The Reel Film Society is the newest film-inspired club on campus. This group of cinephiles, in combination with the Film Studies department, has planned a biweekly programme of essential film screening from the history of world cinema in the cosy and convenient confines of St Salvator’s School 3. The events plan to include Q&A sessions, guest speakers, and discussion (over a drink obviously) after each screening.
I popped into the inaugural event to check out what the society was all about. The bill for the night was a double feature of two silent films: Double Whoopee (1929) and The Last Laugh (1924). I was familiar with Laurel and Hardy, and their slapstick jaunts, but hadn’t known anything about The Last Laugh. I wasn’t altogether thrilled by the prospect of the event – I like film, but silent movies never really keep me engaged. With that in mind, what I came to experience was wholly unexpected.
Impressively, the Reel Film Society arranged for Jane Gardner, and her trio named The Steamboat Bill, JR to travel from Edinburgh to provide live music to accompany both films. Gardner most recently worked on Disney’s BRAVE and in the last year worked with musician and multi-instrumentalist Kurt Vile.
Double Whoopee was what one would expect from a Laurel and Hardy film, however this particular feature was the first to have voice dubbed in over top, which is pretty cool trivia and may explain its inclusion. The orchestral arrangement accompanying the film was spot on – it included the perfect amount of silly sounds to narrate the dilemmas the two affable protagonists find themselves in.
However, The Last Laugh, for me, was the much more interesting choice. This film, directed by F.W. Murnau, acts as a powerful insight into 1920s Germany, exploring themes of capitalism, lavishness and the changing culture of pre-war Germany. Again, the addition of the live music was exceptional; the orchestral trio provided rich sounds that greatly complemented the polarising images of excess, greed, and poverty, alike.
The Q&A at the end of the screening was also very interesting and insightful. It turns out the orchestral arrangement is often improvised and often spontaneous – which I never would have guessed.
The society has planned screenings of Deep Red (1975) next Thursday 13 February, a genuinely terrifying and excellently directed Italian horror film. If you are at all interested in film or film history, this event provides a great avenue for exploring films that you might not otherwise have had the opportunity to see. School 3 is also an excellent venue, its stadium seating and large screen actually make it feel like a cinema experience. At the very least, these biweekly events offer a sophisticated and inexpensive (free) night out.