The history of the pianola runs parallel with that of the silent film. This program presents a unique interplay of pianola music and the early cinema of the twentieth century. Given that the very sight of such an unmanned object as the pianola in action can be quite startling it seemed appropriate to gather a sequence of films that stress the very unpredictable nature of the everyday objects which we trust will stay dependable if not inanimate.
The Haunted Curiousity Shop (R.W. Paul, 1901, UK, 2 min.) An early effort from the British cinma pioneer which depicts one man’s hilarious or terrifying encounters, depending upon your disposition, in a shop of archaic wonders.
Object Lesson (Christopher Young, 1941, USA, 10 min.) A curious collection of images captured on arresting land and seascapes which attempts to meditate on history and civilization by dwelling upon the startling juxtaposition of particular objects.
The Thieving Hand (The Vitagraph Company, 1907, USA, 6 min.) The unpredictable object of the title is actually a prosthetic arm which is arranged for an armless beggar as an act of charity but function does not necessarily follow form in this case…
Now You’re Talking (Max and Dave Fleischer, 1927, USA 9 min.) The creators of the Out of the Inkwell and Betty Boop series attempting many experiments that meld live action photography and animation and often considered the plight of inanimate objects as in this melancholy threnody for the telephone…
Alice Chops the Suey(Walt Disney, 1926, USA, 7 min.) The earliest character developed by Walt Disney was actually a little girl named Alice as suggested by Lewis Carroll’s books, although Disney developed his own contemporary stories with the specific gimmick that Alice is an actual photographed girl while everything else around her in this wonderland is animated. Here, she and a cat companion wind up in a rather unsettling sort of Chinese restaurant.
The Blacksmith (Buster Keaton and Eddie Cline, 1922, USA, 20 min.) Master filmmaker and comedian Buster Keaton has by this time earned a serious reputation as a poet of twentieth century deadpan anxiety on a par with Franz Kafka. Here is one more masterful short film in which Keaton packs so much business and detail you have to look closely and here the objects all seem to come out ahead.
An Excerpt from Lady Windemere’s Fan (Ernst Lubitsch, 1925, USA, app 10 min.)
Lubitsch’s brilliant adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play starts by throwing out its raison d’etre of witty stage dialogue and replaces that with images of people and objects as seen by the various people and objects themselves… Here is a different proposition for our consideration of objectification and the unpredicatable…
Many a Slip (Charley Bowers, 1927, USA, 12 min.) Bowers was a unique creator that blended techniques and approaches from animation to live action and the curious inversion of logic concerning common objects was a particular specialty as was the mad designing or inventing of a complex device to arrive at this inverse proposition. The slip suggested in the title is the one that is usually taken on a banana peel that is usually taken in cliché comedies of the time so Bowers sets out boldly to reverse this banality.
From Hand to Mouth (Harold Lloyd with Hal Roach and Alfred J. Goulding, 1919, USA, 22 min.) The great comedian Harold Lloyd is best known for his Big City Safety Last films in which he constantly had to one up himself with ever greater dangers and perils. Here is an earlier work which shows the brilliant development of that style while depicting a shifting world of unpredictable things that are never as they were and thus it is sometimes hard to move forward.
Cinema Pianola, Unpredictable Objects, April 26,, 20.15 PM at the Pianola Museum on Westerstraat 106. Entrance: E12.50. Also check out the ICU2 events blog