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Win tickets for Aelita: Queen of Mars with Minima at Hackney Attic

Filmphonics presents Aelita: Queen of Mars
Filmphonics presents Aelita: Queen of Mars

You like your silent film screenings with a touch of rock’n’roll? No problem. Filmphonics presents silent movies with live soundtracks in the quirky Hackney Attic venue at the top of the Hackney Picturehouse, and this month they’re showing an out-there Soviet sci-fi classic with a rock score.

Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924) is a futuristic fantasy, about a love affair between a Russian man and a member of Martian royalty. But there’s a twist, of course, and some outlandish headgear too. This is a unique and fascinating film, which you can read more about in this feature from The Quietus.

Aelita was an event. The novel, by Alexey Tolstoy, had been the first undisputed classic of Soviet science fiction. The release of the film was preceded by extensive ‘teaser’ campaigns in Pravda andKinogazeta (“What is the meaning of mysterious signals received by radio stations around the world? Find out on September 30!”). Alexander Exter, the film’s designer, was one of the few Russian futurists to have been on good terms with F.T. Marinetti and spent considerable time in Italy. She had taken part in the Salon des independents in Paris and socialised with Picasso and Braque. Special music had been commissioned to be performed by full orchestra in the cinema at screenings of the (silent) film. It was, perhaps, as film historian Ian Christie has argued “the key film of the New Economic Policy period.” Its release was so successful that many parents named their children ‘Aelita’ after the eponymous Martian princess. Years later, it would lend its name also to a Soviet-made analogue synth.

Minima’s score for the film is really excellent, making use of a cello as well as more traditional rock instruments to draw out the best of this wonderful film.

Aelita: Queen of Mars screens at Hackney Attic on Sunday 16 September at 7.30pm. Tickets start at £7 for members. Find out more here.

To win a pair of tickets to the Aelita: Queen of Mars screening simply email the answer to this simple question to silentlondontickets@gmail.com with Aelita in the subject header by noon on Wednesday 12 September 2012.

  • What is the name of the director of Aelita: Queen of Mars?

Good luck!

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror at the East End film festival, 7 July 2012

Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu (1922)

The outdoor silent film screenings at the East End film festival are always a highlight of the year. Held in the centre of Spitalfields market, the screenings are accompanied by live music from Minima – guaranteed to send a shiver down the spine. But this year Minima, and the festival, have come up with something that promises to be extra-special.

This summer’s screening is of Nosferatu, the landmark vampire horror by FW Murnau, which is 90 years old this year. It’s a movie Minima have accompanied many times before, but not like this:

East End Film Festival presents the World Premiere of A Symphony of Horror, a unique collaboration between soundscapers Minima, Paul Ayres’ Queldryk Choral Ensemble and Hackney-based spatial artist Lucy Jones to create a re-imagined film score and performance on the 90th anniversary of the classic 1922 film.

Enter the fully immersive eerie and unsettling world of Nosferatu where the very walls of Spitalfields Market will be alive with creeping shadows and silhouettes, and reverberating with the soaring tones of the Queldryk Choral Ensemble, featuring 60 choristers, accompanied by the festival’s favourite soundtrackers, Minima.

Silent film screenings with live music have always spearheaded the immersive, live cinema trend, but this event goes a step further, combining an atmospheric location with projections and a spooky soundtrack turned up to eleven.

Admission is free, and the film won’t start until the sun goes down, but you’ll want turn up early to get a good seat and bring your own cushions/blankets/cagoules. For more information, visit the East End film festival website.

For more on Nosferatu, check out Sight & Sound contributing editor Mark Sinker discussing the film on the first Silent London podcast.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari with Minima at Hackney Attic, 22 April 2012

Filmphonics presents The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
Filmphonics presents The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

Glad tidings from east London. The capital’s newest cinema, the Hackney Picturehouse on Mare Street, also boasts the capital’s newest silent film screening venue. Hackney Attic hosts all kinds of live music and cinema events, scheduled by an outfit called Filmphonics. They have already dipped their toe into the silent waters with a sold-out screening of The Adventures of Prince Achmed, complete with belly dancers. Now Filmphonics are officially launching a series of monthly screenings with an event that is sure to be popular – a screening of the nightmarishly creepy The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, with live accompaniment from rock band Minima. if you’ve never seen Minima accompany a silent film, you’ve been missing out. They’re a rock band, albeit one with a cheeky cello, who specialise in the kind of spine-chilling soundscapes perfect for a film this creepy and strange.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari screens at Hackney Attic on Sunday 22 April 2012. Doors open at 6.30p and the films begins at 7.50pm. Tickets for the screening cost £9, but less for concessions and members. Alternatively you can buy a dinner ticket, which includes the movie, a meal and a glass of wine for £20. That’s a pretty unbeatable night out, I’d say. Tickets are available online here.

