Category Archives: Pandora’s book

Happy birthday Louise Brooks!

One-hundred-and-eleven years ago, the actress, writer and icon Louise Brooks was born in Cherryvale, Kansas.  She danced, she inspired a comic strip, she scandalised people, she acted, she starred, she disappeared … then she came back and told us all about it, in a series of wise and candid essays and some revelatory interviews. Her famous cool look, with those sharp features, glittering eyes and that slick haircut, represent the essence of 1920s chic. Her fame and popularity seem to grow every year. In short, Louise Brooks is hot stuff, even now.

To celebrate the anniversary of Louise Brooks’s birth I want to share with you the first look at my new book on her greatest film, Pandora’s Box (1929). Thanks for all your support along the way to writing this book. It has meant so much to me.

Pandora's Box by Pamela Hutchinson
Pandora’s Box by Pamela Hutchinson – it’s real!

You can order the book here, but if you want to celebrate Louise Brooks’s birthday in style, come along to the official launch event and screening at BFI Southbank on Sunday 19 November 2017. I’ll be there to introduce the film, and to sign copies of the book afterwards. The film will screen on 35mm film, with live accompaniment from the wonderful John Sweeney. PLUS, you can buy the book then and there in the BFI shop, a few days before its official release, with a 10% discount. Just present your film ticket in the shop to get the offer.

There are a series of other screenings planned around the country to support the launch of the book. You can read about them here, in a post which I will update as new events are announced.

 

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Pandora’s Box: interview with South West Silents

The lovely people at South West Silents interviewed me about Pandora’s Box, ahead of the screening I am introducing at the Cube Cinema in Bristol on 24 November.

South West Silents

Pandora’s Box (1929), Cube Cinema, Bristol / 8:00pm + Live Music + Special Intro

We strongly recommend that you keep the evening of Friday 24th November free in your diaries! Why?! As we are offering, for our second silent film event at the Cube Cinema, Bristol, a very rare treat indeed. As not only do you have a chance to see G. W. Pabst’s masterpiece that is Pandora’s Box (1929), starring the incredible Louise Brooks on the big screen (on 35mm film from the BFI Archives we should add). But this rare treat will also give us a chance to welcome back to very good friends of South West Silents.

Pianist John Sweeney will be playing live for us and returns to the Cube after our highly successful screening of  Il Fuoco (1916; The Fire) which took place back in March.

While Pamela Hutchinson (Silent London) is…

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Watch, read, repeat: Pandora’s Box at the pictures

A few weeks ago I brought you news about a release date for my book on Pandora’s Box. In that post I also promised you some news about opportunities to see the film too. Here we go …

In case you are wondering, this is the correct order of business, in my humble opinion: watch the film, then read the book, then watch the film again. Repeat as required and enjoy!

So I have a few dates and venues confirmed, where you can come along, watch the film, with an introduction or Q&A from moi, and if you feel so inclined, buy a copy of the book (very reasonably priced, lots of pictures). It would be great to see some Silent Londoners in the audience. As more dates are arranged, I’ll add them to this post, but as ever, pay attention to the Silent London social media channels to get the breaking news.

So far, ALL these screenings are 35mm projections with live musical accompaniment. Because if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. And seeing Pandora’s Box on the big screen is definitely a thing worth doing.

  • 19th November 2017: NFT1, BFI Southbank, London: 35mm projection, introduction, live piano accompaniment by John Sweeney, book launch. Book tickets here from 3 October on.
  • 24th November 2017: Cube Cinema, Bristol: 35mm projection, introduction, live piano accompaniment by John Sweeney. Book tickets here.
  • 3rd December 2017: Phoenix Cinema, Finchley, London: 35mm projection, introduction, live accompaniment by Stephen Horne. Book tickets here.
  • 10th December: Eden Court, Inverness: 35mm projection, Q&A, live accompaniment by Stephen Horne. Book tickets here.
  • 28th January 2018, Home, Manchester: 35mm projection, introduction, live accompaniment by Stephen Horne. Book tickets here.

 

 

There are at least two more dates to be announced and yes, they are further north than these three. Watch this space for details …

 

 

 

Pandora’s book: news update

Just a short note, to give you a little bit of news. The book I’ve been writing, well actually wrote last summer, has a release date! It’s a short book in the BFI Film Classics series, about one of the most beautiful and fascinating of all silent movies, GW Pabst’s Pandora’s Box (1929), starring the unique Louise Brooks. #pandorasbook

Bad news for now – the book isn’t out until 21 November.

Good news for now – you can pre-order the book already, on Amazon, on the Palgrave site, or in a selection of other bookshops.

Good news to come – I’m talking to several people at venues up and down the UK, about screenings of the film to tie in with the launch. The deal is: I’ll come along, chat about the film, sell you a book and it will be midwinter magic all round. Details of those events to come, so watch this space …

Thanks for all your support. It’s also exactly a year today since I quit my full-time job and I have had a fabulous, busy 12 months of freelance film-related work. It’s enough to make a girl want to dance …

PandoraTango

‘Pandora’s Box with the lid off!’: Lulu’s misadventures in London

This is an extended version of a paper that I gave at the British Silent Film Festival Symposium at King’s College London on 7 April 2017. My book on Pandora’s Box (1929) is forthcoming from BFI Palgrave.

