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Cruel and Unusual: the art of American slapstick

Beginning tonight and continuing through the next ten days only, the MoMA will screen a collection of hilarious, irreverent, silent, American slapstick comedies, all accompanied by live piano. First up are five short films united by a general cross-dressing theme with silent favorites Stan Laurel, Buster Keaton, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and Wallace Beery. And “since these films touch on a number of provocative issues – race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, violence and substance abuse,” each screening will be introduced by someone who, I’m guessing, will remind us all that those were different times. What passed the censors at one time might shock us now, and while discussing the films in a modern context is certainly interesting, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m going to see some good, old fashioned pie fights.

Cruel and Unusual Social Commentary in the American Slapstick Film at the MoMA, May 20 – June 1, 2009 with piano accompaniment by Ben Model

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