Silent films with live music – festival special

The Great White Silence (1924)
The Great White Silence (1924)

No festival worth its salt is without a silent film screening these days – which is a great way to introduce people to this world. Rock festivals increasingly offer cinema tents and film festivals are often involved in commissioning new scores for films, or simply offering musicians an opportunity to perform their soundtracks in front of a large audience. It’s well worth keeping an eye on what’s going at festivals, even if you’re not planning to attend: what debuts at a festival one year, may turn up in your city the next. Here’s a selection of interesting festival events coming up in the next month or so alone.

  • At the Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons (19-21 August), the rock band Minima are performing an improvised set to a selection of early science films in the Einstein Tent. Over in the Cinema Tent, Blue Roses will perform her piano score to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1920). You may remember that this score first appeared as part of the Birds Eye View Festival’s Sound & Silents strand back in March. Watch out for news of a forthcoming UK Sound & Silents tour on their website.
  • The following week, at the Edinburgh Fringe, Minima will perform their score to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari six nights in a row – kicking off at midnight.
  • Also in Edinburgh and courtesy of the Birds Eye View Film Festival Sounds & Silents strand, there will be a screening of Lotte Reiniger’s Hansel & Gretel with a live score by Micachu  – that’s at the Edinburgh Art Festival.
  • The Cambridge Film Festival runs from 15-25 September and although it hasn’t announced its full lineup yet, I am pretty certain we’ll see some silent movies in the lineup. And before the festival even begins they are hosting a special screening of Douglas Fairbanks’s Robin Hood in Rendlesham Forest with a new score by Neil Brand – that’s on 29 August, bank holiday Monday.
In the Nursery perform their soundtrack to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
In the Nursery perform their soundtrack to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
  • Also on the bank holiday Monday, Bath Film Festival is hosting a screening of Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill Jr and the short film One Week, with live music from James Harpham.
  • At the beginning of September, the Little White Lies cinedrome at the End of the Road festival in Dorset will be showing all kinds of good things, including The Great White Silence.
  • Back in London, on 17 September, gothic electronic duo In the Nursery will soundtrack The Cabinet of Dr Caligari in a pop-up cinema as part of the Portobello Film Festival. And as reported elsewhere, the Peckham Free Film Festival is screening Safety Last and Battleship Potemkin, on 16 and 18 September respectively. And entrance to all of those screenings can be had for the very reasonable price of zero pence exactly.
  • The New Forest Film Festival has a very exciting event planned for 18 September. The Dodge Brothers (featuring Mark Kermode) and Neil Brand are teaming up to score another movie. The Ghost That Never Returns is a Soviet film directed by Abram Room (Bed and Sofa) about a fugitive from jail being chased by an assassin in South America. What makes the screening even more exciting is that the cinema will be powered by bicycle – it’s a movie, a gig and a workout, all in one. The Dodge Brothers’ performances have been a highlight of recent British Silent Film Festivals, so let’s hope we see this one in London soon.
  • The Branchage Film Festival in Jersey commissions and hosts all sorts of fascination film/music combinations, and holds events in London throughout the year too. Its festival closer this year is a very beautiful thing. On Sunday 25 September, Simon Fisher Turner and the Elysian Quartet will play their intensely emotional score for The Great White Silence live at Jersey Opera House. Not to be missed.

In October, of course, it will be time for the 55th London Film Festival. Watch this space to find out silent film events await us there.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari with Minima at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, August 2011

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

The much-heralded return of the midnight movie is not confined to London. Oh no. Spooky silent film soundtrackers Minima are bringing the concept to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year with witching-hour screenings of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari six nights in a row. Every night from 22-28 August, the band will be accompanying the landmark Expressionist horror film in Assembly George Square Gardens and the screenings start at one minute to midnight. Here’s a taster of what you can expect to see and hear:

Tickets cost £10 or £12 depending on the date. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

Win tickets for The Seashell and the Clergyman and silent shorts at the Prince Charles Cinema

Symphonie Diagonale (1924)
Symphonie Diagonale (1924)

If your tastes run to the outer fringes of silent cinema – to the surreal, the avant-garde and the experimental – no doubt you already have your eyes on the Prince Charles Cinema’s next silent film screening. The west end cinema has collaborated with the band Minima to put on a night of short films, The Seashell and the Clergyman, Symphonie Diagonale and H2O, on Thursday 30 June. Full details here. Here’s a little taster of what you can expect:

The really, really good news is that I have a pair of tickets for this show to give away to one of the readers of this blog. Just take a look at this simple question:

  • Who directed The Seashell and the Clergyman?

Email your answer to silentlondontickets@gmail.com by Tuesday 28 June. The winner will be picked at random from the correct entries and emailed with the good news. Best of luck!

Silent films at the Prince Charles Cinema: The Seashell and the Clergyman with Minima, 30 June 2011

Prince Charles Cinema Silent Season
Prince Charles Cinema Silent Season

Yes, you can watch silent films outside the arthouse circuit – in a West End cinema, with a packet of popcorn and a cold beer. That’s just how cool London is. And I much as I love a good retrospective, it’s a top night out. Which is why I’m excited to announce this very exciting film screening on The Prince Charles Cinema‘s silent slate.

