Thursday, April 7, 2011

No Spooning Allowed @ James River Film Fest

The James River Film Fest kicked off today at noonish and yours truly had volunteered to be T-shirt seller. Except that the T-shirts hadn't come in this morning as anticipated. Oops.

It didn't matter because I had planned to come anyway to see Silent Film for Lunch: "Juve vs. Fantomas" along with a couple of Mack Sennett shorts being shown on 8 mm (well, after a second projector was brought in after the first one got troublesome).

Since it was the first film of the first day of the festival, they'd chosen a movie from the roots of cinema, one where the mechanism of the projector provided the soundtrack.

Director Louis Feuillade was apparently a film pioneer and the film we saw today was part of a popular series based on the universal theme of a good guy and a bad guy.

Although some text was used between scenes, it was amazing how much of the story was moved forward through the use of notes, letters and telegrams telling us what had happened or what was coming next. And I loved the language used on what text cards there were, like these:

"With great daring one of the bandits uncoupled the coach."
"Nothing could now avert a fearful catastrophe."

When did bandits become villains and uncoupled become unhooked? Language geeks like me want to know.

The good cop and the newspaper writer spent the film tracking the bad guy, who always seemed to slap away at the last moment. When he escaped the mansion at the end, leaving the good guys inside, he set off an explosion.

The movie ended with, "But are Jules and Fandor dead? To be continued next week..." For a kid sitting at the theater in 1913, that must have been a nail-biter of a week.

The Sennett shorts were Keystone Cop-variety slapstick, non-stop motion and both we saw were focused on Sennett's favorite theme, that of courtship rituals and mating.

The first, called "Fatty's Spooning Days" centered on a time when there were "No Spooning Allowed" signs in public parks and cops spied from trees before blowing a whistle for backup to catch errant spooners.

The punishment for being caught spooning in public? Thirty days or thirty dollars; I kid you not. This turned out to be a learning experience for me since I hadn't been aware there were ever non-spooning laws. I was definitely born at the right time.

I walked out afterwards to find a parking ticket (the program had run long due to projection issues) but at least I had lunch to look forward to after such an entertaining mid-day film session.

A friend had invited me to lunch and he said our destination was a surprise. I couldn't have been much more surprised than when he pulled up to Five Guys. A long-time friend, he knew perfectly well I don't eat at chains.

"Ever been?' he asked, knowing that I surely hadn't (he's the same one who took me to Costco for a hot dog lunch once). "Just trying to show you the world, baby!" he said by way of explanation. His grin was pure evil.

Okay, I liked the baskets of peanuts everywhere. I can shell and eat some peanuts.I wonder , though, if it's off-putting for people with nut allergies, supposedly a growing population.

My "Little Cheeseburger" which was not little was tasty, I admitted, and the amount of fries completely obscene, although he'd warned me of that fact. Fries are obviously a big deal since the source farm for the potatoes was listed right there on the chalkboard.

Walking out, I teased him about wanting to share his guilty pleasure with me. "Just being perverse," he grinned. "I know you can appreciate perversity."

I certainly can. It's part of the reason I'd have been no good in the no spooning days. I'd have wanted to spoon just because the signs said I couldn't.

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