Monday, 21 September 2009

Tickling The Ivories And Frottling The Ebonies

“What did you do at the weekend then, The Incredible Suit?” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you, if you’d just shut up and let me get a word in edgeways.

On Friday I watched Mamma Mia! at The Scoop. For those unfortunates unfamiliar with The Scoop, it’s an open-air amphitheatre next to London’s City Hall, and every summer they shove on a bunch of free films and the audience gets sloshed and occasionally lobs objects at City Hall in the hope of hitting any insufferable floppy-haired twits bumbling about pretending to run the city.

I was fully prepared to hate Mamma Mia!. I don’t mind Abba and I like a good musical but it looked like it could out-camp a tent full of Kenneth Williamses, and Pierce Brosnan getting his warble on was not an enticing prospect.

However, watching a film at The Scoop is like watching a film through magic goggles. Everything becomes 13.7 times better and by the time you’ve necked a bottle of wine it practically becomes a spiritual experience. And so it was that by the time the credits rolled, Mr & Mrs The Incredible Suit, along with 1500 other booze-fuelled berks, were on their feet dancing and singing (badly) having thoroughly enjoyed what was probably, in the cold light of day, a daft old stinker of a film.

My point here is not to recommend Mamma Mia! but The Scoop’s annual film screenings. If you can get to any of them, do so. They show all sorts; musicals always go down a treat, and last year I saw Buster Keaton’s The General there, which is why I now frequently subject you to clips of Keaton, Chaplin and Harold Lloyd falling over.

Which, in a bloggery segue so smooth you could give it a cheeky grin and call it George Clooney, brings me to Sunday, when I saw Buster Keaton’s Our Hospitality at the Barbican, with live piano accompaniment by the legend that is Neil Brand.

Putting aside the genius of Keaton, Neil Brand is a freakishly amazing dude. He played to The General at The Scoop (awesome) and I’ve seen him on tour with Paul Merton doing their Silent Clowns show (awesome) as well as his own show, The Silent Pianist Speaks (awesome), in which he demonstrates how ace he is with the aid of a few long-dead comedy legends and a piano. Essentially he plays solidly for the entire duration of a film, without sheet music, making it up as he goes along, which has to be seen to be believed. I don’t usually go to the cinema to see a film I’ve got at home, but if Brando’s going to be there tickling the ivories and frottling the ebonies then I’m there with nobs on.

Here’s a YouTubular Busterfest with music by Pixies; I wanted to stick up a nugget of Our Hospitality or Neil Brand in action but there aren’t any good clips out there. Why? Damfino!*

*Tediously smug in-joke for Keaton fans

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  1. I saw Mamma Mia stone cold sober and enjoyed it simply because I'd gone expecting to watch an extended pop video with pretty locations and lighting and that is what I got. Unexpected bonuses came in the form of a comedy song by Brosnan that had the audience shrieking with squirming toe curling laughter and a full blown Shirley Bassey style belter 'Winner Takes it All' by Meryl Streep who stole the show.

    The General is brilliant. If you saw a good print at 16 fps on a big screen, then I envy you the experience. Keaton was the best. Some of his stunts were miraculous. The only tricks they had were under, over and reverse cranking, double exposure and glass shots.

  2. I don't know if it was 16fps to be honest, but it was a good print. What made it special was the atmosphere. Unforgettable. Would like to see Sherlock Jr in the same setting!

  3. Many places in the Middle & Far East have open air movies. They are not alcohol fueled of course but they do occasion a group comaraderie similar to Scoop. In the USA the drive in movie is not really a match for Scoop. At one drive in movie in Texas a tornado destroyed the screen. The movie showing at the time? 'Gone with the Wind'.

  4. That probably came as something of a relief.