The Blot (1921)

A weekend with Lois Weber: silent movies at the 2018 Cambridge Film Festival

Festival season is upon us. There’s Pordenone, of course, and London and also the Cambridge Film Festival all in October. A trip to the fenland city is very appealing at this time of year – and all the more so with a tempting selection of silent films.

The star of the slate is Lois Weber, one of the very best American silent film directors. And Cambridge will be showing four of her films over the weekend, all with live music. One of these in particular, The Blot, is rarely shown, but I think it’s very special indeed. Kevin Brownlow says that you won’t find a better film for showing you how life was really lived in the 1920s. That’s very probably true, but I think that inadvertently undersells it. There is a lot more to the film than its realism. It’s a real heartbreaker, and a nuanced drama too.

Lois Weber calling the shots
Lois Weber calling the shots

Beyond the wonders of Weber, there’s also a little something for the bairns – a guaranteed crowdpleaser – and a spooky, beautiful silent for Halloween. All supported generously by Adder Technology, I hear.

Here are the Weber films

  • Friday 26 October, 7pm: Shoes + Suspense accompanied by John Sweeney
  • Saturday 27 October, 8.30pm: The Blot accompanied by Neil Brand
  • Sunday 28 October, 2.30pm: The Dumb Girl of Portici accompanied by John Sweeney

For kids (and big kids):

  • Saturday 27 October, 2.30pm: the annual Comedy for Kids with Neil Brand

And there’s more… a pre-Halloween Edgar Allan Poe double-bill

  • Sunday 28 Oct (7.30pm): Jean Epstein’s The Fall of The House of Usher (1928) accompanied by Stephen Horne & Svankmajer’s The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope (1983)

PS! There’s a stunning documentary made up of ethnographic film shot by an aristocratic Belgian filmmaker in the lineup too. You’ve all heard of Marquis de Wavrin, right? Well you may have seen that the box set featuring this film and all his extant footage won the Best Rediscovery prize at this year’s Il Cinema Ritrovato, DVD Awards, at least. Marquis de Wavrin: From the Manor to the Jungle tells a fascinating story of early, off-grid filmmaking.

See you there! The full lineup for the festival looks especially strong this year, so it’s very good news that the programmers have retained some space for silent films also.

The Fall of the House of Usher (1928)
  • The Cambridge Film Festival runs 25 October-1 November 2018
  • Full information on the filmCambridge Film Festival can be found here. You’ll be able to buy tickets there from 6 October, also.
  • Silent London will always be free to all readers. If you enjoy checking in with the site, including reports from silent film festivals, features and reviews, please consider shouting me a coffee on my Ko-Fi page.



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