Composer and musician Neil Brand brings a live show to the Electric Cinema as part of Flatpack Festival – Neil Brand Presents Laurel and Hardy is touring around the country, giving audiences a taste of Stan and Ollie’s work before they were paired together, and showing us what their double act was like before the development of sound cinema. The show culminates in screenings of two of their silent shorts, Big Business and Liberty, accompanied on the piano, of course, by Neil.
It’s a great introduction to both Laurel and Hardy and silent comedy in general, which thrives when accompanied live. Neil’s own passion for the duo, whose films he grew up with, is evident, describing their appeal to him and showing a clip of Stan, a drama he wrote about Stan visiting Ollie on his deathbed. He introduces us to the term “reciprocal destruction”, a term that brilliantly distills something you immediately realise you associate with both Laurel and Hardy and the cartoons their comedy inspired: when someone attacks an opponent, the assailant must then wait for the victim to attack them in return, only then returning fire, each volley increasing in aggression and destructive power, until chaos reigns. And although we take issue with one of the chosen clips, of an early Stan Laurel film that includes a gay stereotype that is used uncritically here to earn laughs, it’s a blip in an accomplished, well-constructed and entertaining show that we recommend you see.
Hippfest is how fans and admirers endearingly refer to the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival that takes place annually at Scotland’s oldest cinema – The Hippodrome, built in 1912, in Bo’ness. Under Alison Strauss’ guidance, the festival has become a force internationally, bringing to the UK newly discovered or newly restored silent classics, and presented in a varied and imaginative programme under the best conditions: with programme notes by leading scholars (Dina Iordanova, Charles Musser, David Cairns) with accompaniment by leading musicians (Neil Brand), sometimes with scores especially composed for the film (by the likes of John Sweeney and Dr. Chris Letcher), with introductions by specialists (Victor Fan), with an inclusive programme (this year including a strand on amateur filmmaking with a discussion lead by Melanie Selfe and Keith M. Johnston); guest speakers (Bryony Dixon, Lawrence Napper, Donald Smith); performers (Chris Letcher, Paul McGann, Meg Morley) and special events (Mark Kermode in Conversation with Neil Brand and Mike Hammond).
José has always wanted to go. This year was Richard’s second year at the event. We wanted to find out more; and who better to tell us than Ms. Silent London herself, Pamela Hutchinson, critic, curator, programmer, and also author of, amongst other gems, the BFI classic on Pandora’s Box.
The podcast may be listened to below:
Lead-in and Lead-out music in the podcast from the score to The Patsy by The Sprockets –