Tuesday, October 29, 2013

STRAND Cinema 
Nosferatu + Moving Machines =   
Live Music + Silent Film

Thursday, Oct 31 • 8 PM

Strand Theatre • 717 Clay St

tickets available at Highway 61 Coffeehouse
or at the door

Silent films were never silent.  From the early days, live music was performed to accompany the images. Sometimes written, but often improvised, the music was a complement, a completion of the film. When sound pictures became the norm, the element of live performance at the movies was largely abandoned. There was no need. 

Recent years have seen a resurgence in silent films accompanied by live musicans. 

FW Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu will be presented at the Strand Theatre in downtown Vicksburg with live original music by Palmer Shiers and Jeff Gough, known collectively as Moving Machines. This year they are being joined by percussionist Josh Harrison. Anyone who attended last year’s presentation of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari knows how cool this will be. It was standing room only last year, so getting advance tickets and/or getting there early is a good idea.

Palmer and Jeff, who have been performing together for more than 2 years, both play electric stringed instruments: guitar and bass, using a technique they sometimes refer to as “treated guitar.” The term describes the fact that uch manipulation of the sound is employed, including multiple effects
pedals and sometimes distortion in an effort to create music that will evoke emotions. “I wanted to devote myself to experimental music without lyrics, because I thought I could communicate feelings better that way,” Palmer Shiers said.  Harrison is now a permanent member of Moving Machines
adding his unique percussion treatments to their sound. 

Roger Ebert gave Nosferatu 4 out of 4 stars. Here are a few of his comments about the film: Murnau's silent film was based on the Bram Stoker novel, but the title and character names were changed because Stoker's widow charged, not unreasonably, that her husband's estate was being ripped off.
Ironically, in the long run Murnau was the making of Stoker, because “Nosferatu” inspired dozens of other Dracula films, none of them as artistic or unforgettable. “Nosferatu” is more effective for being silent. It is commonplace to say that silent films are more “dreamlike,” but what does that mean? In “Nosferatu,” it means that the characters are confronted with alarming images and denied the freedom to talk them away. There is no repartee in nightmares. Human speech dissipates the shadows and makes a room seem normal. Those things that live only at night do not need to talk, for their victims are asleep, waiting.

Don’t miss this show.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Here's our new marquee inspired sign for the front lobby and our improved concession area starring Stacie. This project is ongoing, and should be even better soon.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Looking Back 2013...

I should be looking forward. That's where the action is, but I feel I should record some of what's been going on at the Strand while it's fresh in my mind.

Our lack of Air Conditioning/Heat dictates that we will be going on Summer hiatus here as far as public screenings are concerned. It also seems to cause us to have concentrated seasons, and the last 11 weeks, we have screened 11 feature films, presented 6 live theatrical performances, and more. In addition we had a number of special features attached to some of the programs.

In recognition of Black History Month our season started February 28 with a special free screening of LisaGay Hamilton's Beah: A Black Woman Speaks, a documentary about the Academy Award winning actress who was a Vicksburger.  There were almost 30 in attendance. I hope we can arrange for LisaGay to come present the film sometime in the future, because it needs to be seen, especially here.

On Saturday, March 2 we showed Jafar  Panahi's This is Not a Film. It was extremely cold that night, so there were only about 16 in the theatre, but they were a dedicated group, and were hopefully rewarded by the recent and thought provoking essay made by a man who is forbidden by the Iranian government to make films.

A week later, on Saturday, March 9, the Strand presented a foreign classic: Purple Noon/Plein Soleil Rene Clement's 1960 version of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley starring Alain Delon. The still wintry temperatures outside were offset by the languidly beautiful Italian Riviera against which Mr. Ripley did some despicable things.

We added a new high tech facet to our screening of ELZA, a film with no distribution yet. Before the film we called the director, Mariette Monpierre , on the phone which we patched into the house sound system. The audience of about 60 folks was able to hear her enthusiasm all the way from New York City as she introduced her debut feature. The screening was Saturday, March 16.

After having films three weeks in a row, we had to let the thespians take over the stage of the Strand for 2 weekends of performances of Arsenic and Old Lace. Then we took a few weeks off while we prepared for our really big shows.

On Friday, April 26, we presented an evening with Charles Burnett as the opening event of a weekend in his honor. Burnett is a writer/director who was born in Vicksburg in 1944, and who was gracious enough to let us talk him into traveling from his home in Los Angeles to spend a weekend with us.

The first night was an interview with the director interspersed with clips and trailers from several of his films. the program was followed by a dessert reception in the lobby, so all could socialize with our guest of honor. Attendance was good, and there were quite a few people who had traveled to come to this program including Nina Parikh from the Mississippi Film Office.

Next night, we screened two of Mr. Burnett's most well known films: Killer of Sheep and To Sleep with Anger. Between the films we served a buffet dinner, providing both a meal and another opportunity to hang with our guest. He introduced both films to near standing room only audiences, and took a few questions after each film.

On Sunday evening, even though Mr. Burnett was already back in Los Angles, the final night of our Charles Burnett weekend featured screenings of two of his rarely seen films. The more downbeat My Brother's Wedding was followed by The Annihilation of Fish, the hilarious unreleased comedy starring James Earl Jones and Lynn Redgrave as elderly, extremely star crossed lovers.

Two weeks later the Strand hosted a weekend of Civil War related programming in observance of Vicksburg's Civil War sesquicentennial. Friday, May 10 an excerpt of Ken Burn's Civil War was presented for free.

