Into the Vaults: Celebrating the Library of Congress

When Christian Bale's Batman leaps off a parapet in The Dark Knight Rises, he's "doing his own stunts" in the sense that the actor is wired beneath a crane that deposits him gently on the sidewalk below, where he can rescue Catwoman from Bane's henchmen. All traces of the safety equipment are removed by CGI. But Buster Keaton really did his own stunts in Seven Chances and Steamboat Bill, Jr., the silent movies tonight beginning the 10-film retrospective Into the Vaults: Celebrating the Library of Congress. From childhood, when he worked as an acrobat, Keaton took his own lumps and bruises. If, with his signature stone face, he wasn't a true movie actor, he became a movie star because of his stoic physical presence and daring. In Seven Chances (1925), in which Keaton will inherit a fortune if he finds a wife in one day, the rocks in the famous rolling boulder sequence may be paper mache, but in his final race to the altar (to marry the girl he actually loves), his physical dexterity is on full display. He slides beneath a car, races in front of a train, leaps a chasm, somersaults down a sand dune, and jumps off a cliff onto a treetop at the precise instant it's being felled by a logger. Try that, Batman. For the silent titles in the series, pianist Donald Sosin will perform live musical accompaniment. Screened on 35 mm prints, movies run through Sunday at both the Uptown and SIFF Film Center. (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Thu., July 26, 6:30 & 8:30 p.m.; July 27-29, 2012

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