THE ONE TRUTH YOU CAN DEPEND on is this: Silent films can only be watched and enjoyed on the silver screen. To view them on video amounts to nothing more than a waste of time. No matter how great the silent film (Gold Rush, Greed, Last Command), it always falls apart when the faded images appear on the dull TV screen. This is regrettable, considering the importance of silent films to the tradition of cinema; indeed a competent knowledge of the art of cinema is impossible without a serious appreciation of silent films. And the only way this appreciation can be cultivated is to see the silent films on a large screen, with the appropriate music.

The Silent Movie Mondays series at the Paramount now offers us the rare opportunity to round out our knowledge of cinema. This post-SIFF film festival will screen a silent film every Monday night for the next two months, and will feature live accompaniment by the eccentric Dennis James, who first played for silent films in Seattle back in 1985, and returned again last year. This time around, he will be playing on a newly restored Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, which, I'm told, is one of the few theater organs still used for its original purpose, in its intended venue.

The series will include a set of comic silent films in June (Show People, The Pilgrim, A Dog's Life, Buster Keaton's Seven Chances, and Frank Capra's That Certain Thing) and three mysteries in July (The Bat, The Black Pirate, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring John Barrymore). Though I have nothing against experimenting musically with silent film, Dennis James (who is obsessed with preserving the way the music was played for silent films way back when) is great if one wants to get a better sense of what movie-going was like for our dead great-grandparents.

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