To close out the 26th annual James River Film Festival, Gallery 5 celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a double feature from Silent/Music Revival and Strange Projections, featuring the classic St. Paddy’s Day film, Leprechaun.
The evening of St. Patrick’s Day saw the James River Film Festival close out in fine fashion, with a bizarrely fascinating double feature at Gallery 5. While some were ending their weekend with shamrocks and green beer, the James River Film Society (JRFS) presented a new installment of the long-running Silent/Music Revival series, followed by the latest installment of the JRFS’s Strange Projections series.
Curated and hosted by VCU film professor Mike Jones, the James River Film Festival celebrated its 26th year this year, and did so while remaining entirely volunteer-run and funded through donations. Silent/Music Revival doesn’t have quite as storied a history, but it has been around for a long time now, so chances are you’ve encountered at least one of their unique screenings before. But for those of you still not in the know, this Richmond tradition pairs silent movies with local musicians who, having never seen the films before, improvise a soundtrack on the spot.
As always with Silent/Music Revival, this event was free, and the experience it offered was amazing. The film featured this time around was Jean Vigo’s 1933 film Zero For Conduct. The 40-minute film, which depicts an oppressive school environment and small rebellious acts committed by students, was based on Vigo’s own experiences in boarding school as a child, and was banned in France for 12 years after its release. Silent/Music Revival showed the film from a rare 16mm print, which definitely gave the proceedings a throwback feel.
The soundtrack for this film was created by organ-driven indie band The Wimps, who did an exceptional job of making their music pair with the film, despite the fact that they couldn’t even see the movie being played from where they were set up. The audience’s enjoyment came just as much from seeing the way The Wimps’ impromptu score synced up with the movie as from the movie itself.
After the Silent/Music Revival portion of the evening ended, the James River Film Society held a St. Patrick’s Day-themed episode of their Strange Projections series. It featured an old VHS copy of Leprechaun, a 1993 low-budget horror film featuring Jennifer Aniston before she was famous, mixed live with sounds from old cassettes from the period — specifically an Irish alt-rock trio consisting of The Cranberries, U2, and Sinead O’Connor.
The result was totally weird, probably too weird to focus on completely. However, as this screening marked the end of the five-day film festival, the environment was much more relaxed, as most in attendance hung out chatting and enjoying the refreshments Gallery 5’s bar had on offer.
This evening of filmed entertainment marked a great way to cap off a St. Patrick’s Day weekend, despite the lack of holiday-themed festivities (beyond the showing of Leprechaun, of course). While they aren’t always connected with each other or a film festival, both Silent/Music Revival and Strange Projections are semi-regular film series, and are always worth checking out when you see them happening around town (especially since they are generally free of charge). Keep an eye out for both!
Written by Aviance Hawkes and Marilyn Drew Necci; photos by Aviance Hawkes