Baton Rouge Gallery pairs movies and music for summer series

You may have seen Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby.

Now get ready to see the originals. That is, the original screen idols and flappers who played out stories on the silver screen when F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was published in 1925. The only difference is their world was silent. Only music accompanied the onscreen action, most of the time the music being provided by a theater organist performing live.

The idea of live music has never been lost on Baton Rouge Gallery. It’s one of the highlights of its Movies & Music on the Lawn silent film series, which opens on Saturday, May 25, with The Artist.

The Artist was released in 2011 and won the Best Picture Oscar at the 2012 Academy Awards. So, it’s true that its cast members would never have hobnobbed with Gatsby.

Still, the film is true to the era of its forebears, and Baton Rouge Gallery is excited to have the film in its lineup.

“We tried getting it last year, but it had just won the Academy Award,” Jason Andreasen, the gallery’s executive director, said.

This marks the first year Andreasen and gallery staff planned Movies & Music on the Lawn without a theme.

Last year the series focused on futuristic films made in the 1920s. The year before, the series featured legendary comic actors from the era. But as fun as they were, the series were limiting.

“A lot of times, we’d develop the series around one or two movies that we’d want to show,” Andreasen said. “Last year, we wanted to show Metropolis, so we created the series around it. But sometimes, the films we chose to fill in the schedule weren’t as well known. We have more flexibility without a theme.”

Going back to the aforementioned 2011 comedy series, Movies & Music on the Lawn made history that year by rounding out the season with Mel Brooks’ 1976 comedy, Silent Movie .

“This year, we’re opening our series with a silent film made in modern times,” Andreasen said. “And we’re excited to be able to get it for this year. The Artist is a perfect fit for the gallery to kick of its 2013 Movies & Music on the Lawn series, because both the film and the series reinvigorate our love of silent film with unique presentation. Captain Green will accompany the film with an original score.”

Captain Green is one of several local bands that will perform live while the films are playing.

‘And with this, we’re looking at silent films in a new way,” Andreasen said.

With each film, Movies & Music’s audiences experience a mixing of old and new in a one-time event, as this is the only time these films will be paired with this music.

And again, it starts with The Artist, which stars Jean Dujardin as dashing silent movie star George Valentin, who is at the top of the Hollywood A-list until talking pictures destroy his career. And then there’s the young dancer Peppy Miller, who is infatuated with George and lands a bit part in one of his adventure films.

They develop a friendship, which weakens as Peppy’s career soars. Their story plays out with humor, melodrama, romance and tenderness on the backdrop of a soundtrack filled with music. A soundtrack that will be left up to south Louisiana band Captain Green.

The group was formed in 2010 and has been a favorite at festivals and local music venues, proclaiming its genre as “intergalactic space funk,” a high energy fusing of electric jazz and New Orleans style funk.

This will be Captain Green’s third year to perform at Movies & Music.

The series will continue with monthly events through September with five screenings: The General, starring Buster Keaton and featuring Righteous Buddha performing a new score on Saturday, June 29; The Black Pirate with music by The Breton Sound on Saturday, July 27; Nosferatu, with a score by England in 1819 on Friday, Aug. 30; and Clara Bow starring as the original “it girl” in It with music by bluegrass darlings Polly Pry on Friday, Sept. 27.

Movies will begin at sundown, and as always, visitors show up early with food and beverages, and blankets to spread on the ground. The $5 admission will include free popcorn.

“And we’ll be popping the popcorn throughout the movie,” Andreasen said. “So, you can have as much popcorn as you want. Our admission price is significantly less than that at a movie theater, and you get free popcorn with it. Where else are you going to find that?”

And where else are you going to find a one-of-a-kind film experience?

“This series has been breathing new life into silent film for local audiences for 20 years,” Andreasen said.

True, director Bas Luhrmann has opened summer on a jazz era stage with his lavish film interpretation of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

But Baton Rouge Gallery is reveling in the originals.