Warning: Just about every film in MOMA’s new silent-film series, Cruel and Unusual Comedy: Social Commentary in the American Slapstick Film, is likely to offend you. Looking back at the way race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, violence, and substance abuse were portrayed in early-20th-century comedies, the series promises to be a fascinating study of how far we’ve come as a society—and what has sadly remained the same. Today at 4, catch five short films in the program “Race Riots: Beyond Black and White,” which includes Haunted Spooks (1920), a comedy starring silent-film sensation Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis as newlyweds who have to brave the night in an old, haunted house in order to get their inheritance. And then stay for “Gratuitous Violence: No Turn Unstoned” (at 7 p.m.), which includes the slapstick short Their First Execution (1913), about a prison staff all hopped up to use their brand-new electric chair. Each screening features an introduction by a film historian to give it context. Pianist Ben Model provides the soundtrack.
Wed., May 27, 4 & 7 p.m., 2009