It’s all about the archives this February at BFI Southbank. The stand-out feature for us is What Next? (1928) directed by and starring Londoner Walter Forde. Encouragingly, this film was recently discovered as a result of the BFI’s Most Wanted project, which searches for lost films. Forde, born in Lambeth in 1898, started out in musical halls before becoming a popular film comedian, then gradually moved into directing. What Next? is described as a”cheerful farce” and features a “deranged archaeologist” chasing our hapless hero around a museum at night in pursuit of a valuable Egyptian candlestick. As a bonus feature there’s a short film, Walter the Sleuth (1927). Both films are, of course, accompanied by live piano.
What Next? is screened in NFT2 on Wednesday 2 February at 6.10pm and will be introduced by a curator of the BFI archive.
There are also archival treasures to be found in the Tales From the Shipyard season, which opens with a compilation launch event on 7 February. At that event, and on 17 February as part of the A Ship is Born in Belfast programme, you can see footage from 1910 of the SS Olympic, which was the Titanic’s sister ship.
The Tales from the Shipyard launch event is on Monday 7 February in NFT1 at 6.20pm
A Ship is Born in Belfast is on Thursday 17 February in NFT2 at 8.30pm.
The most intriguing item is a talk on 19 February called The Tragic Launch of HMS Albion. Film-maker Patrick Keillor will be joined by the BFI’s Bryony Dixon, John Graves from the National Maritime Museum and London historian Chris Ellmers to discuss the terrible events of 21 June 1898. On that day, the battleship HMS Albion was christened, but as it entered the Thames, a wave caused a platform bearing spectators to collapse, and 34 people were drowned. The ship’s launch and the subsequent disaster were being filmed – so the debate will cover the ethics of documentary film-making, as well as providing historical context.
The Tragic Launch of HMS Albion is on 19 February from 11am to 4pm in NFT3 and tickets are £5
The BFI’s Tales From the Shipyard DVD will be released on 14 February.
This tale of two cities is a very cool way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The classic Berlin: Symphony of a City (1927) montage documentary directed by Walter Ruttmann is paired with a film that partly inspired it: Manhatta (1921), based on Walt Whitman’s poem Mannahatta. Both films create portraits of cities rather than character-driven narratives. It’s an idea that’s radical even now, and both of these films are beautiful works of modernism. What better to watch in the sleek 60s architecture of an arts centre in the east end of London?
Accompaniment for the films comes from the saxophone and keyboards of German group Reflektor2. The duo, Jan Kopinski and Steve Iliffe, toured the UK last year with a live score for Der Golem (1920) and have written scores for many other silent films.
Berlin, Symphony of a City and Manhatta screen at 4pm on 6 February 2011. Tickets are £10.50 full price but £8.50 online and less for concessions. They’re available here.
Christmas is coming and we all deserve a little treat, so it’s worth knowing that on two afternoons next week, the ICA is showing the new restored Metropolis. At 145 minutes long, that’s a deliciously long respite from the Christmas shopping, and the ICA is only two stops down the Bakerloo line from Oxford Circus. Can you afford not to?
Metropolis screens at the ICA on 22 and 23 December at 3.30pm. Tickets are £9 or £8 for concessions, and are available online here.
Consider this a teaser trailer. The British Silent Film Festival returns to the Barbican in April – and some of the screenings have already been announced. The theme is Going to the Movies: Music, Sound and the British Silent Film – no great surprise, as the festival is presented in partnership with the Sounds of Early Cinema in Britain project. As well as lectures and clip shows, five standalone film screenings are listed:
Beau Geste (1926)
Hollywood director Herbert Brenon’s adaptation of the best-selling British adventure story about the Foreign Legion starring the quintessentially English Ronald Colman.
US director Charles Brabin’s take on the British music hall starring Hollywood’s favourite flapper Colleen Moore.
Paul Fejos’s brilliant part-talkie where dialogue was introduced as a novelty in this story of two lonely people trying to find love in New York. The film features a fantastic jazz-fuelled parade in Coney Island.
Yu Zhelyabuzhsky’s rarely seen Soviet fantasy about a stepdaughter who is driven out to face the spirit of winter is here presented with its original music score rediscovered and reconstructed for orchestra. Presented in conjunction with Sounds of Early Cinema Conference.
I Was Born But … (1932)
Ozu’s classic family comedy marks the very end of the silent period. As one of the greatest silent films ever made, it is screened here to celebrate the artistic excellence which the silent cinema had achieved.
So, clearly the festival is not limited to British films, and with several compilation programmes, including New Discoveries in British Silent Film – there is lots to look forward to. The promise of an orchestral score for Morozko is intriguing, as is the Ozu film, which will surely be very popular. As soon as we know more, such as accompanists and individual dates, we’ll post it here. Until then, read the Bisocope’s post about the festival here, and consider your appetite well and truly whetted.
The 14th British Silent Film Festival takes place from Thursday 7 April to Sunday 10 April at the Barbican Arts Centre, London.
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.