Category Archives: Screening

October at the BFI, 8 April 2011

October (1927)
October (1927)

Sergei Eisenstein’s dramatic reconstruction of 1917’s October revolution is more than Soviet propaganda – it’s a ferociously exciting film, too. Rightly hailed as a classic, October‘s audaciously rapid montage editing is as violent and incendiary as its subject matter  The bridge sequence in this film bears comparison with the Odessa Steps scene in Eisenstein’s more famous film Battleship Potemkin, but it’s a tough watch for horse lovers.

October (1927) will screen at the BFI on 8 April as the first half of a double-bill to accompany Phil Collins’s Marxism Today project, on display in the Gallery, which compares life in Germany before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Collins has chosen and will introduce the two films in the double-bill: first, October and then Lunch Break, a 2008 documentary film made by American photographer and film-maker Sharon Lockhart. Lunch Break consists of a single tracking shot down a corridor in an iron works in Maine. The shot has been slowed down to a snail’s pace, making the film last for 80 minutes, becoming an anthropological study of the workers and their environment. The BFI brochure says: “Its intimate, meditative tone offers an empathetic consideration of the workforce in our contemporary post-industrial condition.”

Continue reading October at the BFI, 8 April 2011

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Michael at the BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, 6 April

Michael (1924)
Michael (1924)

April brings two opportunities to catch Dreyer films on the big screen in London – with The Passion of Joan of Arc at Queen Elizabeth Hall and Michael, an earlier and lesser known work by the Danish director, which is being shown at the BFI Southbank as part of the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. It’s a highly regarded film, although apparently its reception was not so friendly when it was released in the US, where critics objected to the gay storyline. More fool them. The film tells the story of a successful painter (played by Benjamin Christensen) and his unrequited love for his protegé Michael (Walter Slezak), who is, in turn, in love with a countess (Nora Gregor). Michael has a melodramatic plot, but is told sensitively, in Dreyer’s Kammerspiel style, and is beautifully designed and photographed.  Casper Tybjerg writes on carlthdreyer.dk:

This sophisticated film unfolds in sumptuously decorated interiors filled with extravagant objets d’art. Dreyer had a big budget and UFA’s state-of-the-art studio facilities at his disposal as well as Karl Freund, a top director of photography in his day. Michael is a chamber play, depicting a few people and their mutual relationships. All significant things remain unspoken. Dreyer has the camera tell the story in glances, facial expressions and objects. For Dreyer, working with the actors was what mattered, guiding them to give nuanced and precise emotional performances to be captured in close-ups.

Anyone who has seen The Passion of Joan of Arc will know what Dreyer can do with a close-up, so this film looks like a must-see. It’s only a pity that it will be showing in one of the BFI’s smaller screens. For a full (very full) review of Michael, see this entry on jclarkmedia.com.

Michael screens at NFT3, BFI Southbank on 6 April at 6.10pm. There will be piano accompaniment. Tickets cost £9.50 or £6.75 for concessions, and less for BFI members. They will be available on 11 March for BFI members and from 18 March for everyone else. More details on the festival website here.

Silent films at the Flatpack Festival, Birmingham, 23-27 March 2011

Sherlock Jr (1924)
Sherlock Jr (1924)

Another excuse for a trip outside the big smoke, Flatpack Festival is a quirky event, showing “cinematic wonders” of all kinds at venues across Birmingham at the end of March. And there is plenty on the schedule to entice a silent film fan.

First up is an evening at Birmingham Town Hall called Digging for Gold. This event is a tribute to film historian Iris Barry and features  a screening of Buster Keaton’s magnificent Sherlock Jr along with some European shorts. Music will be provided by Nigel Ogden and Alcyona Mick

Digging for Gold is at Brimingham Town Hall on 24 March at 7.30pm.

On the final day of the festival you can enjoy The Keystone Cut Ups at the Electric Cinema, which mixes early slapstick film with scenes from surrealist films of the same era.

People Like Us and Ergo Phizmiz have been regular collaborators for some time, and when commissioned by Berwick Media Arts & Film Festival last year the result was The Keystone Cut Ups; a kaleidoscopic split-screen voyage through silent cinema which combines celluloid moments both familiar and uncanny with an original score performed live in the auditorium. Striding purposefully into its second century, the Electric Cinema should provide the perfect setting.

