Katie- Bar-The- Door and I took our own advice and went to see The General at the Kennedy Center last night. How often, when you're writing a chronological history of the movies, do you get a chance to see one of the films you've been promoting in a theater (with the National Symphony Orchestra providing the backing music, no less) and then review it in a timely fashion.
Some things we learned:
1) The General is just as good as I said it was, in fact, better—and you'll remember that I said it was the best movie of the Silent Era. I had seen The General many times before but never in a theater and certainly never with the National Symphony Orchestra sitting in front of it. It turned out to be a great Saturday night date movie, as much fun as the best fun-stupid movie, with the emphasis heavily on the fun.
2) Before the performance, the conductor noted that Buster Keaton had sent out cards with the movie directing the audience to "cheer the hero and hiss the villain," and to its credit, the enthusiastic audience tried hard last night to hiss the villain. The only problem is, in Keaton there really is no villain—other than fate, bad luck and miscommunication. It's as if Keaton had anticipated the French existentialists nearly two decades before Jean-Paul Sartre published Being And Nothingness and decided it's life itself that's our biggest adversary.
3) The Kennedy Center is a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to walk there. Except we did, having eaten tapas at Jaleo's earlier in the evening and then walked down to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms. For all practical purposes, the Kennedy Center sits on an island surrounded by a sea of interstates, bridges and exit ramps. It was opened in 1971 when I suppose it seemed clear to urban planners that human legs would soon become vestigial to be replaced in the course of evolution by the automobile.
4) The steamed mussels at Jaleo's are terrific. So is everything else.
5) Tickets at the Kennedy Center are half-price if you buy them in person after 6 p.m. on the night of the show. We wound up with good orchestra level tickets for the price of an upper deck nose-bleed seat.