Video: The Silent Picture Experience at Cinequest with Dennis James

Dennis James at Wurlitzer Organ

Dennis James at Wurlitzer Organ

If you have ever watched a silent picture in a cinema hall then you know what the whole experience is like.The silent film is usually accompanied by a live musician or an orchestra and it is an absolute treat to be transported back in time. There is an interactive element to the whole experience and you don’t mind if people make a comment every now and then since this is not a talkie film.

Last night we got to see King Vidor’s brilliant film “The Crowd” (1928) at the beautiful, art deco California Theatre in San Jose. The film was part of this year’s  Cinequest Film Festival line-up. The live music for the silent picture was provided by noted silent film  musician Dennis James. He played non-stop for nearly 110 minutes on a restored Wurlitzer organ. I had a front row seat and it was amazing to see how he barely paused during the course of the film and was deeply observed in watching the film and making sure that the music was in-sync with what was unfolding on the silver screen.

If you have never seen a silent picture with live music, here is a quick look at it. Watch the dramatic way in which James comes up  from what seems like the bottom of the stage and then sits right in front of the silver screen. And when the film comes to an end, he goes down the stage. Imagine what a thrilling experience it must have been for an audience in the 1920s.