You can see a short video excerpt here. The Keystone Cut Ups screens at the Electric Cinema on 27 March at 7.30pm.

Depending on which way your interest in early cinema runs, you may also be interested in a couple more events. There’s a screening of the classic Mae West film She Done Him Wrong (1933) on Sunday 27 March and the spooky Shadow Shows opens the festival on Wednesday 23 March with its Lotte Reiniger inspired silhouettes:

The performance is built around a triple-screen film projection, incorporating techniques of early cinema and a variety of shadow effects. The original music score and sound effects are performed live by Pram as hidden conspirators behind a giant film screen, occasionally also glimpsed as silhouetted figures incorporated into its fractured scheme of images. The musicians employ an eclectic mixture of electronic and acoustic instruments, while the sound effects are created using hand-crafted devices from the theatre of a bygone age.

All this as well as screenings of new and classic films, a vintage mobile cinema, and some very special cakes. More details at the Flatpack Festival website here.

Beggars of Life with the Dodge Brothers at the BFI, 10 April 2011

Beggars of Life (1928)
Beggars of Life (1928)

The time is right for a little rock’n’roll – and who better to rock our world than Louise Brooks? The British Silent Film Festival is putting on a screening of Beggars of Life (1928), which stars Brooks as a young runaway who dresses as a boy and falls in with criminals, “riding the rails” across Depression-era America. It is known as the best of Brooks’s American silents, thanks to her fresh lead performance and the film’s fast-moving pace. If you’ve read Lulu in Hollywood, you’ll know from Brooks’s own account that between the stuntwork, the bitchiness and the practical jokes, the cast and crew had a hell of a time making this film, too.

The aforementioned rock’n’roll comes from the musical accompaniment for the screening: the Dodge Brothers, featuring film critic Mark Kermode and joined on this occasion by silent film pianist Neil Brand. The Dodge Brothers are a skiffle band, and play in a retro rockabilly style. They’ve worked on silent films before – soundtracking White Oak at the Barbican in 2009 and playing along to Beggars of Life at the British Silent Film Festival in Leicester last year. Here, Mark Kermode talks about what it’s like to work on a silent film project:

This promises to be a fantastic show – and tickets for the screening are likely to be very popular. Beggars of Life screens in NFT1 at the BFI Southbank on Sunday 10 April at 6pm. Tickets are £13 or £9.75 for concessions and £1.50 less for members. Tickets go on sale to BFI members on 8 March, and on general sale on 15 March. For more details, visit the BFI website.

Neil Brand and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to score Underground (1928)

Underground (1928)
Underground (1928)

There is a some very exciting news over at The Incredible Suit blog. According to the man we must refer to as Mr Suit (Incredible to to his friends), composer and silent film pianist Neil Brand has been commissioned by the Barbican and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to write a score for the new restored print of Anthony Asquith’s London-set romance Underground (1928).

So, make sure you’re in town on Wednesday 5 October, which is when the score is due to premiere at the Barbican – and then keep your eyes peeled for a forthcoming DVD featuring the new soundtrack.

This short video offers some technical details about the BFI restoration of Underground, and offers a snippet of the score that Brand performed at the Queen Elizaebeth Hall when the new print was first shown in 2009.

UPDATE: You can buy tickets here, on the Barbican website.

Underground screens at 8pm on Wednesday 5 October 2011 in the Barbican Hall at the Barbican Arts Centre.

The Lodger at The Prince Charles Cinema, 24 March 2011

The Lodger (1927)
The Lodger (1927)

The Prince Charles Cinema has announced its next trio of silent screenings and they are all classics, kicking off with Hitchcock’s best known silent film, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927). There’s very little Silent London likes more than a silent film set in London, by a London-born director – and The Lodger is a really fantastic film. This is how the PCC describes it:

Considered by Hitchcock as his first real film, The Lodger is a silent sexual psychodrama set in a foggy, gloomy London terrorised by a killer loosely modelled on Jack the Ripper. As blonde women are murdered around the city, a sinister gentleman takes up lodgings at the house of an elderly couple and is soon showing an interest in their pretty blonde daughter. A real sense of menace pervades the story and the visual inventiveness makes the film a real treat.

