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Silent film comedian Buster Keaton stars in “The General,” which will be shown with live musical accompaniment at Epsilon Spires.

The Arts

Epsilon Spires hosts family-friendly showing of Buster Keaton’s ‘The General’

BRATTLEBORO—Audiences of all ages are invited to a screening of Buster Keaton’s comedic masterpiece The General (1926) on the evening of Saturday, May 14th. The film will be presented with a live pipe organ soundtrack by Ben Model, one of the nation’s leading silent film accompanists.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back to Epsilon Spires and to Brattleboro for this silent film event,” Model said in a new release.

Model previously provided live soundtracks for the films Metropolis and Steamboat Bill, Jr. at Epsilon Spires. “The Estey pipe organ and the acoustics in the space are wonderful, both for music and for comedy,” he adds.

The General, starring and co-directed by the silent film legend Buster Keaton, is described as an ambitious retelling of a real event from the Civil War, when a locomotive called “The General’’ was captured and then recaptured by opposing forces trying to sabotage crucial train supply routes on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

Keaton’s “death-defying stunts and unparalleled gift for physical comedy make The General a captivating cinematic experience for all ages,” say organizers, noting people “continue to enjoy this comedic gem nearly 100 years after its first release.”

Due to the stunts in the movie, such as a real locomotive falling from a burning bridge into a gorge below, The General required one of the largest budgets of any film of its era.

The film barely broke even at the box office, but Orson Welles called The General “the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made,” and in a 1997 review of The General, Roger Ebert writes that Keaton’s films “have such a graceful perfection, such a meshing of story, character and episode, that they unfold like music.”

“In all the years I’ve been accompanying silent films, I’ve played for The General many times, but always on piano. This will be my first time live-scoring it on organ, and it should be a blast,” says Model, who has composed and performed soundtracks for silent films for nearly 40 years.

Model is the resident film accompanist at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, a visiting professor of film at Wesleyan University, and the founder of Undercrank Productions, which has released several rare films of the silent era in partnership with the Library of Congress.

“We could all use a few good laughs right now, maybe a few hundred, and Keaton’s The General is one of the great comedies of the silent era,” he adds.

Tickets for the event are $10 for children under 13 and $18 for adults, and can be purchased at epsilonspires.org.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #663 (Wednesday, May 11, 2022). This story appeared on page B4.

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