Silent film in 2013: open thread

Janet Gaynor and her Christmas tree
Janet Gaynor and her Christmas tree, via the Toronto Silent Film Festival

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all our readers!

It has been a very busy year – in the best kind of way. We witnessed the long-awaited return of Napoléon to the capital, a short but fascinating British Silent Film Festival – and the birth of a new intimate screening series, the Kennington Bioscope at the Cinema Museum.

There have been some wonderful screenings at our favourite venues – from the Gothic silents at the BFI Southbank to a range of international films at the Barbican cinema. Retrospectives of Marcel L’Herbier and Jean Grémillon at both venues introduced many of us to the further reaches of French silent cinema. Theatrical releases of Underground, Nosferatu and The Epic of Everest boosted silent movie awareness hugely. Blancanieves proved that the art is not lost.

Home video releases ranged from old favourites, such as The Phantom of the Opera – to the still- controversial The Birth of a Nation.

On a personal note,  I was lucky enough to visit the festivals at Bologna and Pordenone, and I have enjoyed another year of blogging, writing and speaking about the silent cinema I love.

Next year, we’re anticipating a Buster Keaton season at the BFI Southbank, the 10th Slapstick festival and several events to mark the centenary both of the Little Tramp and the onset of the first world war. For more details, of course, you can check the ever-expanding listings.

But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let me know below what your highlights and yes, maybe lowlights, of 2013 were silent-film wise. Was it a good year for the silents?

4 thoughts on “Silent film in 2013: open thread”

  1. Napoleon at the RFH was the live highlight. DVD-wise I caught up with the new restoration of Nosferatu and The Joyless Street. I think it was a good year overall.

  2. If we take Napoleon as a given (and more for the extraordinariness of the event rather than just the film) i have three highlights. As a meat and potatoes wonderful screening: Elvey’s The Life Story of David Lloyd George. Not only was the film so much better than expected, a remarkable feat considering how contemporaneous it was, but the accompaniment from Neil Brand was one of complete love for the film, and its place in a hidden history of British film (and it helped that we all noticed the shades of Colonel Blimp in the experience). Secondly the mere existence of the Kennington Bioscope, our own little surprise fortnightly silent film festival. I am a sucker for surprises, but the films I have seen have been a joy there and long may it continue. My number one experience however was the Benshi screening of Walk Cheerfully at the BFI. Truly revelatory about how silent film could be performed, alongside a great little Ozu film and some wonderful music too, but seeing the chemistry between an exceptional storyteller and film makes me want to see more films like this.

    Its been a great year in London for silent film, and that London is a great place to see it!

  3. I made a silent film (16min 37 sec) this year that’s the first thing I’ve ever made that’s made me cry. Massive sense of achievement.

    Also caught up on the films of Stan Brakhage.

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