“The General” (1926) Special Screening Review

Time for a slightly more personal movie review than before. As part of the schedule for the 2015 Kerry Film Festival, I got a chance to see a rather different take on Buster Keaton’s “The General”. This was definitely not a film I could miss out on, so I’m here to give a small talk about it.

There were two reasons for why I jumped at the chance of checking this event out. The first being, well shit, it’s “The General”, the 1926 Silent Film classic, and my first time seeing it in full. The second was the alternative live soundtrack provided by RadioMentale, a French DJ performance who uses Electronica, Jazz, and other styles of music to blend together a running score for what is on the screen.

Let’s start with the film itself, and the digitally remastered version we got to see. It looked absolutely glorious – all the charm of an old movie with the wrinkles and age spots cleared away. It is exactly how an old piece should be restored, by keeping the authentic feel of the film. And of course, the film itself is even by today’s standards a remarkable achievement. The stunts that take place range from the mad to the downright dangerous, it is like watching someone walk a tightrope without any safety net. You have no idea how they do it, but you still marvel at how effortless they make it appear. Buster Keaton is an absolute delight, his facial expressions and body movements translate every atom of his character across to the audience, while still performing jumps and tumbles that would even make modern stuntmen nervous. What a wonderful, wonderful actor.
The set pieces for the storyline are very linear and run smoothly, but constantly have moments of comedy that keep you infinitely entertained. I was getting a good laugh consistently from the cat-and-mouse capers. It is a movie of epic attention to detail, a screenplay that is worth its weight in gold, and a cast that keeps your eyes fixated to the screen from start to end. It may not have been a success on release, but is today easily one of the greatest comedies of all time.

And so on to the alternative soundtrack by RadioMentale. I must say, it worked really damm well. The pieces are worked together to give a very organic effect, you don’t feel like it is just a cutting floor process. Instead, you have set pieces with their own devoted music, an opening theme, and mixes to bring attention to major sweeps in the story. I think his take on the soundtrack is not him just trying to improve on the original – it is just his own interpretation to give an interesting spin. True, it may be the kind of thing that will make purists of the film lose interest, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But I think it worked effectively here and added to the movie-going experience for me.

This will be a night at the movies that I will remember for a long time to come. The music was great, and the movie was near-perfection. I a so glad I got this chance to see “The General” in full for the first time, all the praise is rightfully deserved and its place in cinematic history is well cemented. Hopefully this will be the kind of event I will get the chance to see more often in the future, and if you get the chance to too, dive in. You’ll certainly not find it the typical night out.

You can check out RadioMentale on their WordPress page here
You can also find out more about the Kerry Film Festival here


Thanks for reading!


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