Yup, it’s pretty sinister, and Hitchcock is on fine form here – the beautifully designed intertitles are a particular delight, as is Ivor Novello’s wonderfully ambiguous performance in the lead role.

There is some bad news about Hitchcock’s silents though – these great films, including The Ring, The Manxman, Downhill and Blackmail, are in urgent need of restoration. To this end the BFI has launched a campaign called Rescue the Hitchcock 9 to raise funds for the restoration work. So if you go along to see The Lodger at the Prince Charles Cinema, and you enjoy it, perhaps you’d think about making a donation yourself. Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation recently contributed £275,o00, but you don’t have to give as much as that. For more details, look at the BFI website here.

The Lodger screens at the Prince Charles Cinema on 24 March 2011 at 8.45pm. Piano accompaniment will be provided by John Sweeney and tickets cost £10 or £6 for members. More details here.

Anna May Wong: Song and Frosted Yellow Willows at the Cinema Museum, 26 March 2011

Anna May Wong
Anna May Wong

You want glamour? We got it. on 26 March, the Cinema Museum will host an evening to celebrate the life and work of the beautiful actress Anna May Wong, star of Piccadilly and Shanghai Express.

The night begins with a screening of the biographical documentary Anna May Wong – Frosted Yellow Willows: Her Life, Times and Legend, and a Q&A session with the film’s director Elaine Mae Woo. Frosted Yellow Willows is the literal translation of Wong’s real name: Wong Liu Tsong. The documentary incorporates interviews with those who knew Wong, and was made with the support of such luminaries as Kevin Brownlow and Leonard Maltin.

From humble beginnings in a Chinese laundry, she went on to star in pictures such as Technicolor’s Toll of the Sea (1922), E.A. Dupont’s Piccadilly (1929) and Josef von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express (1932) with Marlene Dietrich. Never one to rest on her laurels, Anna would utilize her fame to aid her country and the country of her ancestors during times of war. Her body of work establishes her as a true pioneer of early cinema.

For more information about the documentary, visit the official website here. The Q&A will be followed by a screening of the melodrama Song (1928):

After the interval we will be screening a BFI archival 35mm print of the rarely-seen 1928 film Song (Richard Eichberg), an Anglo-German production in which Anna May Wong received top billing. In this her first European film, Anna plays a dancer drawn into a tragic romantic triangle when she meets a cabaret knife thrower (Heinrich George) and his capricious sweetheart. Song is notable both for Anna’s dancing and for the dramatic power of her performance. There will be a live piano accompaniment.

Most British silent film fans will know Wong primarily for her role in Piccadilly, but this will be a welcome chance to see one of her lesser known films, and the whole evening will be an opportunity to learn more about Hollywood’s first Chinese American leading lady.

Tickets in advance are £6.50 available from www.wegottickets.com or 0207 840 2200, and they will also be for sale on the door at £8. Doors will open at 6.30pm and refreshments will be available. The event is due to start at 7.30pm and finish at 10.30. For more information, visit the Cinema Museum website or the event’s Facebook page.

• UPDATE: This event will also be held at Liverpool John Moores University on 22 March 2011. More details here.

Carmen at the Musical Museum, Brentford, 26 March 2011

Carmen (1915)
Carmen (1915)

This is one of London’s more unusual venues for a silent film screening: the Musical Museum in Brentford, Middlesex, which is just down the road from Chiswick. The museum boasts a magnificent Wurlitzer and regularly shows films with organ accompaniment – every so often we get a silent film in the mix, too. The silent film they are showing next is Carmen (1915), and although the online programme sports a very sultry picture of Theda Bara in the role, I have it on very good authority that they are showing the version directed by Cecil B DeMille, featuring opera star Geraldine Farrar.

Carmen, which was based on the novel by Prosper Mérimée rather than the opera, was a huge hit at the time, first prompting a rival studio to produce the version starring Bara and then inspiring Chaplin to make A Burlesque on Carmen (1916). Was that one of the first spoof movies?

Farrar plays Carmen, a beautiful Gypsy who seduces a soldier in order to distract him from his post and allow her fellow smugglers to sneak contraband into the city of Seville. Well, it all ends rather messily as you probably know, but it’s a classic tale – and the bullring sequence is fantastic. Also, I’m very pleased to see the Musical Museum showing such an early film, rather than the more familiar 1920s fare.

