Hippfest 2019: The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival

Hipp, Hipp, hooray, it’s Hippfest programme launch day. You can now head over to the Hippfest website to read the full lineup for one of my very favourite silent film festivals. And book your tickets while you’re at it – over the years I’ve learned that popular events at Hippfest can and will sell out. Hippfest is just less than two months away, running 20-24 March, 2019 so you want to move quick, but not so quick that you don’t have time to peruse this handy preview, of course.

Here are some of my highlights of the schedule:

The Parson's Widow (1920)
The Parson’s Widow (1920)
  • Forbidden Paradise – You know that your humble scribe is smitten with Pola Negri. So when I saw the restoration of the sizzling Ernst Lubitsch comedy starring Negri and Rod La Rocque at Pordenone, I was bowled over. I am looking forward to watching it again, slightly more composed, but also glammed up for the HIppfest Friday Night Gala. This film deserves your best bib and tucker. I am also psyched to hear the new score by Jane Gardner. Here’s what I said when I saw it in October: “Hearts and reputations are won and lost. Moustaches are twirled. Fingers and furtive glances are everywhere. A revolution rages and is quashed, and always, behind a door Negri is making a conquest or throwing a plan into disarray. It’s ironic and light, but also physical and passionate. I can’t tell you what a treat it is. Seek it out and savour if you can.”

  • The Blot – Everyone’s talking about Lois Weber right now. At least I am. I will be introducing this screening of her exquisite melodrama on Friday afternoon at Hippfest. And if you can’t get as far north as Bo’ness, or you just want to double up on Weber for the weekend, I am giving a lecture on Weber ahead of a screening of Shoes at the Forum cinema, Hexham in Northumberland on the Sunday.
  • A British double-bill – On Sunday, you can sit back and enjoy two of the most beloved but not so often programmed classics of British silent cinema. Moulin Rouge (1928) presents a love triangle in Paris and Hindle Wakes (1927) transports us to an illicit rendez-vous in Llandudno. And before the latter, Lawrence Napper’s lecture “’Kitty the Telephone Girl’ and working women in early cinema”, is bound to be illuminating, entertaining and yes, interactive.
  • A Scottish epic! As previously released, Rob Roy (1922) kicks off the festival with a brand new score by David Allison.


  • A Norwegian romance – Sumptuous snow-bound drama Laila (1929) screens on the Thursday night, with accompaniment by “award-winning Norwegian/Scottish folk duo Marit and Rona who have created a new score marrying the music of the remote landscapes and indigenous peoples of their respective homes”.
  • Au Bonheur des Dames – because I have really liked all the other Julien Duvivier films I have seen, because Stephen Horne is accompanying,  because I have heard such good things about it, because Kevin Brownlow says a film set in a department store never lets you down, and because, despite my best efforts, I have still never seen this one. Time to rectify that.
The Cat and the Canary (1927)
The Cat and the Canary (1927)
  • An eclectic Saturday night – Hippfest’s capacity to leap from genre to genre and continent to continent in the space of one Saturday night continually impresses. So this year they are showing the new restoration of Carl Th. Dreyer’s perfectly pitched comedy The Parson’s Widow, and following it with Hollywood frightfest The Cat and the Canary. Check out the programme’s description of the latter: “Think Agatha Christie meets Scooby Doo with a generous dash of German Expressionism and you get the idea of the flavour of this riotous and influential horror classic.” irresistible.
  • Silent Sherlock! I don’t know much about the film as yet, but Rob Byrne of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival is introducing this new restoration of German film The Hound of the Baskervilles on the Thursday afternoon. And it’s preceded by a Cuppa Talk on Holmes of the Movies, which I am very keen to see, my dear Watson.
  • All this and more, including railway station shenanigans, Harold Lloyd, a Chinese silent, Laurel & Hardy … and with any luck the now-legendary window display contest.

See you in Bo’ness!

The Blot (1921)
The Blot (1921)


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