All aboard for silent film revival

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LOCALS will have the chance to join Hollywood star Buster Keaton for the ride of their life when the classic silent film ‘The General’ is screened on Friday.

Colinsburgh Community Cinema hopes to rekindle interest in the silent era by screening the classic action-comedy film to a new live score, written and played by pianist Dave Watt.

The non-profit cinema group has received a £900 culture grant from Fife Council to cover the additional costs of featuring a live musician, which doubled the cost to licence the screening of the film, as well as granting funding for the group to show another three films in 2012.

The cinema decided to show the classic film following popular screenings of ‘The General’ and Charlie Chaplin’s film ‘The Gold Rush’ in Newburgh, which were also accompanied live by Dave Watt.

Mr Watt, a member of the Diminished Fifth Jazz Band, said: “I hadn’t really appreciated the genius that went into making these films until I started playing for them.”

Mr Watt took a note of the scenes beforehand but improvised to a large extent while making the music.

He played to the film, rather than working out every detail of the score in advance, and added: “It was a very intense experience but a very enjoyable one.”

Mr Watt said Friday’s audience would be coming to watch the film rather than listen to him, so he hoped the music would feel like a part of the movie and contribute to the entertainment.

President of Colinsburgh Community Cinema Peter Marshall said: “I think the new live score to accompany this classic silent film will add a big, extra dimension of enjoyment for the audience.”

The film, first screened in 1926, was directed by and starred Buster Keaton. Set in America at the start of the Civil War, it follows the exploits of Southern engineer Johnny Gray, played by Keaton, who has two loves in his life – a locomotive called ‘The General’ and a demanding sweetheart called Annabelle Lee.

When Johnny attempts to sign up for the Confederate Army, he finds himself rejected - first by the army, which says he has more value as an engineer than a soldier, and secondly by Annabelle, who accuses him of being a coward for failing to fight.

But when his beloved locomotive is hijacked by Union soldiers, with Annabelle trapped on board, Johnny has a chance to prove how brave he really is.

•‘The General’ is on at Colinsburgh Town Hall on Friday, December 23 at 7.30pm.