Maybe the plot wasn’t so preposterous.
The year was 1976. Mel Brooks played filmmaker Mel Funn, who approaches a troubled movie studio with the idea of making a star-studded film. But there’s a catch — the movie will be silent.
Brooks’ film about making a silent film — titled “Silent Movie” — proved to be an interesting experiment some 40 years following the introduction of talkies. Silent movies were supposed to be dead.
Or are they?
“There have been a lot of silent films made in the last 15 to 20 years,” Jason Andreasen, executive director of Baton Rouge Gallery, says. “So, this year our focus is on contemporary silent films. We found some films made in the United States, but they were very experimental and had content that wasn’t suitable for all audiences. Then we learned that there were a lot of silent films being produced outside the country, so we looked there.”
The gallery will include Brooks’ comedy in the lineup of its 2015 series of silent movies, Movies & Music on the Lawn. The outdoor screenings pair silent movies with live, original scores created and performed by local, contemporary bands. The series opens Saturday with director King Vidor’s 1928 classic, “Show People.”
The film was released in 1928, starring Marion Davies and William Haines with cameos by such silent screen icons as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and William S. Hart. Vidor also makes an appearance.
“This film was made at the end of the silent era,” Andreasen says. “Silent movies were on their way out as sound was taking their place. So, for us, this film marks the end of the classic era and introduces our series of contemporary films.”
The film will be accompanied by the band Cafe au Lait, whose Motown and Afro-Cuban inspired/jazz funk blend will put a new spin on the jazz age movie.
“We’ve put a lot of work into pairing the bands with the films this year,” Andreasen says. “We wanted this year to be different. We have a variety of bands, and we’ve matched their styles with the movies.”
The year is 1907, and the brilliant but eccentric scientist Dr. Plonk recently has discovered that mankind’s time on Earth is about to expire. He tries to convince the prime minister that the world will end in 2008 and ends up traveling across time to the strains of Onion Loaf’s melodic psychedelic rock to prove it — futuristic music for a futuristic story.
Then comes Brooks’ “Silent Movie.” His character Mel Funn once was a great comedy director trying to make a comeback. And what better way to do it than by returning to the golden age of slapstick comedy, the silent film era?
Brooks also was taking a real-life chance when he made this silent film in 1976. The film wasn’t a big hit, but it has since become a cult classic and will be marking its second showing at Movies & Music on the Lawn on Saturday, July 24. The film also was featured in the gallery’s 2011 “Slapstickers”-themed season.
“Those who saw ‘Silent Movie’ in 2011 will be seeing a different show this time around,” Andreasen says. “The film may be the same, but the music will be different with the Trailer Hounds’ funky sound, so it will have a completely different feel.”
After that, the Grammy Award-nominated Lost Bayou Ramblers will come to town on Friday, Aug. 28, to perform their original score for the 2012 Spanish drama, “Blancanieves,” director Pablo Berger’s re-imagining of Snow White as a bullfighter.
Snow White, or Blancanieves, is the daughter of a matador, but she has amnesia when she’s rescued by a band of short bullfighters. The men discover that she has natural bullfighting skills, which they not only use for their act but to benefit her.
Fans of the Oscar-nominated film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” will remember the Lost Bayou Ramblers’ music on the soundtrack. Their new take on an old Cajun style will be a good fit for this new twist on an old fairy tale.
In this highly stylized film, the evil “Mr. TV” has stolen the voices from everyone in the city, with the exception of one woman. The story follows a small family as it fights to give the people back their voices and stop his evil plans once and for all.
“Mr. TV is trying to sell his brand, and he uses the one woman who still has her voice to promote his brand,” Andreasen says. “And what’s really cool about this film is that the words in the subtitles are part of the film — the actors can see them. Also, Ship of Fools has a female vocalist, which is perfect for giving a voice to the woman in the film who has a voice.”
Admission is $7, which includes bottomless popcorn.
“That’s a Baton Rouge Gallery tradition,” Andreasen says. “You always get all the popcorn you can eat with the price of admission.”
Moviegoers also can bring their own food, along with blankets on which to sit to watch the show.
And though Baton Rouge Gallery strives to choose films that are suitable for most audiences, not all contemporary films meet this criteria.
“The films being shown in August and September may contain visuals and subjects may not be appropriate for all audiences,” Andreasen says. “They may not be movies that parents would want their children to see. For adults and young adults, they should be fine, but parents will want to use discretion.”
But most everyone knows what to expect from Mel Brooks. His humor is sometimes sophomoric, a little raunchy at times, but it’s always fun. Even when no one is talking.