The Goat and the Silent Film Revival

Richard McKay Conducts Dallas Chamber Symphony Feb 16 2016 THE GOAT. Photo by Jeffry Chaffin[/caption]
Richard McKay Conducts Dallas Chamber Symphony Feb 16 2016 THE GOAT. Photo by Jeffry Chaffin

In 2012, Dallas VideoFest presented the silent film Man with a Movie Camera accompanied by composer Jack Waldenmaier's brilliant score. That set off a new interest in reviving these cherished silent films for a new audience. That same year Austin band My Education played their score for Sunrise at the Texas Theatre.

I have had the privilege of experiencing these masterful performances and, thanks to the Dallas Chamber Symphony (DCS), there will be more silent film screenings for North Texas to enjoy. I recently took my daughter to see The Goat, a silent film starring the disparate comedian Buster Keaton. It was really an experiment to see if performances that rely on the combination of classical music and vigorous physical comedy could appeal to a ten year old. Fortunately for the experiment, the event at the Dallas City Performance Hall included an audience of elementary and middle school kids from the local Boys and Girls Club.

What we sat through is a brilliantly funny film. Keaton was so unique in his particular style of comedy. Very few, even to this day, can pull off that physicality. In 'The Goat,' Keaton finds himself in some sticky situations. His character becomes a victim of mistaken identity and is hunted down by the police. The process of pulling himself out of the dark clouds that seem to follow him is an art. I watched the audience's reactions, and they wholeheartedly bought into it. My daughter's eyes never turned away from the screen. The chorus of giggles became an extension of the symphony.

Credit has to also be given to the DCS, conducted by Richard McKay, and film composer Jon Kull. Kull has worked with masters like the late great James Horner on films like 'Avatar and 'The Amazing Spider-Man.' His companion piece to 'The Goat' was just the right kind of funny and dramatic to keep the audience captivated. These collaborations between the film and music world keep classic films alive.

Those who missed these films can check out the DCS website for future screenings. The next big event is the Sight of Sound Film & Music Festival April 19.

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