Battleship Potemkin

Silents in the stream: a plea to Filmstruck

Fire up your tablets – a new film streaming service for cinephiles launches in the UK today. Filmstruck has been available for a while in the US, but now it has hopped the pond. While the platform is the same, the content is not.

You probably associate the Filmstruck name with the much-loved Criterion Collection. I know I did. The UK version is also known as Filmstruck Curzon and will offer titles from the Criterion and Warner Bros libraries as well as Curzon Artificial Eye, Park Circus and Kew Media Group. You can browse the films by genre or themes, or via edited collections such as Rock Stars on Film. You can create your own watchlist too. There are also Criterion mini-documentaries alongside the films – the equivalent of watching DVD extras.

Filmstruck Homepage__tablet (1).jpg

For now, Filmstruck Curzon is available on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, iOS and Android devices and the plain old web. The company plans to add more to that list shortly, which would be very useful for those of us who like to watch films on the telly, with other people, and are not so great with tech.

I have had a poke around Filmstruck Curzon (and you can too, there is a 14-day free trial on offer). Once I had fettled my Flash settings, the site worked well for me although it did log me out a few times and it looks very clear and smart. There are lots of films there that I want to watch, so it was a very good start. I suspect you can guess what I am going to say next, though.

Among the many, many, classic and arthouse movies on offer through Filmstruck Curzon at launch, there are just two silents. Two. Good ones, admittedly. I suspect most of you have caught up with Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (yes, it is the silent version, I checked) and Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin already, though.

 

There was a lot of talk at the launch last night about the power of film to move and excite audiences, as well as the pleasure of exploring cinema, movie by movie. Filmstruck Curzon promises to add new titles every month, and I hope it won’t always be so biased towards the talkies. More silents, please! There are many ways through the maze of film culture, but I am sure a lot of people want to start somewhere near the beginning – or at least find a path back to it.

I know that Filmstruck in the US has some amazing silent titles (lots of Victor Sjöstrom, apparently) so this may not be a vain hope. If you do sign up for the site, please make your feelings known.

It’s not easy to find silents on any streaming sites available in the UK, but there were a couple of interesting titles on Netflix (which is more expensive than Filmstruck) last time I checked, including the Pioneers of African-American cinema collection, and Amazon Video is surprisingly well-stocked. Best of all for silents in this country, of course, is the BFI Player, offering features, shorts, fragments and archive curios. Do let me know if you spot any other good ones. The trouble with these most of these sites is that while they add new content all the time, they retire titles too, so it can be tricky to keep track of what is around.

If I spot any new silent titles appearing on Filmstruck – I’ll be sure to let you know.

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