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The Mont Alto Orchestra's schedule of silent films and dances

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EVENT DETAILS

March 28, 2015

The Marriage Circle

Louisville Center for the Arts

Spruce and Grant
Louisville, Colorado

7:30 p.m. •  $10

I will be playing piano for this charming Ernst Lubitsch film. The Marriage Circle is a comedy of misplaced attraction, centered around two married couples in Vienna. Professor Stock wants a divorce, and his wife Mizzi wants the excitement of illicit romance. When Mizzi decides to seduce her best friend's husband, it livens up all of their lives in ways none of them expect. This was a ground-breaking comedy, with humor derived from reactions and adult situations. It shows a refreshing lack of Victorian attitudes on the part of all of the characters. Incidents that would have thrown D.W. Griffith's pure-of-thought virgins into a faint, are met here with just a wry, knowing smile.

April 24, 2015

The Thief of Bagdad

Denver, CO

7:30 p.m. •  $12
Davis Auditorium
Sturm Hall

Denver University Campus

The Denver Silent Film Festival has an amazing lineup of films this year. The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra will open the festivities with Denver-native Douglas Fairbanks' most ambitious adventure film.

The Thief of Bagdad (1924) is a sweeping spectacle based on tales of the Arabian Nights. An amoral street thief catches a glimpse of true love, and in order to marry a princess must become a prince and defeat an evil Mongol emporer. Fairbanks' quest leads him through magical dangers by means of a magic rope, a flying carpet, a winged horse, a crystal ball, and even an invisibility cloak. Massive set pieces and an astounding art-deco city-scape make no attempt at realism, but aim directly at eternal myths, the oriental land of our dreams.

April 24, 2015

Bed and Sofa

Denver, CO

7:30 p.m. •  $12
Davis Auditorium
Sturm Hall

Denver University Campus

Here is a great Soviet film with neither revolution nor tractor. Daring for its time (or any time), Bed and Sofa is the story of a love triangle between a woman and two men living together in a one-room basement apartment in 1927 Moscow. When Liuda becomes pregnant and no one knows which husband is the father, she must determine her own future. With an involving plot, comic invention, pathos, naturalistic performances, and highly-charged use of space and objects, director Abram Room illuminates the lives of the characters but without offering a simplistic resolution. Instead he successfully uses their personal stories to probe complex issues of lingering patriarchy and female self-sufficiency in the new Society.

April 25, 2015

The Birth of a Nation

Denver, CO

1:00 p.m. •  $12
Davis Auditorium
Sturm Hall

Denver University Campus

This year marks the 100th anniversary of what may be the most problematic film ever made (so far at least). It's essentially the first feature film made in the United States. It's the subject of a Supreme Court decision that movies were simply commercial products and therefore were not entitled to the protections of the First Amendment, a ruling that lasted until 1953. The Birth of a Nation is without question a film of thorough cinematic genius - Griffith's understanding of huge spaces, his ability to choreograph movement, his genius as an editor, his balance of the personal and the epic, his understanding of the emotional side of history - and the list of the film's accomplishments can go on. At the same time, The Birth of a Nation is a deeply racist work. Griffith's blacks are happy in slavery and dangerously wild when freed; they're incapable of government and, worst of all, the men obsessively covet white women. This film set up a powerful paradigm that dominated much white thought about African-Americans for decades, and, unhappily, continues. The brilliance of the filmmaking and the horror of its attitudes cannot be reconciled, but the film is both a monument of cinema and an essential element of American history. It must be seen.

This presentation will be accompanied by Rodney Sauer and Hank Troy at the piano, changing at the intermission.

April 25, 2015

The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg

Denver, CO

1:00 p.m. •  $12
Davis Auditorium
Sturm Hall

Denver University Campus

Romantic but never cloying, this 1927 film will convert almost anyone into a lover of silent cinema. The wonder and sizzle of Old Heidelberg comes from the imaginative direction of the great Ernst Lubitsch, the sweet and winning performances of Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer, equally strong supporting players, superb photography and outstanding art direction supported by an enormous budget. The story is familiar, thanks to the beautiful Romberg-Donnelly operetta The Student Prince (although MGM, seeing no reason to buy hit music for a silent movie, based its script upon the 1902 source novel). Reducing the plot to its bones: Prince Karl Heinrich goes to Heidelberg for an education, falls in love with Kathi, an entrancing commoner, but must finally yield to the inevitable call of royal duty. Ernst Lubitsch was uniquely gifted at thinking in pictures and every scene offers delight in its revelation. One example: when Karl Heinrich and Kathi are first in love, they move left to right under a series of arches supported by columns while the moving camera keeps on them from outside. The camera keeps moving, but the lovers don't emerge from behind one of the columns. The camera stops to wait and a dachshund trots into the frame, right to left. The dog sees behind the column and embarrassed, turns back and exits.

This film will be accompanied by Rodney Sauer on piano, using themes from the Romberg operetta.

May 9, 2015

Silent Short Comedies

11 a.m. at the George Reynold's Branch Library

3 p.m. at the Meadows Branch Library

free!

