old stoneface.”
Vintage still images are seen at the start and scattered throughout the program. These are reproduced from original 3.25 by 4 inch glass slides which were shown in theaters throughout the silent era to admonish and advise audiences, promote coming attractions, and advertise local merchants. The slide attachment was sometimes part of the movie projector, so both were illuminated by the same carbon arc light source; sometimes the slide projector was a separate machine that was also capable of special effects, such as projected clouds or stars.
The event takes place in the Hunter Center of Mass MoCA on April 10 at 12:30 pm. No reservations needed. Tickets are $5.00 per person. Alloy Orchestra has performed at film festivals and cultural centers in the US and abroad (The Telluride Film Festival, The Louvre, Lincoln Center, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the National Gallery of Art and others) Alloy helps revive some great and unusual films of the silent era.