All posts by PH

Pamela Hutchinson is the editor of Silent London

Silent Christmas: Cage Against the Machine

John Cage, composer of 4'33"
John Cage, composer of 4'33"

It’s a fairly safe bet that the discerning readers of this blog won’t be buying Matt Cardle’s single this Christmas.* But what should we be slipping into the fleecy stockings of our loved ones instead?
Well, in a moment of rare cross-medium helpfulness, Silent London advises you to forgo Surfin’ Bird, When We Collide and anything that has ever been recorded by Cliff Richard, in favour of 4′ 33″ by Cage Against the Machine. Not just because it’s the most genuinely subversive record to have a chance of entering the UK charts in ages, but because of the video. Yes, there’s a video, and it’s a thing of beauty.

Continue reading Silent Christmas: Cage Against the Machine

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Capturing Colour: Film, Invention and Wonder – review

George Meliés's The Impossible Voyage
George Méliès's The Impossible Voyage

Before visiting the Capturing Colour exhibition , I did a little light background reading on the subject of colour photography. Rather swiftly, I remembered why Physics was not my strong point at school. However, the exhibition at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery chooses to dazzle rather than baffle, using photographs, projected films and video to help tell the story of the development of colour photography.

Continue reading Capturing Colour: Film, Invention and Wonder – review

Our Daily Bread with live score at the Roundhouse, 19 December

A still from Our Daily Bread
A still from Our Daily Bread

Not strictly a silent, this one, but we can’t help but feel it would be of interest to readers of this blog. On 19 December, one-man band Pevin Kinel will be performing a live score to the factory farming documentary Our Daily Bread at the Roundhouse in Camden.
Continue reading Our Daily Bread with live score at the Roundhouse, 19 December

The Passion of Joan of Arc at Alexandra Palace. Maybe

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 Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Prince Charles Cinema

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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.

Capturing Colour: Film, Invention and Wonder

Link: Capturing Colour: Film, Invention and Wonder

Serpentine Dance

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.

Women Make Film History at the Women’s Library

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.

The Docks of New York at the National Gallery

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.

Beyond the M25: Slapstick Fest in Bristol

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.

BFI silents: January roundup

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.

Early cinema on TV. No, really.

The Horse in Motion

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.

BFI silents: December roundup

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.