The Sound of Silence

Amidst the birthday and other holiday gatherings that pop up on my Facebook invite page, once in a while I'll spot an interesting public event. One of my friends is an organist, and recently, he posted about the local organist group's fundraiser, which immediately caught my attention. And not just because of the promised wine and hors d'oeuvre! The group was also screening a silent movie, for which there would be live organist accompaniment, to approximate the movie-going experience back in the day.

The movie chosen was 1924's Hot Water, starring Harold Lloyd, who was immensely popular at the time. In introducing the movie, the event organizer told the audience a fun fact I'd never heard before: That organists were free to improvise whatever music they felt complemented the film. I'd always assumed that silent movies came with a pre-written score for the organist to play. I had no idea that every individual organist was given free rein to interpret and adapt the themes. Just as a thought experiment, imagine what it would be like if every theater showing Gravity had had a different score. Amazing.

The movie itself was a gas. See, I'm already speaking as if I live in 1924! I was half-expecting it to be a bit stale and dated, but it genuinely made me laugh. It's only about an hour long, and though there's a thin storyline running throughout, it's mostly an excuse to present a few vignettes. Lloyd plays a young husband just trying to lead a normal, pleasant life with his new bride. Mishaps and hijinks ensue. First, there's the matter of trying to get home on the trolley with an armful of groceries, including -- wait for it -- a live turkey. Then, it's time for a relaxing drive in the new car with his wife, her mother and brother, and...some pre-Dennis the Menace neighbor brat, maybe? At dinner, Lloyd accidentally chloroforms his mother-and-law, and mistakenly believes that he has killed her. So, lots of pratfalls and misunderstanding abound, and happily, they all easily translate to modern sensibilities (except maybe bottles of chloroform lying around the house).

The organist was great, too; all of his music choices fit the mood of the movie perfectly. Honestly, I mostly went to this event out of curiosity. It seemed like a different way to see a movie, and I wanted to at least make an attempt at experiencing what it was like to go to the movies in the '20s. I wasn't really expecting to get a kick out of the movie itself, and I've never been happier to be wrong. It wound up being a really fun film and a fun evening, and as a bonus, I got to see it in an era with internet and plentiful sushi restaurants.

Hot Water: B+


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