The Wurlitzer, which was originally installed in the Regal cinema in Kingston Upon Thames, will be played by Donald Mackenzie. Carmen (1915) will screen at the Musical Museum, Brentford, on 26 March 2011, at 7.30pm. Tickets, which are £10, are available here, along with all the information you need.

Silent films at the Horatia Sunday Fayre, Holloway Road N7

The Horatia Sunday Fayre
The Horatia Sunday Fayre

Yet again this blog seems to be suggesting you go to the pub on a school night, but this is strictly an afternoon only event, and it’s in a good cause. The Horatia is a recently renovated pub on Holloway Road, Islington, which offers gigs, dancing, quizzes and film nights throughout the week, but is just about to launch its Sunday afternoon shenanigans.

Starting this Sunday 27th February, the pub will be offering roast dinners, DJs, stalls selling craft and vintage goods, board games, and yes, “Silent film classics” on the day of rest. According to the Facebook page created for the event, the films will be shown on a big screen, but there is no more information forthcoming at the moment.

Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that a busy bar full of jewellery stalls and people eating roast lamb while someone else plays records is not an ideal screening environment. But I suspect that is not what they are trying to achieve. Enjoying a few scenes from a silent film in the background while having drinks with friends sounds like a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon – perhaps before hopping on a No 4 bus to the Barbican for one of their Silent Film and Live Music screenings. Why not?

I’ll be getting down to the Horatia as soon as possible to check it out for myself, but I’m thoroughly prepared to raise a Bloody Mary in celebration of their enthusiasm for silent film. I hope the roast potatoes are up to scratch, too.

The Horatia Sunday Fayre is at the Horatia pub, 98-102 Holloway Road N7 8JE every Sunday from 11.30am to 5pm.

Metropolis at the Rio Cinema, 19 March 2011

It’s back! You may have thought that Metropolis (1927) was dead and buried for 2011, but no – you still have the opportunity to catch the restored, longer “complete” Metropolis on the big screen. The independent Rio Cinema in London’s groovy Dalston is screening Metropolis on a Saturday afternoon in March. So if spring has still failed to spring by that point and you fancy hiding away from it all, let Fritz Lang’s vertiginous sets and glamorous robot lady ease your seasonal pain.

You may have seen the neon blue lights of the Rio before. It really is a very elegant cinema, and although the current curved facade dates back to the 1930s, there has been a cinema on that spot since 1909. So it’s a fine vintage.

And if you need any persuading that Metropolis is a must-see film, try this slideshow from Salon magazine that attempts to chart how far its influence has spread.

The Complete Metropolis screens at 1.30pm on 19 March. Tickets are available here.

Sunrise at the Loop Festival, the Forge, 18 March 2011

Sunrise (1927)
Sunrise (1927)

The Loop Collective is a group of jazz musicians and the Loop Festival is their annual four-day event, which this year will take place in the Forge music venue in Camden. On the Friday night a trio comprising Alcyona Mick (piano), Geoff Hannan (violin) and Jon Wygens (guitar) will perform their score for FW Murnau’s sublime film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927). The film tells the story of The Man (George O’Brien) who is tempted, by a seductress from the big city no less, to murder his wife (Janet Gaynor). It is one of the most beautifully photographed Hollywood silents you could hope to watch, with stunning mobile camerawork – I often recommend to people who haven’t seen a silent film before.

The group’s score was commissioned last year and has previously been performed at the Flatpack Festival in Birmingham. It combines improvisation with pre-written music. You might be interested to know that when the score was performed at the Flatpack Festival they used a print of Sunrise that had recently been found in Czech Republic, which is a little shorter than the better known Movietone print, the one that is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

That is just the start of the evening’s entertainment: the Risser/Duboc/Perraud trio will play later, and the headline act is Andrew Plummer’s World Sanguine Report, described as:

Part demonic vaudeville, part psychotic big band, vocalist Andrew Plummer revels and writhes in the macabre as he heads his jazz noir project World Sanguine Report through visceral tales from the dark side of life, love and death. Propelled by demented carny rhythms, Plummer’s bruised, gruff vocals and darkly-enthralling lyrics are enveloped in a tide of swirling tones and textures, with the constant threat of breaking into waves of cacophony.

