Adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo.
You don’t often get to see silent films at pop festivals, but then again you don’t get many pop festivals in locations as grand as Alexandra Palace. The I’ll be Your Mirror festival, an off-shoot of All Tomorrow’s Parties is curated by Portishead, and takes place at Ally Pally next July.
The most intriguing act on the lineup for us is The Passion of Joan of Arc. We’re really hoping that this will be Dreyer’s silent classic from 1928 – and that this will be another chance to hear the score that Adrian Utley of Portishead and Will Gregory wrote for the film.
We got in touch with I’ll Be Your Mirror a couple of times but so far have had no response. Still, this looks like a fairly safe bet. Unless these guys have changed their name.
The Prince Charles Cinema in the West End shows a silent film on the last Thursday of each month – except for December, it seems. So their next silent screening is in January, and it’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring “Man of a Thousand Faces” Lon Chaney. Hunchback was Universal’s most successful silent production, and it was the definitive film adaptation of Hugo’s novel – until a certain Disney version came along.
Trivia: English actress Kate Lester, who plays Madame de Gondelaurier, died on the Universal lot a year after making this film, following an explosion in her dressing room.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is screened at 8.45pm on Thursday 27th January. John Sweeney provides piano accompaniment.
SCHEDULE CLASH: Just like London buses, etc etc, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is showing at exactly the same time as Hamlet starring Asta Nielsen screens at the BFI. Just so you know.
Early Cinema Myth No 1 is surely that all silent films were black and white. It’s not true in the slightest, which is why we’re so keen to see this new exhibition in Brighton, which explores early attempts to achieve colour – from magic lanterns onwards.
We take the moving image in colour for granted, but the search for a way to capture the world in colour is a story of ingenious inventions, personal obsession, magic and illusion, scientific discovery, glamour, hard work and determination.
The Capturing Colour exhibition is at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery until 20 March 2011 and admission is free.
Silent London is planning a field trip to take a look at the show later in the week – we’ll report back here.
A quick mention for this event at the Women’s Libary on Saturday, which comprises a screening of several feminist films, followed by a discussion led by a panel including Professor June Purvis and Christine Gledhill.
The screening kicks off with some silents of course: four militant suffrage comedies from 1910. Sounds great.
Tickets are £8 or £6 for concessions.
The afternoon screenings illustrate women’s relationship with the cinema through a wide range of films, moving from early suffragette films which demonstrate cinema’s role – not always complimentary – in making visible women’s political activity in the public sphere, to women’s later use of film to examine what it means to be a woman in the workplace, and finally to the flowering of women’s alternative practices using animation.
This is a real one-off. Josef Von Sternberg’s The Docks of New York, starring George Bancroft and Betty Compson, screens at the National Gallery at 2.30pm tomorrow, that’s Saturday 4 December. Bancroft plays a sailor on shore leave in the Big Apple, who falls for Compson’s jaded dancer.
Fog-enshrouded cinematography by Harold Rosson (The Wizard of Oz), expressionist set design by Hans Dreier (Sunset Boulevard), and sensual performances by Bancroft and Compson make this one of the legendary director’s finest works, and one of the most exquisitely crafted films of its era.
This looks like something very special, on a weekend already jam-packed with silent screenings in London.
Tickets are £6 or £4 for concessions, but online booking has now closed – so you’ll have to get down to the gallery to get your seat.
The silent film was not only a vigorous popular art; it was a universal language – Esperanto for the eyes.
Bristol is only three hours away on the train, so we couldn’t resist bringing this weekend of silent slapstick to your attention. The Slapstick Festival runs from 27-30 January across several venues in the city.
There’s a Gala Event on the Friday night featuring Barry Cryer, Ian Lavender, Neil Innes and Bill Oddie. Other highlights in the festival, as far as Silent London is concerned, include Kevin Brownlow introducing some unseen Chaplin footage on the Thursday, Mantrap starring Clara Bow on Friday, and Rediscoveries and Revelations!, a bonanza of lost films on Sunday morning.
There is lots to look forward to in the BFI’s January schedule.
First up, we are very excited about Hamlet (1920) starring Asta Nielsen. This is the first UK screening of a new print of the film, with a new score by Claire van Kampen. Silent Shakespeare has a special place in Silent London’s heart and this is a classic. Some people can get a bit agitated about the fact that Asta Nielsen, who plays Hamlet, is a woman. But she’s Danish too, which is more than you can say for Laurence Olivier. Plus, the film puts a little twist on the plot of the play, which explains everything.
Hamlet is on Thursday 27 January at 8.45pm.