The Boulder Public Library presents two screenings of a program of short comedies, accompanied by me on piano. These will be held in two of the BPL's branch libraries.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of serial adventuress Helen Holmes, I'll be presenting an episode of The Hazards of Helen. Plus, a short (The Electric House) by Buster Keaton, and a truly bizarre and inexplicable comedy from Charley Bowers.

May 10, 2015

Tea Dance

Avalon Ballroom
6185 Arapahoe Ave
Boulder

2 - 5 pm •$15 / $10 students / volunteers free!

Tango, onestep, waltz, and foxtrot to the sounds of the Mont Alto Ragtime and Tango Orchestra, with singer Susan Rogers. A free lesson will be given at 1 pm by Jim X. Borzym. The Avalon Ballroom is the largest and most pleasant dance floor in Boulder County, and the music is excellently played and eminently danceable.

May 28-31, 2015

San Franicisco Silent Film Festival

Castro Theater
San Francisco, CA

Fun, fun, fun! Five days of silent film at the best film festival in the world. Best movies, best projection, best audience, best venue, best collection of musicians. Be there. Look for more listings here (and at silentfilm.org) when the schedule is published.

June 10, 2015

Chicago

Chautauqua Auditorium
South of Baseline and 9th
Boulder, CO

7:30 pm

Like the musical Chicago that won the Best Picture Academy Award and five other Oscars in 2002, this original 1927 version descends from a 1926 hit Broadway play by Maurine Watkins. It's a terrifically entertaining mix of humor and melodrama as well as a pungent critique of trash journalism. Frank Urson signed Chicago as director, although it is substantially the work of Cecil B. DeMille and his A-list technical staff. Chicago is silent filmmaking at its peak. The 1927 Chicago was long believed a lost film, but a perfect print survived in Cecil B. DeMille's private collection. Restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive in 2006, it has since been widely performed to rapturous audiences.

July 26, 2015

Ramona

The Rialto Theater
Loveland, CO

Ramona (Dolores Del Rio) is the ward of a wealthy ranch owner in early California. Though courted by the ranch owner's son, she falls in love with an Indian sheep shearer -- but this leads her into a world of racial discrimination. Based on the hugely popular and influential 1884 novel by Helent Hunt Jackson, this film was considered lost for decades, but thanks to the Czech Film Archive and the Library of Congress, a new English language print was made available in 2014.

June 30, 2015

Steamboat Bill, Jr

Chautauqua Auditorium
South of Baseline and 9th
Boulder, CO

7:30 pm

Tough riverboat captain Steamboat Bill (Ernest Torrance) meets his long-lost son, who turns out to be college dandy Buster Keaton. Buster is a disappointment until a hurricane gives him a chance to prove his mettle. Wonderful comedy set pieces and an amazing stunt-filled finale make this a wildly entertaining comedy.

This will be screend from our newly-acquired tinted 16mm Killiam print of this film.

And yes, in a break with past Chautauqua tradition, this screening will be on a Tuesday!

July 22, 2015

People on Sunday

Chautauqua Auditorium
South of Baseline and 9th
Boulder, CO

7:30 pm

Four young Berliners enjoy their weekend in the parks around the city in this unusual realist film about working people flirting and enjoying their day off. The principals were non-actors basically playing themselves, but behind the camera was a who's who list of Germans who -- after fleeing rising Nazi-ism -- became major talents in Hollywood, including Billy Wilder, Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ullmer, and Fred Zinneman.

"It really can't be emphasized enough how much of a delight it is to watch People on Sunday. The mood is buoyant, but laced with a hint of underlying cynicism, the camerawork graceful and accomplished, the performances unassuming. It's an auspicious, if ultimately atypical, work from a collaborative group of future filmmaking stars... People on Sunday certainly sounds interesting from an academic standpoint, but it's also a totally enchanting film experience—a quality that will likely catch a number of viewers by surprise." -- Dusty Somers, Blog Critics

Mont Alto was first commissioned to create the score for the Telluride Film Festival, and then recorded their score for the Criterion BluRay edition of the film.

August 17, 2015

The Trail of '98

Chautauqua Auditorium
South of Baseline and 9th
Boulder, CO

7:30 pm

The "Silent Cinema Trio," featuring pianist Hank Troy, percussionist Ed Contreras, and accordionist Rodney Sauer, will create a new score for this often overlooked epic from 1928. Based on a wildly melodramatic novel by Robert Service, the poet of the Klondike, the film follows the fortunes of gold hunters trying to strike it rich in Alaska in 1898, but facing the perils of Arctic conditions, snow, wolves, avalanches, exposure, and unscrupulous claim-jumpers.

The movie was partly shot in Boulder County, where arctic tundra was easily accessible by the Rollins Pass railroad, only recently bypassed by the Moffat Tunnel. Rollins Pass stands in for the daunting Chilkoot Pass, and Colorado's Arkansas River was used to film the dangerous White Horse rapids of the Yukon River.

The Trail of '98 stars Dolores del Rio, Ralph Forbes, Karl Dane, and Harry Carey.