***

G. W. Pabst’s Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box, 1929) is an adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s Lulu plays, but in many places a very loose one. Those German plays are about thirty years older than the film, a Weimar-era classic that marries traces of Expressionism with the late-1920s sobriety of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement. Pandora’s Box was filmed in Berlin, or at least in a former zeppelin hangar in Staaken, and its American star Louise Brooks identitfied its depiction of divergent sexualities and the sex trade with the city’s glamorous, permissive nightlife. Her evocative description of the city during the shoot, when she was staying at the famous Eden Hotel, begins: “Sex was the business of the town …”

“At the Eden Hotel, where I lived in Berlin, the café bar was lined with the higher-priced trollops. The economy girls walked the street outside. On the corner stood the girls in boots, advertising flagellation. Actors’ agents pimped for the ladies in luxury apartments in the Bavarian Quarter. Race-track touts at the Hoppegarten arranged orgies for groups of sportsmen. The nightclub, Eldorado, displayed an enticing line of homosexuals dressed as women. At the Maly, there was a choice of feminine or collar-and-tie lesbians. Collective lust roared unashamed at the theatre.”[i]

There is only one named location in the film, however, and it is in this place that the fictional narrative bumps into historical circumstance – so in this case, geography carries crucial meaning. The final act of Pandora’s Box the film, just like the final act of Wedekind’s play of the same name, takes place in London – in a slum district most likely in the east of the city. Jack the Ripper walks these streets, and our heroine Lulu, reduced to prostitution, encounters him with fatal consequences. This murder is her dramatic destiny, and to understand the film more fully, which was possibly the first cinema adaptation of the plays to feature London and the Ripper, we need to think about the British capital rather than the German one. To explore this topic I am going to examine three disappointing “misadventures” in London: the visits made by Frank Wedekind, Louise Brooks and the film itself.

Continue reading ‘Pandora’s Box with the lid off!’: Lulu’s misadventures in London

Ali Smith on Louise Brooks: ‘the revelation of movement’

I can’t believe I have been keeping this one to myself. As part of the process of writing a book on Pandora’s Box, I took a chance and wrote to a woman who I admire hugely, and who I know is a serious Louise Brooks aficionado. The novelist Ali Smith kindly agreed to answer a few hastily gathered questions on Brooks. Her answers were so eloquent, and inspirational, that I wanted to share them in full with you here …

Ali Smith
Ali Smith

It’s very common, since the 1960s, to talk about films belonging to directors. One hardly ever hears those auteurist labels on Brooks’s European films. I wondered if you felt these films mean something different when labelled as the work of their star rather than their director?

I kind of don’t care, and have never been much interested in labels. They’re always simplifications. But labels definitely preserve things over time, so thank god for that, and for the little flags they erect on the surface of knowledge so that people can see where to go to dig down deeper. I do despair, though, of the way our individual and common knowledge, both, get so lost so fast. Brooks, lost after the silent masterpiece years, till she died, was reclaimed in the 70s and 80s. I saw Pandora’s Box on TV in, I think, 1981. My mother, who wasn’t one for idle speculation or idle interests in things on TV, or idle anything, and who always went off to bed early, stayed up till 1am watching the film with me, till she couldn’t stay up any later, and in the morning the first thing she asked me was what happened at the end of that film?

Thirty years later, we have to do it all again – I heard your piece on Woman’s Hour, and sensed Jenni Murray’s astonishment at encountering Brooks for the first time. I was amazed – how could people not know Brooks? How could such a central cultural commentator not have her in her bones? (Unless she was simply being a kind introducer of Brooks to a listening audience who might bot know her.)* Where does that knowledge go? Here you are, doing that vital task.

louise-brooks-pandoras-box

Continue reading Ali Smith on Louise Brooks: ‘the revelation of movement’

My summer with Lulu

Hello. I have news! And a little request to make.

Silent London may be a little neglected over the summer, because I am writing a book. Yay! Just a little one. The site won’t entirely close though: I hope to pop back here occasionally to update you on the progress of the book, and my research, and maybe to find a little company during my summer hibernation.

The book will be a BFI Film Classic, on a very special and beautiful movie. I’ll be writing about …  Pandora’s Box (1929), GW Pabst’s dazzling take on Wedekind’s Lulu plays, starring the endlessly fascinating Louise Brooks. I know that many of you love this film – and quite right too. So I am very pleased to be spending the summer with Georg and Louise and Frank, sweating happily over a hot keyboard. 

Film Classics are short and sweet as you may know, but I will still be working full-time so it may take me a little while to get there. And I will probably still be writing elsewhere. As always, the best way to keep up with the other things I write is here on my portfolio site, or by clicking on the “More by me” tab at the top of the site.

Pandora's Box
Pandora’s Box

Obviously, in what feels like the dim, distant future when the book is published, I’d love it if you could buy it, or put it on your Christmas lists, or borrow it from your library, or just tell some interested friends about it.

But that’s not the request I want to make today. It’s simply this: don’t be a stranger! Bear with with Silent London while it is on a go-slow – I’ll still post here, and on Facebook and Twitter sometimes. And please be patient if all I seem to talk about is Neue Sachlichkeit and Brooks’s razor-sharp fringe for a while.

Thank you Silent Londoners!

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