Second, is The Birth of a Nation (1915). It’s horribly racist and terribly long, but DW Griffith’s epic is a game-changer in the history of feature films. Plus, it is shown here with an introduction by Oscar-winner Kevin Brownlow – so this is a good time to catch it, if you haven’t seen it already.
The Birth of a Nation is on Monday 24 January at 6.10pm.
The Howard Hawks retrospective was always going to be a treat, but we’re really pleased to see five silent features (and one incomplete film, Trent’s Last Case, as well) in there.
Fig Leaves (1926) is on 1 January at 6.30pm and 5 January at 8.40pm.
The Cradle Snatchers (1927) with Trent’s Last Case (1929) is on 1 January at 8.40pm and 7 January 6.20pm.
Paid to Love (1927) is on 2 January at 4.10pm and 10 January at 8.30pm.
A Girl in Every Port (1928), which stars Louise Brooks, is on 2 January at 6.30pm and 7 January at 8.45pm.
Fazil (1928) screens on 2 January 8.40pm and 10 January at 6.30pm.
All of the Hawks films are shown in NFT2 and have live piano accompaniment.
Honourable mention also to a short, London After Dark (1926), shown as a companion piece to Say it With Flowers (1934) on Wednesday 12 January 6.30pm.
Priority booking for BFI members is open on 7 December.
A visit to a cinema is a little outing in itself. It breaks the monotony of an afternoon or evening; it gives a change from the surroundings of home, however pleasant.
Well, pre-cinema really.
Tonight, on BBC1 at 10.35pm, The Weird Adventures of Eadweard Muybridge looks at the “Victorian enigma” who took those famous photographs of running horses, gymnasts and elephants and then started projecting his animations of said photographs on a big screen, thanks to his amazing zoopraxiscope. The documentary is presented by Alan Yentob as part of the Imagine… strand.
Need another reason to watch? Andy Serkis plays Muybridge himself.
This is a good month for silent film at BFI Southbank. You can still catch the “new” Metropolis, just about, and the BFI has a full programme as part of the Fashion in Film festival, but there’s plenty more besides:
There are a couple of cartoons from the silent era in Cartoon Classics and Animated Oddities 2, 15 December.
The 1910 Show, curated by Bryony Dixon and accompanied on piano by Stephen Horne, is on Monday 13 December.
One of Fashion in Film’s six kinoscopes will be installed in the foyer until 14 December. Also during the first half of the month, you can watch, deep breath, The Red Lantern (1919), Male and Female (1919), The Affairs of Anatol (1921), Salome (1923), La Revue des Revues (1927), The Island of Love (1928), Moulin Rouge (1928) and Secrets of the East – all of which feature fabulous costumes and most of which are screened on two separate dates.
A tantalising announcement from the Birds Eye View film festival – the dates for 2011 are 8-17 March and we are promised: “archive silent films with specially commissioned live scores”. These will include, in the “Bloody Women: From Gothic To Horror” strand, The Wind, starring Lillian Gish.
This is a real treat in the new year. The Philharmonia orchestra is performing a live score for Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush at the Royal Festival Hall on Monday 3 January 2011.
The score for this special performance (and screening!) has been ‘reconstructed’ with reference to Chaplin’s notes for his Oscar-nominated score for the 1942 sound version. It is the work of Carl Davis, who will also conduct.
If this is not a landmark date in the silent film calendar … I’ll eat my old boots.
Featuring Chaplin in his quintessential Little Tramp role, the film was described by The New York Times upon its 1925 release as ‘a comedy with streaks of poetry, pathos, tenderness, linked with brusqueness and boisterousness… the outstanding gem of all Chaplin’s pictures’.
You can’t get a better bargain than this: a free programme of early British shorts at the Phoenix cinema in East Finchley at 2pm today.
This is from the Phoenix website: “A premier screening fusing work by Barnet’s first filmmakers, Robert Paul and Birt Acres, with brand new soundtracks composed by members of Barnet Council’s Rithmik Youth Music Studio and live musical accompaniment from world-renowned pianist Stephen Horne.”
Call the box office on 020 8444 6789.
Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.
There are still tickets available to see the fully restored, 25-minute longer version of Fritz Lang’s majestic Metropolis at BFI Southbank on Saturday, Sunday and Thursday. It’s showing on the big screen tonight!
The Barbican’s amazing silent film and live music schedule continues with the 3rd Fashion in Film festival. They say:
Exploring costume as a form of cinematic spectacle, these sumptuous and rarely screened European films of the silent era comprise a captivating conclusion to our autumn/winter silent series
The weekend features La Princesse Mandane, accompanied by Stephen Horne, Red Heels, accompanied by Jane Gardner and The Golden Butterfly, with John Sweeney, plus a programme of early shorts on Saturday afternoon.
Looking for silent film screenings in London? Watch this space.