Sounds too good to miss!

Sunrise screens at The Forge, Camden on 18 March 2011 at 8pm. Tickets are £15 for the whole night of music or more for a festival pass. More information is available from the Loop Festival website here. And you can buy tickets at the Forge website here.

Sherlock Jr at the Kinema in the Woods, Lincolnshire, 8 May 2011

Sherlock Jr (1924)
Sherlock Jr (1924)

This blog is primarily, but not exclusively, about silent film screenings in London – but when there are festivals, exhibitions or special screenings elsewhere in Britain they deserve a place on these pages too. Which is my excuse for telling you about this show coming up in Lincolnshire in May.

The Kinema in the Woods is a former concert pavilion, which began showing films in 1906 and continued to do so until it burned down in a fire in 1920. Two years later the Pavilion Kinema was rebuilt as a purpose-built cinema, with a rear-projection screen and the Phantom Orchestra providing the tunes.

These days, the Kinema in the Woods (named for its rural location) is still running, showing current releases and classics in its gorgeous 1920s-style building. So what better place could there be to watch a 1920s film? Particularly a 1920s film set in a 1920s cinema? I am hugely pleased that the Kinema in the Woods will be screening Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr (1924) on Sunday 8 May 2011. It’s a beautiful, hilarious film about a projectionist who falls asleep in the booth and has a strange dream that he is a movie detective, prompting a series of fantastically inventive gags. Music will be provided by Alan Underwood on the Kinema’s Compton organ and a short film will be shown also.

You can buy tickets and find out more about this unusual cinema on the website here, and there is a particularly entertaining Twitter feed too.

Sherlock Jr screens at 2.30pm on Sunday 8 May 2011 at 2.30pm.

Forest Row Comedy Film Festival, East Sussex, 18-20 March 2011

The General (1926)
The General (1926)

The Forest Row film society in East Sussex are discerning and enthusiastic cinephiles, who show heaps of exciting films, old and new, every week. Like all people of taste, they love silent films, and so I am pleased to say that their forthcoming comedy festival will feature some slapstick delights. Top of the silent bill is a screening of Buster Keaton’s magnificent The General on Saturday 19 March, with musical accompaniment by award-winning composer Terry Davies.

And the following day, Sunday 20 March, there will be a programme called Silents, Please, which is still slightly TBC, but this is what they have to say:

Many of the great silent comedies of the 20s were two-reelers, lasting around twenty minutes. The festival will also screen a programme of these, including Buster Keaton in Cops, maybe some Harold Lloyd, Chaplin and other gems. Screened with live music from Terry Davies and Anna Cooper.

Cops is hilarious. This should be great.

For more details about the festival, check out the website here, or find the Forest Row film society on Facebook. Forest Row is easily accessible from London. Simply catch a train from Victoria to East Grinstead, then a bus or cab three miles to Forest Row itself, I am told.

The Passion of Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 28 April 2011

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

I hoped this might happen: a standalone performance of Adrian Utley and Will Gregory’s score for Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), as a warmup to the screening at the I’ll Be Your Mirror Festival in July. It’s a staggeringly powerful film, with an unforgettable performance by Falconetti in the title role. If you’ve never seen it, I urge you to do so.

This score, which involves rock guitars, a choir and an orchestra, promises to be of a suitably epic scale and has been reviewed well. It was commissioned by Colston Hall in Bristol and premiered there last May. This, its first London performance, is part of the Ether Festival, a celebration of “innovation, art, technology and cross-arts experimentation”. You might also be interested in another event in the festival: a live soundtrack by the Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Voices to Kubrick’s 2011: A Space Odyssey in the Royal Festival Hall.

The Passion of Joan of Arc screens at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank on 28 April 2011 at 7.30pm. Tickets are available here. You can watch a video about the development of the score here.

Speedy at the Barbican Family Film Club, 12 March 2011

Speedy (1928)
Speedy (1928)

Silent film comedy is perfect family viewing – the slapstick of Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd is pure live-action Tom & Jerry, and recent animated features from WALL-E to Shaun the Sheep have been upfront about drawing inspiration from the early days of cinema. So screenings such as this one at the Barbican, purely for the youngsters, have their heart in exactly the right place. The film showing on this occasion is Harold Lloyd’s Speedy (1928), which I have to say slots pretty neatly into the Barbican’s current “City Symphony” series, but that’s not important right now. This show is part of the Family Film Club, which takes place every Saturday morning.

