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.

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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.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Silent London

If music be the food of love …

In this early film (possibly from 1899), posted on the Library of Congress YouTube channel, a woman chooses between the affections of two musicians. The rejected serenader takes his revenge, but true love finds a way.

And in the spirit of love, togetherness and all that jazz – did you know that you can now “Like” Silent London on Facebook? Spread a little affection today, people. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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.

Those Surprising Silents with Kevin Brownlow, The Cinema Museum, 14 April

The Fire Brigade (1926)
The Fire Brigade (1926), from silentfilmstillarchive.com

Fresh from winning an Oscar last year, Kevin Brownlow will be in London in April to give an illustrated lecture at the Cinema Museum. The talk will use clips (all projected in 35mm) to explore the development of silent film technique, from one-shot shorts, to epic features. The clips will include newsreel footage as well as a sequence from The Fire Brigade (1926, hat-tip to mrbertiewooster on Nitrateville for that information), and will be accompanied on the piano by Stephen Horne.

Those Surprising Silents will begin at 7.30pm and should finish at 10pm, on 14 April. Full information can be found here at the Cinema Museum website.

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.


Birds Eye View Festival, 8-17 March 2011

Lillian Gish in The Wind (1928)
Lillian Gish in The Wind (1928)

• I updated this post on 8 February with the revised times and dates for the Sound and Silents screenings.

To say that Silent London has a whole lotta love for the Birds Eye View Film Festival would be an understatement. This event, which has grown in size and scope since it was launched in 2005, excels in several areas, but silent film programming has been a particular strength. This year is no exception, with an exciting range of films in its Bloody Women horror strand being screened with live, specially commissioned scores at the BFI Southbank and the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The festival, which is set up to celebrate and support international female film-makers, begins on the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day – and its Opening Night Gala is a marvellous way to mark the occasion. Over to Birds Eye View:

Continue reading Birds Eye View Festival, 8-17 March 2011

Battleship Potemkin in UK cinemas from 29 April 2011

 

Battleship Potemkin
Battleship Potemkin

It’s official. According to the BFI website, the newly restored version of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1926) with the original score by Edmund Meisel, will get its UK theatrical release on 29 April. Watch this space!

When Eisenstein heard the score that had been such an incendiary success in Germany, he worried that Meisel’s powerful music overshadowed the film. But Potemkin was already proving inspirational and few images remain as potent as a pram careering down a staircase, still widely referenced today, at the climax of the massacre of Odessa’s civilians. Potemkin’s perennial freshness owes much to Eisenstein’s improvisation when he realised the potential of those steps, and of the battleship itself, as a cockpit for the stirring of revolutionary emotion, and with Meisel’s music it’s as powerful as ever. – Ian Christie

Silent films at the Glasgow Film Festival

Faust (Murnau, 1926)
Faust (Murnau, 1926)

The schedule for the Glasgow Film Festival has just been released and as expected there are plenty of great films old and new being screened as part of the event next month. Of special interest to this blog is the Music and Film Festival strand, which comprises documentaries about music and musicians as well as films shown with live scores. Not all of the films with live musical accompaniment are silents, but of course some are – and they look very exciting.

Continue reading Silent films at the Glasgow Film Festival

The Silent London 2010 poll – the results

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

The Silent London End of Year Poll was never going to rival the ones you read in Sight & Sound and the broadsheets, I suppose. But I was heartened that so many of you did respond to my call for the best silent film show of 2010 – and fascinated by your choices, too. The big surprise was that no one mentioned Metropolis. There were a few votes for freshly restored Chaplin films, one for Natalie Clein’s sensitive cello score for The Temptress at Kings Place in May, a tantalising description of Stephen Horne’s soundtrack to La Princess Mandane as “genius” from Pam Cook on Twitter, a shout-out for the witty The Golden Butterfly (both shown as part of the Fashion in Film festival) and a “riotous” village-hall screening of Seven Chances (1925). Luke McKernan picked two films, both of which he described as “wildly obscure”: an anthropological documentary called Rituals and Festivals of the Borôro that screened at Pordenone and another vote for Stephen Horne, with his reconstruction of the score for The Battle of the Ancre and the Advance of the Tanks (1917). Not seen those? Never mind – I’m sure you’ll sympathise with McKernan’s conclusion that the first film: “reminded me of why film is the most compelling medium, and silent film especially so”. But finally, with a whopping two votes (one on Twitter and another by email), the winner is the East End Film Festival’s screening of Hitchcock’s The Lodger, soundtracked by Minima. Congratulations – I was there as well and I thought it was a marvellous evening.

Continue reading The Silent London 2010 poll – the results

The General and The Music Box, Crystal Palace Pictures, 14 April

The General (1926)
The General (1926)

Crystal Palace Pictures is a thriving local film society, which shows a film every other Thursday on a 17ft screen in the Gipsy Hill Tavern, near Gipsy Hill station. Residents of Crystal Palace are currently embroiled in a long-running campaign for a cinema, so it’s good to see that there is an alternative in the local area. Ideally, there would be room for both, but until then, Crystal Palace Pictures is doing sterling work, showing a hugely diverse range of films.

Continue reading The General and The Music Box, Crystal Palace Pictures, 14 April

International silent film festival diary from The Bisocope

Sunrise (1927)
Sunrise (1927)

You undoubtedly know The Bisocope, an exhaustive, eloquent blog about everything related to silent film, and much more besides. If by some chance you aren’t already familiar with the site, you can expect to lose the next few hours to exploring its scholarly articles. Enjoy. However, I wanted to draw your attention to one particular post, which will definitely be of interest, and may also have the power to change your holiday plans. The Bioscope has compiled a calendar of the 2011’s silent film festivals – from Kansas to Finland. The list includes some very exciting events and all of them are worthy of your support. You can find the post here – but if you find yourself buying plane tickets, don’t blame me, blame The Bisocope.

If, on your travels, you are looking for silent film screenings outside London, let me point you towards the Nitrateville Silent Screenings forum and the US website Silents in the Court.

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