So, yesterday I spent the afternoon in the cinema watching 18 movies. Jealous, right? I was lucky enough to be part of the judging panel for the Walthamstow International Film Festival and we were watching the shortlisted works in order to hand out some prizes. It’s a fun job, and a great local festival that I am chuffed to be a tiny part of. All the entries are around five minutes or less, and while the festival encourages local film-makers, particularly young people, it is open to all, and this year we saw films from as far away as Australia, Argentina and Hong Kong. Our overall winner was the fantastically moving, and intriguing, Speed by Jessica Bishop – a film that interrogates the grieving process by counterpointing family photos and voices. A worthy winner indeed.
Love is private, intimate. Speak its name aloud and the spell is broken. Share it and the magic is shattered. Except, except … in the 20th century popular culture crashed into the space between lovers, the gap between two pairs of moist lips, the air that thrummed to their heartbeats. Pop music ran away with love, spinning out each precious moment of desire or sorrow for three minutes of passion and repetitive heartbeats. But the movies, arguably, got straight to the dirty bits first. In the dark of a cinema, that is to say a tent or a grubby room, crammed next to a sweetheart or a maybe-sweetheart in the dark, we could watch actors (imagine!) play-act the the motions of love: smooches in train carriages, swoons on the hearth. Illicit affairs, happy marriages, flings, crushes … all the joy and misery of human existence on the screen. And in the cheap seats (they were all cheap), a fumble, a fondle, a kiss or maybe more. And did I mention it was dark? A private act in a public place – disapproval be damned.
Kim Longinotto knows exactly what goes on in the dusky darkness of the Odeon. Her new collage film Love is All (2014) is a super-cut of romance: sexy, sedate or seditious. It’s a full-tilt rush for the hormones, soundtracked by the grizzled, tender love songs of Sheffield music legend Richard Hawley. Not strictly a silent film, this, but one in which the few fragments of dialogue are incidental, another instrument in the orchestra. Hawley sings what is on our lovers’ minds – what they actually have to to say is rather beside the point.
Nothing could be more romantic on this cupid-blessed, rose-scented day than to draw the curtains, light the candles, snuggle your loved one close and watch a film – a silent film, that is. Silent movies have more romance about them than their dialogue-laden counterparts. These films drip with intense, unspoken passion; those lingering closeups of limpid eyes speak directly to our emotions; and, of course, everyone looks sexier in black and white.
So, this Valentine’s morn, I asked the Silent London Twitter followers, a wise bunch, which films they would select for a night of silent seduction:
And I got replies, lots of them. You can see them all on this link, but here are some highlights:
The inevitable Valentino vote:
A bromance fan writes …
Fintan is selectively deaf …
Robin calls himself “bitter” but I couldn’t possibly comment
Robert plumps for The Phantom of the Opera
Ian is clearly something of a cynic:
And there were two votes for The Cameraman
Other votes went to Sunrise, City Lights, Underground, The Lodger (from another, er, sceptic).
So, what’s your perfect silent Valentine’s movie? And do you agree with me that talkies just aren’t quite the same when it comes to the lovey-dovey stuff? Let me know in the comments below: