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Historic Movies Screened in Kyoto’s Historic Theater

2018/10/12 Event

Fans of early cinema were treated to a special afternoon on Friday, October 12 at the historic Ooe Nougakudou in the heart of Kyoto. The Noh theater is presenting the series “Golden Age of American Comedy” as part of KIFF. The first installment included two silent films by the legendary Harold Lloyd with live piano accompaniment.

Comedian Kei Shimizu, who is known for his love of early film, MCed the event. He said that the theater is currently celebrating its 110th anniversary, noting that it was made the same year that Hollywood stars Bette Davis and Jimmy Stewart were born. He then introduced film scholar and silent film expert Toshiya Arano.

Arano spoke about the rare Harold Lloyd short “Luke’s Movie Muddle,” explaining that Lloyd’s own copy that he kept at his home was destroyed in a fire. Decades later a print was uncovered in France, allowing the film to be seen today. He also explained that unlike Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, who got their start on the stage, Lloyd began with motion pictures and had not yet developed the persona based on his round glasses.

Pianist Mie Yanashita played during the screenings. She commented that the music has to be so fast and energetic to match the images on the screen that it is like performing punk music.

Then there was a screening of Lloyd’s most famous work, “Safety Last,” which builds up to the iconic image of the hapless Lloyd dangling from the hands of a clock far above a busy city street. The sequence drew both laughs and gasps from the audience. Arano followed it up with a presentation on how the scenes were shot without the benefit of CGI or other modern tricks.

Yanashita shared her favorite trivia about the film—after it was completed Lloyd really did marry his leading lady, Mildred Davis, and they remained together for nearly 50 years.

MC Shimizu closed the by remarking that it was special to see films that are 100 years old in a theater that is even older.

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