Harold Lloyd stars as Speedy (his real-life nickname) who has all sorts of adventures during one day in New York, including a trip to Coney Island and an encounter with Babe Ruth – culminating in a campaign to save the city’s horse-drawn trolley bus. And well he might. Judging by this clip, riding the New York subway in 1928 was not dissimilar to hopping on the Central line in 2011 (ignore the voiceover):

Speedy is on 12 March at the Barbican. The film starts at 11am, but the art activities will begin at 10.30am. “No unaccompanied adults will be admitted”, says the website, so if your children will allow you to come in with them, you can book tickets here.

The Lost World at the Mucky Pup, 7 February 2011

The Lost World (1925)
The Lost World (1925)

A strange screening of a strange film. The monthly Cigarette Burns night at the Mucky Pup pub in Islington is fond of showing silent films to “warm up” the crowd before the night’s main attraction – a cult film, which as far as I can tell usually means zombies, trolls, gore, kung fu, spaceships and women in bikinis. I hear that Cigarette Burns always hosts a memorable night, whether at the pub or at the Rio Cinema in Dalston, and  I’m particularly impressed by the artwork they put together for their screenings. Something tells me they’re serious about putting on a good show.

This month’s silent is The Lost World (1925), a film notable for its pioneering stop-motion special effects, which allowed director Harry Hoyt to stage fights between dinosaurs and his actors. Another treat is the appearance of Arthur Conan Doyle, who of course wrote the novel on which it was based, in a prologue to the film.

Cigarette Burns: Star Crash
Cigarette Burns: Star Crash

Top billing on Monday night goes to Star Crash, a late-70s sci-fi film starring David Hasselhoff, a space station shaped like a fist, lots of robots and the aforementioned women in bikinis. I get the impression that The Lost World’s special effects might put it to shame, but you never know.

I’ve not been down to the Mucky Pup before, so I can’t promise you that this will be a screening to please the purists, or indeed, that it won’t. But there will be food, drink, a silent film to watch and David Hasselhoff  – all on a school night. You can’t really say fairer than that.

The Lost World will show at the Mucky Pup, 39 Queens Head Street, N1 8NQ. Entry is free, and the silent film will begin at around 6.30pm. For more details, log in to Facebook or go to the Cigarette Burns website.

The Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema, Bo’ness Hippodrome, 18-20 March 2011

Clara Bow in It (1927)
Clara Bow in It (1927)

The Hippodrome Cinema in Bo’ness, Falkirk, beautifully restored to match its 1920 heyday, will host Scotland’s first silent film festival – and it promises to be an event with a real ‘vintage’ feel. The programme incorporates some enduringly popular silents, from a rare chance to see It (1927), starring Clara Bow, to FW Murnau’s influential vampire film Nosferatu (1922) and Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), plus a handful of comedies from Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and Harold Lloyd.

Neil Brand will provide musical accompaniment to several of the films, and he will also perform his acclaimed one-man show The Silent Pianist Speaks. David Allison of The Island Tapes will reprise his score for Nosferatu at the festival’s closing night gala, and another of the films will benefit from a specially commissioned soundtrack performed by local schoolchildren.

There will be a Slapstick Workshop for over-12s by Scottish theatre company Plutôt La Vie, and a new, specially commissioned soundtrack for one of the films performed by local schoolchildren. Another retro treat for younger viewers is the “jeely jar special” – a revival of a 1920s practice whereby film fans can get a two-for-one deal on tickets for The Kid if they bring along a clean jam jar (with lid). Bargain.

And for a touch more glamour, the Opening Gala screening of It has a 1920s dress code. Dropped waists, long strings of beads and cloches – it’s the perfect opportunity to indulge your inner flapper and give Clara Bow a run for her money. Perhaps you can find some sartorial inspiration here. Festival director Allison Strauss says:

The whole event is designed to celebrate the magic, glamour and pure entertainment of films from the silent era.  Our programme and the supporting events include something for all ages and we’ve made sure that the wide appeal will involve a broad range of tastes, from cinephiles to anyone discovering early film for the first time.

