“Not long ago a friend asked me what was the greatest pleasure I got from spending my life as an actor. There have been so many that I had to think about that for a moment. Then I said, ‘Like everyone else, I like to be with a happy crowd’” - Buster Keaton
I first heard of the Silent Cinema just over a month after it opened.
I’m a lifelong lover of the movies in general and my passion for the Silent Era goes back to my schooldays (as you can hear from a vlog on Méliès’ The Manor of the Devil elsewhere on this site), but I’ve never studied cinema in any academic manner nor been involved in the industry. I’m simply a very keen enthusiast; and so, I only heard of the opening of this – what I consider a vitally important addition to the Galway Arts scene -- almost by accident.
It was the best way to find out, of course – by word of mouth; and it came from Holly and Mikey, a young couple with an incredibly enthusiastic involvement in film and whose own Cinephile Paradiso showings and post-movie discussions at Pálás cinema on the first Thursday of each month have by now become a regular thing for many of us. Thanks to you both for pointing me to Number 60, Dominick Street some ten months ago and to the brainchild of Adam Scheffler.
I had a vague idea on that first night that I might do a piece on this unusual undertaking for Irish American News, a Chicago paper I write for. Instead of one story, it has turned into an enjoyable (I hope!) ongoing commentary on what Adam is attempting here. I won’t go into how he has branched out in various other directions over the past year – you can check up on that elsewhere on the site – but I think it’s fair to say that I took to Adam from the beginning; and so, when he asked me to contribute some articles I jumped at the chance.
It's not just the shocked surprise of meeting a German with a sense of humour (I keep telling him he’s ruining that whole image for me); on a serious note, it’s also because I believe that what this guy is doing – and doing it against considerable odds, to be honest – is important. There are far larger cities than Galway that would love to boast something as unique as this.
One of the pleasures for me personally is to witness that sense of wonder in the eyes of, in particular, children who are seeing talents like Chaplin or Keaton or Laurel and Hardy for the first time.
Perhaps it’s the live piano accompaniment and yes, I think that’s a lot of it; but it’s more than that too. I recall one riveted young fella turning to his grandmother during a clip from The Lost World and saying with a kind of hushed amazement: ‘That’s where Spielberg must have got his ideas’.
Now that’s magic.
So, it’s great for me to see that the sense of wonder is still there and brought out very forcefully at the Silent Cinema. It’s a hang-up of mine, to tell you the truth.
I was a travel writer for several different newspapers and magazines at one time, meaning that for a number of years, I was on at least a couple of airplanes a month. And it was pure grief to me that children in particular and people in general were actually bored during a takeoff.
How can we have become so blasé about such a thrilling, exhilarating thing? We are surrounded by miracles on a daily basis and yet we would rather bury our heads in our smartphones. I don’t get it; and indeed, I thought that the sense of wonder was gone for good. But Adam is helping to keep that alive and you can see how astonished kids are at this ‘new’ silent movie thing.
I want to thank him for persevering with his dream because, at a selfish level, it means that I get to enjoy this great experience. And I want to thank all of you as well. I know that many of you now come on a regular basis and you also are keeping alive a project that I consider a noble one.
I hope that you’ll come along on the 19th of August and help us to celebrate the cinema’s First Year Anniversary. Come along and join Buster Keaton’s ‘happy crowd’!
And Adam? If I haven’t fallen off the twig in the meantime, I hope to be wishing you all the very best again at this same time next year.
Cheers to you all – good health and happy viewing!