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Sat, May 14

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Epsilon Spires

Buster Keaton: THE GENERAL w/ Pipe Organ Soundtrack by Ben Model

Inspired by a real-life chapter of Civil War history, THE GENERAL is a cinematic Tour de Force featuring miraculous stunts and comedic action executed with awe-inspiring precision. Live pipe organ soundtrack performed by Ben Model, one of the nation’s leading silent film accompanists!

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Buster Keaton: THE GENERAL w/ Pipe Organ Soundtrack by Ben Model
Buster Keaton: THE GENERAL w/ Pipe Organ Soundtrack by Ben Model

Time & Location

May 14, 2022, 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM

Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St, Brattleboro, VT 05301, USA

About the event

Our silent films with live soundtracks programming continues with: THE GENERAL, the pioneering 1926 masterpiece by comedian extraordinaire, Buster Keaton. *This Event is Appropriate for All-Ages!

"The greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made."

-Orson Wells

Consistently ranked among the most influental films of all time, Buster Keaton's 1926 masterpiece, THE GENERAL is so brilliantly conceived and executed that it continues to inspire awe and laughter with every viewing. An epic of silent comedy that includes an accurate historical recreation of a Civil War episode with hundreds of extras, dangerous stunt sequences, and an actual locomotive falling from a burning bridge into a gorge far below. It was inspired by a real event; the screenplay was based on the book "The Great Locomotive Chase,” written by William Pittenger, the engineer who was involved.

BEN MODEL is one of the nation’s leading silent film accompanists, and performs on both piano and theatre organ.

Over the past 35+ years Ben has created and performed live scores for several hundred silent films, films lasting anywhere from one minute to five hours. Ben is a resident film accompanist at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) and at the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus Theatre, and performs at theatres, museums, schools and other venues around the US and internationally. As a film programmer, Ben has co-curated film series for The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and co-programs a monthly silent film series at the Cinema Arts Center. This will be Ben Model's third cine-concert at Epsilon Spires, he has previously accompanied Metropolis, and Steamboat Bill Jr on our historic Estey pipe organ. Ben recently featured our Estey organ in his blog which you can read HERE.

Behind-The-Scenes Background On The Film: 

The General is admirably faithful to authenticity in costumes and props—the imagery evokes Matthew Brady’s Civil War photography—and its visual scope is not simply impressive, it is also dramatic and, at times, awe-inspiring. Keaton even learned to drive the engine himself and before long, according to the publicity of the time, he could stop the train on a dime. He plotted the comic geometry and action sequences in line with the design of the tracks and the landscape with exacting precision. There are no miniatures or rear-projection backdrops here. Every scene plays out on real engines charging past actual forests and hills, and the sequences depend on the intricate planning of a mechanical engineer—for instance, a snub-nose cannon that threatens to blow Johnnie Grey and his engine away until a fortuitous bend in the track provides a more opportune target.

For the scene in which Johnnie sets fire to a bridge to prevent the North’s engine from crossing the river, Keaton had his set designer construct a stunt trestle designed to collapse under the train’s weight. It was the only sequence that did not use existing track and it has been called the most expensive single shot in silent film history (Keaton biographies put the cost at $42,000). It is certainly the most expensive that Keaton ever executed. He had only one shot at the scene and ran six cameras to capture the spectacle. The engine that plunged into the river was one of the doubles used to stand in for the working engines and it rested there in the water, rusting away for 15 years until it was hauled out for salvage in the scrap drives of World War II.

Keaton counted The General among his favorite films and it has since been hailed a masterpiece. But, in 1926, it was not so well received. It faced harsh reviews and slow attendance, and thanks to a budget larger than any previous Keaton feature, it lost money. It took decades for its reputation to rise from failure to classic." 

-Sean Axmaker for the San Franscisco Silent Film Festival 

"Today I look at Keaton's works more often than any other silent films. They have such a graceful perfection, such a meshing of story, character and episode, that they unfold like music. Although they're filled with gags, you can rarely catch Keaton writing a scene around a gag; instead, the laughs emerge from the situation; he was “the still, small, suffering center of the hysteria of slapstick,” wrote the critic Karen Jaehne. And in an age when special effects were in their infancy, and a “stunt” often meant actually doing on the screen what you appeared to be doing, Keaton was ambitious and fearless. He had a house collapse around him. He swung over a waterfall to rescue a woman he loved. He fell from trains. And always he did it in character, playing a solemn and thoughtful man who trusts in his own ingenuity."

-Roger Ebert

Tickets

  • Children under 13

    Admission for one child under 13 to Buster Keaton Comedy with a live soundtrack accompanied by an adult. Please choose your seating with respect for others and let us know if you require special arrangements. $2 from every ticket goes directly towards the historic preservation of the venue. Thank you for your support! Enjoy the program

    $10.00
    Sale ended
  • Buster Keaton Comedy!

    Admission for one to Buster Keaton Comedy with a live soundtrack by Ben Model! Please choose your seating with respect for others and let us know if you require special arrangements. $2 from every ticket goes directly towards the historic preservation of the venue. Thank you for your support! Enjoy the program!

    $18.00
    Sale ended

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