In June, the hugely popular and accomplished rock band Minima will accompany a selection of experimental shorts at the Prince Charles Cinema – this won’t be your common-or-garden night at the flicks. Topping the bill is The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928), a pioneering surreal film directed by Germaine Dulac and written by Antonin Artaud. The writer apparently loathed the film and called the director a “cow”, when he saw it. The British censors were none-too-impressed either, saying famously: “The film is so cryptic as to be almost meaningless. If there is a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable.”  You want to see it now, don’t you?

We can also expect to see Viking Eggeling’s 1924 avant-garde geometric film Symphonie Diagonale and Ralph Steiner’s H20, an experimental “tone poem” on the theme of water, from 1929. It’s great that this cinema is showing something a little out of the ordinary on its big screen – there’s far more to silent cinema than the Hollywood hits, and this is a fantastic way to celebrate that.

The Seashell and the Clergyman screens at 8.30m on 30 June 2011. Tickets cost £11 or £7 for members and they’re available here. Check out the Facebook page here. You can buy Minima’s Seashell soundtrack CD on their website, and no doubt it will be available on the night too.

Manasse with Minima at the East End Film Festival, 30 April 2011

Minima (from Minimamusic.co.uk)
Minima (from Minimamusic.co.uk)

At last year’s East End Film Festival, Minima rocked up at Spitalfields Market for an outdoor screening of Hitchcock’s The Lodger. To say that you enjoyed that evening would be an understatement – it was a great night and the film was an inspired choice, with a plot coloured by the East End’s most notorious villain, Jack the Ripper.

This year, the East End Film Festival has booked Minima for another silent screening, and it’s one that reflects a happier aspect of the local area. The East End of London has long been home to a strong Jewish community, and the festival is celebrating this with a Romanian film, Manasse (1925).

This is not just a fresh addition to Minima’s repertoire, but a UK premiere! I was completely unfamiliar with it before today, but I can tell you that it is directed by Jean Mihail, and based on a play from the turn of the century, which was written by Roman Ronetti on the theme of religious intolerance. It’s a story about a romance between a Christian man and a Jewish woman, the niece of the title character Manasse Cohen, a Bucharest banker (played by the famous Romanian actor Romald Bulfinschi). The play was hugely controversial and was not performed in Romania for many years. So one would imagine that this film, made a quarter of a century later when the Yiddish cinema scene was flourishing, would have been highly anticipated. I’m definitely intrigued.

The festival programme has this to say:

Manasse is a highly dramatic take on the problems inherent in Romanian society at that time. Mihail was one of Romania’s most important early directors, and he explores and debates the most sensitive of issues with sincerity, visual panache and unflinching dramatic power.

As with previous years, the film will be screened in Spitalfields market, and it’s scheduled for Saturday 30 April 2011 at 8pm. Tickets for the East End Film Festival are available as of this morning, but this screening is free. Free. So fill your boots, people.

Nosferatu at the Ritzy Cinema, 29 April 2011

Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu (1922)

Twilight, this is not. We could argue for hours about which is the greatest vampire film ever made, but Nosferatu is probably the most visually distinctive of the lot, definitely one of the scariest and a fairly faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula to boot.

If you haven’t seen Nosferatu before, no doubt you will have seen many a homage to its expressionist style and the stiff, hollow-eyed lead performance by Max Schreck. The shadow of Nosferatu gliding up the stairs must be one of the creepiest, and most often copied, moments in cinema.

This screening at the 100-year-old Ritzy Cinema in Brixton benefits from an acclaimed live score by the band Minima, who will have performed at the Prince Charles Cinema the previous night accompanying The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, and will play the following night at the East End Film Festival. Believe me, these guys know how to create an atmosphere. And you can insert your own joke about how scary it is to go south of the river here.

Nosferatu accompanied by Minima screens at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton on 29 April 2011 at 8.45pm. Tickets cost £11.60 or less for concessions and they’re available here.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Prince Charles Cinema, 28 April 2011

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

The Prince Charles Cinema is offering a night not to be missed: the expressionist madness of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, accompanied in spine-tingling style by a group who excel at accompanying silent horror films. Who better than Minima to soundtrack this combination of mad monks, mind-bending set design and people that get bumped off in the night?

If you’re wondering what the titular Dr Caligari keeps in his cabinet, I’m afraid it’s not a china dinner service, but a psychic sleepwalker, Cesare, played by Conrad Veidt. Cesare’s psychic predictions are fairly reliable. If he says you’re about to die, he’s right – because he’ll see to it himself…

But it’s the look of the film, as much as the plot, that will give you nightmares. Cesare’s eye makeup is grotesque, and the angular, distorted scenery was as influential as it is unforgettable. If you enjoy Caligari’s expressionist style, you’ll want to look out for Nosferatu at the Ritzy the following day.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, accompanied by Minima, screens at the Prince Charles Cinema on 28 April 2011 at 8.45pm. Tickets cost £10 or £6 for members and they’re available here.

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