Saturday, May 11, the heart of the weekend was a rare showing of the first feature film made in Mississippi: The Crisis, a tale of the Civil War filmed almost totally here in Vicksburg in 1916. The print of this public domain film is in the collection of the Old Courthouse Museum, and was presented with their cooperation. The print is 16mm and required retrofitting a projector into the Strand. this was likely the first actual projected film in the Strand since the 1960's. The silent film was accompanied by Tracy Gardner on piano.

During the reel change, we took an intermission, and were treated to Jeff Giambrone's comments and answers to questions about the film. Jeff has done extensive research on the making of The Crisis, but had never seen it. His perspectives helped the audience appreciate what a rare treat it was to be able to see it. Ward Emling, head of the Mississippi Film Commission, was there, specifically because the making of Crisis marks the beginning of filmmaking in the state.

Sunday, May 12 at 4 PM we presented the incomparable Buster Keaton with The General. This film is listed as the 35th best film ever by the 2012 Sight and Sound poll of 486 international critics. It was a fun way to end the Civil War weekend and the 2013 Spring season of the Strand Cinema project.

I cannot imagine a more rich 11 weeks for our little handmade cinema. But that is exactly the task before us: imagining and bringing to fruition more and better programming. No wonder I'm looking back.

As I look back, I would like to recognize the efforts of a few people who know that someone has to make things happen:  Jack Burns, president of the Westside Theatre Foundation; volunteers from the WTF: Stacy Schrader, Michelle Fisackerly, and Kathy Kleinman; Tracy Gardner for her musical accompaniment, Heather Burns of Just Desserts for her sweet contributions; David and Andrew of the Bazinsky House for providing lodging for our guest; Amy & Dennis of Milestone Films and Carolyn Hays for all their help with the Burnett weekend; all the many who made food and more for the receptions during the Burnett weekend; the Old Courthouse Museum; (I will think of more who deserve mentioning including my wife, Lesley Silver)...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Meet Charles Burnett and see his films...

The Westside Theatre Foundation is presenting A Weekend with Charles Burnett (the man and his films ) April 26, 27, & 28 at the Strand Theatre in downtown Vicksburg.

Writer/director Charles Burnett, was born in Vicksburg in 1944. As a young man, he moved with his family to Los Angeles, returning to the South periodically to visit relatives. Daniel Boone, film programmer for the Strand Cinema recently said, “bringing Charles Burnett home to Vicksburg has been a longtime dream of mine. He deserves our attention. Even though most of his films are not set in the South, they are informed by his connections to Vicksburg, and they give us insight into our home and its people. I am excited about the possibility of the community recognizing one of our artists.”

His first feature, Killer of Sheep (1978) was one of the first 50 films to be selected for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, and was chosen by the National Society of Film Critics, as one of the 100 Essential Films. He was the recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 1988, and the IMDB says of him: “(Burnett is) ...considered one of America’s greatest filmmakers...” Milestone Films, distributor of some of his films, describes his work this way: “Charles Burnett’s films focus on everyday life in black communities in a manner unseen in American cinema, combining incredibly lyrical elements with a starkly neo-realist, documentary-style approach that chronicles the unfolding story with depth and riveting simplicity.”

Programs at the Strand include screenings of 4 feature length films as well as shorts and a compilation of excerpts from the work of this celebrated director. Mr. Burnett will share insights about his life and work at discussion sessions at the screenings Friday and Saturday.

Friday, April 26 A Conversation with the Director 7:30 PM - The Strand
An interview with Mr. Burnett will be punctuated by some of his short films and lluminated by clips and trailers from his features. Immediately following the program the audience will convene in the lobby to meet and visit with Mr. Burnett and enjoy dessert.

Saturday, April 27 - 5:30 PM (Supper & a film)
Killer of Sheep (1978) “...one of the most famous and acclaimed films by an African-American filmmaker.” - Milestone Films Stan is doing his jobs: husband, father, employee at a slaughterhouse. But isn’t there more to life? After the film the director will answer questions and join the audience for a buffet supper in the lobby..

Saturday, April 27 - 7 PM (Supper & Film)
To Sleep with Anger (1990) “Harry Mention (Danny Glover), an old friend from the rural south, arrives on the doorstep of a Los Angeles family, wreaking subtle and not-so-subtle havoc on their lives. The family is headed by a retired farmer (Paul Butler) and his midwife spouse (Mary Alice), whose two married sons (Carl Lumbly and Richard Brooks) are in constant conflict.” - The Chicago Reader This screening will be preceded by a buffet supper with the director, who will introduce the film. Film will start at 8 PM

Sunday, April 28 - 5 PM (Film only)
My Brother's Wedding (1983) “...a tragic comedy that takes place in South Central Los Angeles. The story focuses on a young man who hasn't made much of his life as of yet, and at a crucial point in his life, he is unable to make the proper decision, a sober decision, a moral decision.” - Charles Burnett.

Sunday, April 28 - 7 PM (Film only)
The Annihilation of Fish ( (1999) “...touching yet hilarious...The efforts of widowed landlady Mrs. Mulroone (Margot Kidder) and her oddball senior citizen tenants Fish (James Earl Jones) and Poinsettia Cummings (Lynn Redgrave) to combat loneliness and find a reason to keep on living are the themes of this brave, absurdly ridiculous, yet heartwarming golden years romantic comedy.” - Film Threat (This film is unreleased and will be shown by special arrangement with the rights holder.)

  For more information or online ticketing: westsidetheatrefoundation.com. Advance tickets also available at Highway 61 Coffeehouse at 1101 Washington Street. (601 529 7252).