For full details and to download a brochure, visit the website here.

Shiraz with the Sabri Ensemble at the Arts Depot, 5 February

Shiraz (1928)
Shiraz (1928)

The Arts Depot in North Finchley is a relatively new venue (it opened in 2004), but one with a packed schedule of performances and exhibitions. Their screening of Shiraz (1928) on Saturday night is a welcome addition to the silent film scene in London. Shiraz is an Indian silent film directed by Franz Osten and is the second part of a trilogy. The first film in the series, The Light of Asia, tells the story of the life of Buddha and the final part, A Throw of the Dice, dramatises episodes from the epic Mahabarata. Shiraz is a historical romance, based on the story behind the building of the Taj Mahal.

Music for this screening will be provided by the Sabri Ensemble, a world music group combining influences from South Asian, Latin American, jazz and western classical music,  centred on Sarvar Sabri’s tabla playing. The Shiraz score, written by Sarvar Sabri, was first commissioned by the Lichfield Festival and has been performed at venues across the country over the past year.

Shiraz will be screened at 7.30pm on Saturday 5 February at the Pentland Theatre in the Arts Depot, North Finchley. Tickets are £16 or £14 for concessions, and they’re available here.

The Blot, BFI Southbank, 28 March 2011

The Blot (1921)
The Blot (1921)

BFI Southbank has a busy schedule of silent films in March. All except this one are part of the Birds Eye View festival, and you can read about them here. The odd one out is also a film by a pioneering female film-maker, however, and is screened as part of the Passport to Cinema programme, introduced by Kevin Brownlow. It’s The Blot, directed in 1921 by Lois Weber:

The Blot is a realistic study of genteel poverty among the struggling middle-classes. An underpaid college professor scarcely has the means to support his wife and daughter, who in turn has three suitors, one an impoverished cleric, one the son of a nouveau riche neighbour, and one a playboy. The film is a subtle and compassionate study of the vagaries of society’s rewards.

An early example of “gritty” socially conscious film-making, The Blot was shot largely on location, often using natural lighting and with non-professional actors. The story highlights the plight of low-paid workers and the film’s mesage is sadly still relevant to modern audiences, so this should be a very interesting evening.

The screening of The Blot will be accompanied by the short animation The Country Mouse and the City Mouse as well as the talk by Kevin Brownlow. It will be shown at 6.10pm on Monday 28 March in NFT2. Tickets are available on the BFI website here.

Slapstick Festival, Bristol, January 2011: reporting back

Charlie Chaplin in One AM (1916)
Charlie Chaplin in One AM (1916)

“Plot – The Boy is in love with The Girl – the rest just happens”*

This is not a review of the Bristol Slapstick Festival, just a note to say what a Good Thing it is, and to give you a flavour of this celebratory yet educational event. I was only able to visit about a quarter of the festival this year – in 2012 hopefully I will get to see more.

To hear, and be part of, a theatre full of people guffawing at Charlie Chaplin pretending to fall down a staircase in 1916 is immense fun, and inspirational too. How many people, how many times in how many places have laughed at the same scene? Talk about a gift to the world. In my brief visit to Bristol, I saw Harold Lloyd, WC Fields, Clara Bow, Laurel and Hardy, Harry Langdon, Chaplin and Buster Keaton – all of whose films can still have audiences in stitches today, but sadly aren’t seen too often any more. Not only was it a treat to see these films, but it was a privilege to watch them with the benefit of introductions and lectures by experts and fans – Ian Lavender on Keaton and Graeme Garden on Langdon were particular delights as, of course, was Kevin Brownlow’s talk before Mantrap.

What can I say? My only regret is that I couldn’t stay longer – the full programme looked very intriguing, Bristol is a great city and I met some lovely people on my trip. I’d recommend the Slapstick Festival wholeheartedly to silent film fans, but also to people who enjoy laughing, which should be all of you I reckon.

The Slapstick Festival website is here, you can follow related tweets via the hashtag #slapstickfest and read The 24th Frame’s day-by-day blog of the festival here.

*Taken from an intertitle on Harold Lloyd’s Get Out and Get Under, but this caption applied to 99% of the films at the Slapstick Festival, and it made me smile.