Annie Laurie, Bo'ness Hippodrome
The final offering of the Fifth Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema emphasised early film's role in providing unashamed escapism. The 1927 vehicle for the delightful Lillian Gish and her ultra-expressive eyes, Annie Laurie is a yarn far from the reality of her audience's lives and in terms of capturing Scottish history it probably makes Braveheart and Brigadoon seem plausible by comparison. And yet, thanks not least to Gish's acting personality, it's a good yarn and with fiddler Shona Mooney's new score accompanying it, it became even better.
Having a well-known song as the film's title and conflated with a take, of sorts, on the Massacre of Glencoe, is a gift to a soundtrack composer, and Mooney made great use of its melody, pulling it into different shapes here, re-harmonising it to superbly dramatic effect there and using it as a springboard to themes and motifs of her own as she and her musicians, Amy Thatcher on accordion and piano and Alisdair Paul on guitar and whistles, shadowed the onscreen narrative with a completely authentic one of their own.
At close on two hours, almost entirely uninterrupted, it's quite a step for Mooney as both composer and player and while certain scenes more or less dictate what's required to be written - a pipe tune, say, or a dance measure - Mooney also had to stay primed to synchronise with door knocks, pistol shots, sword slashes and general pell-mell action while playing with great vigour and sensitivity. This was her first film soundtrack and the fact that the music became completely at one with Gish, her competing lovers, and the warring clans' actions suggests she might find herself in demand for more.