The launch of the London Film Festival programme is a cascade of A-list stars, esteemed auteurs, Oscar contenders, Hollywood blockbusters and world premieres. But enough of all that. Did someone mention Colleen Moore? Here’s our rundown of the silent cinema offering at the BFI London Film Festival this year.
The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands (1927)
“Virtually unknown” it may be, but this fantastic British war film was a real genre game-changer. Walter Summers directs the noble tale of “a victory and a defeat almost as glorious as a victory”, which was a hit with audiences and critics both on its release. Unjustly neglected for years, TBOCAFI has been rescued from osbcurity via a gleaming new restoration and a modern brass score, which will be performed by members of the Royal Marine band at the LFF Archive Gala screening.
Screens: 7pm, 16 October 2014, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Buy tickets here.
The Goddess (1934)
This sumptuous Chinese melodram stars Ruan Lingyu as “goddess” or sex worker, trying to care for her child, who is pushed into taking violent revenge on her pimp. Described on these pages by John Sweeney as: “Unsentimental and quite without melodrama, this is a great film.” The festival screening will be accompanied by the English Chamber orchestra, playing a new score by Chinese composer Zou Ye.
Screens: 7.30pm, 14 October 2014, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Buy tickets here.
Damn The War! (1914)
A pacifist drama, made in Belgium before the first world war broke out, featuring the story of two friends standing opposed on different sides of terrible conflict. In the words of BFI Archive Head Curator Robin Baker: “The ravishingly beautiful restoration has returned a magical range of stencilled colours, evoking the nostalgia of tinted postcards and a world stained with the blood of war.” Worth rushing home from Pordenone for, and also worth noting that the screening will be accompanied by an extract from En Dirigeable sur les Champs de Bataille – stunning aerial photography of WWI battlefields.
Screens: 6.30pm, 12 October 2014, NFT1, BFI Southbank. Buy tickets here.
Why be Good? (1929)
I promised you Colleen Moore didn’t I? I wouldn’t let you down. The flapper’s flapper stars in this sparkling romantic comedy, once thought lost but now restored and completed and fit to be seen. The silent print was in one archive and the discs holding the synchronised musical soundtrack were somewhere else entirely, until Ron Hutchinson (no relation) of the Vitaphone Project stepped in. BFI Silent Film Curator Bryony Dixon says: “Moore, 30 going on 15, is dazzling and could never be out-Charleston-ed, even by Clara or the lovely Louise.” As a special treat, screenings of Why Be Good? are accompanied by a five-minute short, On With the Dance (1927), featuring the divine Josephine Baker.
Screens: 12:15pm, 16 October 2014 and 8.45pm, 19 October 2014, both at NFT2, BFI Southbank. Buy tickets here.
The Dawn of Technicolor
Become a pub quiz legend with the astonishing news that the Technicolor corporation is 100 years old this year. If you want to know more, and dazzle your friends yet further, archivist James Layton and former BFI Archive curator David Pierce are giving an illustrated lecture at this year’s festival – this is surely a must-see event for silent film enthusiasts. There will be live musical accompaniment for the clips.
Rare photographs from the Technicolor corporate archive and extracts from rarely seen films chart the development of Technicolor’s earlier two-colour process and the films that established the company’s reputation. Highlights include behind-the-scenes accounts of The Gulf Between (1917), Ben-Hur (1925), The Black Pirate (1926), and the troubled production of The Mysterious Island (1929).
6.15pm, 15 OCtober 2014, NFT3, BFI Southbank. Buy tickets here.