Silent films at the Glasgow Film Festival, February 2012

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Just a quick post to let you know about the silent film offering at the rather wonderful Glasgow Film Festival, which runs from 16-26 February 2012. If you include the Glasgow Youth Film Festival and the Glasgow Short Film Festival, which precede it, it all adds up to three weeks of movies – some of which are silent. Here goes:

The Loves of the Pharoah, Friday 17 February, 3.30pm, GFT 2

Ernst Lubitsch was a master of sophisticated romantic comedies but The Loves of Pharaoh reveals that he was also a filmmaker to rival the scale and ambition of DW Griffith or Peter Jackson. The Loves of Pharaoh  is notable for its spectacular production design, gorgeous costumes, beautiful chiaroscuro cinematography and crowd scenes involving thousands of extras in an age before the convenience of computer generated effects. Future Oscar-winner Emil Jannings is the Egyptian Pharaoh who rejects the beloved daughter of the king of Ethiopia in favour of his infatuation with slave girl Theonis. It is a recipe for conflict, heartbreak and epic drama. A stunning digital restoration heralds the return of a major silent production. Buy tickets.

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, Saturday 18 February, 3pm, CCA theatre

Walter Ruttmann’s groundbreaking documentary captures the pulse of Berlin in a single day in the late 1920s. It is a moment of calm between the nightmare of the Depression and the horrors of the Nazi era. Inspired by Dziga Vertov (The Man with a Movie Camera), he compiles an impressionistic portrait of a bustling metropolis from the first light of dawn to the last gasp of the city’s neon-lit nightlife. Cameras hidden on vehicles and in suitcases capture an authentic picture of children hurrying to school, factories billowing smoke, rush-hour traffic and even the President Paul von Hindenburg. It is a wonderful time capsule made all the more poignant by the city’s virtual destruction in the Second World War. This special screening is accompanied by a live improvised performance from Scottish Jazz Trio AAB as musicians Tom and Phil Bancroft and Kevin Mckenzie rock the house with a unique fusion of bop, folk, house and indie rock. Buy tickets.  Screening in combination with the ‘live’ film Glasgow: Symphony of a Great City.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Saturday 18 February, 8pm, CCA Theatre

Ten years before Snow White, pioneering filmmaker Lotte Reiniger directed what is generally considered the first animated feature. Painstakingly created over three years, The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a dazzling achievement. Inspired by her love of Chinese shadow puppetry, Reiniger and her husband Carl Koch used 300,000 camera shots of frame-by-frame silhouette animation to create an enchanting tale from The Arabian Nights. Once upon a time, a young prince arrives on a magical island where he falls in love with Princess Peri Banu. But to win her hand and ensure their future, he must battle ogres and vanquish an evil sorcerer. A beautifully crafted, utterly charming fairy tale and a wonderful piece of film history. Buy tickets.

Salomé (1923)
All Nazimova in Salomé (1923)

Salomé, Sunday 19 February, 7pm, GFT 2

Based on Oscar Wilde’s decadent play, Alla Nazimova and Charles Bryant’s Salomé tells the biblical story of King Herod and his execution of John the Baptist at the request of Salomé, his daughter and object of lust. A commercial flop on release back in 1923, the film now enjoys cult status. It is revered for its camp acting and for Natacha Rambova’s highly stylised Aubrey Beardsley-esque sets and costumes (many made with fabrics from Maison Lewis of Paris). The bold designs and the profusion of silver lamés, veils, turbans and peacock feathers make this a stunning visual treat. Screened with live piano accompaniment. This screening is a preview for the Fashion in Film Festival which takes place at GFT in March. Buy tickets.

The Phantom of the Opera, Sunday 26 February, 7.30pm, Pollokshaws Burgh Hall

Known as ‘The Man of a Thousand Faces’, Lon Chaney was the undisputed master of horror in the 1920s and one of the biggest box-office stars in the history of Universal Pictures. This stunning silent version of the Gaston Leroux classic remains one of his creepiest productions. Lovingly restored, it features a groundbreaking use of two-strip technicolor in the notorious Bal Masque sequence and hand tinting elsewhere. Chaney finds the pathos in the scarred composer, haunting the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera house, obsessed with a beautiful young soprano whom he kidnaps to ensure she will only ever sing for him. This screening is accompanied by live music on the Wurlitzer Cinema Organ played by organist David Gray. Buy tickets. Read more.

UPDATE: You can also see award-winning modern silent film Dogged in the short film festival as part of Practice Makes Perfect: Scottish Competition 2 at the CCA on 10 February and The Shed 11 February. More details here.

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