Summer Shorts
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Summer Shorts

Making music with silent stars.

Still from Safety Last!

It’s a standard line used by film professors just about everywhere, but it’s worth repeating: silent films were never all that silent. Of course, though DVD reissues tend to bundle such films with newly recorded soundtracks (we’re especially fond of the deliriously strange Giorgio Moroder soundtrack to Metropolis, which features Freddie Mercury and Loverboy, among others), nothing quite beats live piano accompaniment. Enter composer and pianist Robert Bruce, who, for the fifth time, takes his accompanist talents to the vintage halls of Trinity-St. Paul’s Church, where he has previously brought films like F.W. Murnau’s 1926 masterpiece Faust to life.

At present, the full program hasn’t been announced, though Bruce promises to score four classic comedy shorts from each of the masters: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Harry Langdon. We can only hope Lloyd’s Safety Last! from 1923 makes the cut. Featured and digitally recreated in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, the aptly titled film is a marvel of stunt work, most famous for the moment when the star, doing his own stunts, perilously dangles off a skyscraper from the hands of a clock as part of a building-climbing promotion gone awry.

Whatever films Bruce settles on, the selection is sure to be a revealing sampler of four rather different comedic talents. There’s a lot of ground to cover, from the ever-resourceful Lloyd, to the baby-faced Langdon, to the put-upon Chaplin, to the deadpan but deeply expressive Keaton. And the event is happening in the right place: a venue admired for its acoustics.