Monday, May 01, 2006

Ebertfest Report: The Eagle

I won't say much about this year's silent movie at the Ebert Overlooked Film Festival because I wasn't there for the first half of The Eagle. This movie came out in 1925, just a year before its star, Rudolph Valentino died of blood poisoning from a perforated ulcer.

I am not a big fan of silent movies. However, I was impressed with how much more I noticed facial expressions, body language and other non-verbal forms of communication in The Eagle. I will leave it to wiser people than me to decide whether that is because I paid closer attention to the non-verbal forms of communication, not being distracted by speech, or whether the actors in the silent movies exaggerated facial expressions, body language, order to communicate the only way they could. It was surprising to me how infrequently letter boxes were used to convey what was being said.

There isn't much to be said about the plot of The Eagle other than that it is ridiculous from a modern point of view.

Roger Ebert always has one in the lineup in Ebertfest, primarily to provide a venue for presenting the Alloy Orchestra, a three-man band that specializes in restoring silent movies and then playing along with them on a variety of found objects, ranging from bed pans to plumbing fixtures, as well as more conventional instruments like an accordian and electronic piano. Their music, as always, was excellent; in fact, the main reason I came to the theater for the last half of this film.

One nice thing about this movie is that we were not bothered by a loud annoying buzz in the middle of the movie like we were in almost every other showing. Ebert brags about the projectionists he brings from Chicago every year, James Bond and Steve Krauss, and they have generally done an excellent job. I don't know whether they were responsible for the buzzing, or whether there were electronics specialists who should have found the problem after the first time and fixed it, but since we were given no explanation, I'll blame Bond and Krauss.

Although I didn't see all of The Eagle, I think I saw enough that I'm entitled to rate it. I'm giving it three stars.


Anonymous said...

After the buzzing started, I didn't notice any more bragging. Perhaps a few perfunctory thank yous. Good god it was annoying though.

Anonymous said...

I'm a projectionist by profession.

These two guys at The Virginia that they continually brag about? They suck.

They don't have much idea of what they're doing.

The buzz you heard was the DTS not being set correctly. It happened to me during seven of the twelve films. DTS not being set correctly can severely damage a film. Beyond repair.

"Good" projectionists don't damage prints. I always have the urge to yell that they suck whenever Ebert praises them.

PG said...

And once again, we all can acknowledge that the future of quality filmwatching will be in the comfort of our homes, not in barns with herds of other people. The Virginia is a wonderful place, but this is event festivaling, not film festivaling. Most routine filmgoing is like air travel. It used to be an adventure. Now it is a grueling, something to be endured.

He says, polemically.

Amishlaw said...

Call me a Luddite, pg, but I hope the future you're forecasting doesn't come to pass. Watching a movie should be a social experience, not a solitary one. I will grant you that probably eventually screens will be large enough and home theater sound systems good enough that the technical experience will be just as good as in a theater, but we are not close to that utopian future yet.

Dan S said...

Anon, the sound guy at EbertFest weighed in on the buzzing sound, and it wasn't a DTS setting, but a bad soundhead on one of the ancient projectors used at the Virginia. For the full gory details, see here