The cat is out of the bag. The programme for the 61st London Film Festival has been announced and there is only one question on our lips: “Got any silents?” The answer is …
First things first, we already knew that this year’s LFF Archive Gala would be Shiraz, a sumptuous late-silent Indo-German production, which relates the romantic story behind the building of the Taj Mahal. This gorgeous film, freshly restored by the BFI, will be accompanied by a new score, composed by Anoushka Shankar. The gala screening takes place on 14 October 2017 at the Barbican and tickets are already on sale now. Read more here. And why not book a ticket here too?
Plays: 14 October 2017, Barbican
The Dumb Girl of Portici (1916)
Lois Weber’s revolutionary epic starring Anna Pavlova, The Dumb Girl of Portici, has been treated to the restoration it well deserves. I couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s in the LFF programme this year. Hurry back from Pordenone to catch it on the big screen, with live accompaniment by Stephen Horne. Come for the magic of Anna Pavlova dancing barefoot on the beach, stay for the full-blooded heads-on-pikes anarchy of the revolt scenes. DW Who?
Plays: 8 October 2017, NFT1
Kleine Veronika (Innocence, 1929)
Shame on me, I missed this Robert Land drama at Bologna this year. However, in last month’s Sight & Sound, Olaf Möller describes this Austrian-German film as one of the little-known Land’s darker works, noting its “grimly veristic look at the lower depths of Vienna’s demi-monde, where innocent country girls are easy prey for lecherous men”. He also praised the “glistening beauty of its landscape photography, the detail of its presentation of the big city, and the tact with which same of the bleaker, more devastating moment are handled”. Well, I’m sold.
Plays: 10 October 2017, NFT1; 9 October NFT3
The Prince of Adventurers (The Loves of Casanova, 1926)
Behold, the majesty of Ivan Mosjoukine. This I did see in Bologna and I loved it. Loved it. Listen to our Bologna podcast to discover just how much we all laughed and laughed at this comic masterpiece, with Mosjoukine burning up the screen in the love-em-and-leave-em-wanting-more role he was surely born to play, as the greatest lover of them all. It’s an epic comedy directed by Alexandre Volkoff, with a towering central performance. If you’re yet to have the pleasure of seeing Mr Mosjoukine on the big screen, this is the perfect introduction.
Plays: 14 October 2017, NFT1
Not a silent film entirely, but half a silent film, and it’s directed by Todd Haynes, so my expectations are high for this Brian Selznick (Hugo) adaptation about two deaf children. The action is divided in two: with scenes set in the 1970s shot in colour with sound, and the scenes set in the late 1920s filmed black-and-white with silent. We’re especially excited to see Julianne Moore playing a Lillian Gish-esque silent film star.
Plays: 5 October 2017, Embankment Garden Cinema; 6 October 2017, Embankment Garden Cinema; 8 October 2017, Hackney Picturehouse
There’s almost always more, nestled in the programme somewhere, especially in the shorts and experimental films. There are animated silents in the brilliantly named From Jealous Dolls to Brutish Bulldogs screening for example. Check it out.
I’ll keep my eyes peeled over the next few weeks. A lot of people have expressed surprise that The Current War, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison is not in the lineup. Contender for the Secret Film? Possible early cinema connection? Who knows?
- To explore more of the lineup for this year’s BFI London Film Festival, visit the official website here.