Silent Film Maker: an iPhone app

There’s something a little perverse in blogging and tweeting about silent film, using modern technology to write about something that started 116 years ago. After all, these days I can shoot minutes and minutes of colour footage with synchronised sound using a phone that’s small enough to fit in my pocket. That’s something that would probably blow the Lumère brothers’ minds.

What is even stranger is that you can now download an app to your iPhone or iPad that turns your high-tech videos into mockups, some might say pastiches, of old silent films. This isn’t necessarily going to be used for the best of the interesting modern silent films that some people are making. After all I made one myself out of some snapshots, and I edited it together on the tube. Yes, that was me you saw on the Victoria Line, rendering.

A quick search of YouTube, and to a lesser extent Vimeo, reveals that lots of people out there are using the app to turn footage of their cats and babies and basketball matches into silent-style films, with intertitles, scratchy film and tinkling piano soundtracks. But some people are using the app to make something a little more sophisticated. In Capo vs Daddy Episode 2, a couple fight over the affections of their dog, with fatal consequences:

There’s another warring couple, and another dog, in Guitar Affair:

I found a few more sweet shorts, including this record of a plum blossom festival in Japan, a man eating breakfast, and a bad joke about a dog. Obviously. But my favourite by far is called Happy Birthday To Me, and you can watch it at the top of this post. It incorporates slapstick, trick photography and perhaps a little bit of iMovie help. It’s also very charming.

And here’s my video, which can’t hold a candle to any of the others here, but you might recognise some of the locations:

I’d love to know if you’ve found anything better out there, or if you’ve had a go at making one of your own.

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French City Symphonies at the Barbican: review

An intertitle from The Power of the PressI reviewed the latest City Symphonies programme at the Barbican for the Cine-Vue blog. They showed À Propos de Nice, Rien Que Les Heures and Paris Qui Dort, which was new to me and has become a favourite already. Neil Brand accompanied on the piano. You can read all about it here.

The Silent Western: The Covered Wagon at the Cinema Museum, 23 June 2011

The Covered Wagon (1923)
The Covered Wagon (1923)

“Horse operas” are almost as old as cinema itself. Edwin S Porter’s The Great Train Robbery is regularly claimed to be the first western – and that was made in 1903. So this special event at the Cinema Museum mines a rich seam. You’ll spend the evening in the company of BFI archivist John Oliver and pianist Cyrus Gabrysch, touring the history of westerns in the silent era, incorporating screenings of several rarely seen films:

The first part of the evening will be devoted to Western star Tom Mix, with the premiere of the MoMA’s 35mm restoration of some of his early films from the Selig Studio: The Foreman of Bar Z, comprising four 1915 shorts, and Ranch Life in the Great South West (1910), featuring Mix’s first screen appearance. The evening’s second half features the work of controversial Hollywood star J. Warren Kerrigan, with screenings of James Cruze’s celebrated epic Western The Covered Wagon (1923) and the short The Poisoned Flume (1911), directed by Allan Dwan.

Tom Mix was a hugely popular star, known as the “King of the Cowboys” who really defined our idea of a western hero. J Warren Kerrigan was another successful actor in the silent years – the controversy that surrounded him was less to do with his homosexuality than his outspoken refusal to enlist during the Great War.

The Silent Western is at The Cinema Museum on 23 June 2011 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £6.50 in advance from WeGotTickets or £8 on the door or £5 for concessions. For all the details, visit the Cinema Museum website.

Thank you from Silent London

Little Blog Award prizes
Little Blog Award prizes

This has been a surprise from start to finish. At the beginning of last month, I learned that Silent London had been nominated for a Dorset Cereals Little Blog Award. I still don’t know who nominated me – if it was you, then thank you very much.

You might have noticed me asking for votes on Twitter and Facebook, and happily lots of you didn’t think I was being too cheeky, because the votes kept coming in all month. Last week, I received a very nice email telling me that I had won the Little Blog Award for February 2011! And yesterday, the prizes arrived: a certificate, a box of granola and cereal bars – and this dinky egg cup, complete with egg cosy.

So in this post I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who voted for me. Silent London hasn’t been going very long, and this is a big confidence boost. Hopefully it’s another small sign of the growing popularity of silent film in this city, too. I’ve got big plans for this blog, believe me – and from now on I will be going to work on an egg.

Piccadilly at the Prince Charles Cinema, 13 April 2011

Piccadilly (1929)
Piccadilly (1929)

Anna May Wong fans rejoice. After a whole evening devoted to the actress at the Cinema Museum, including a screening of Song (1928), and the chance to see Pavement Butterfly (Grossstadtschmetterling, 1929) at the British Silent Film Festival, comes an outing for one of her most famous films – and one of the best London-set silents.

Piccadilly (1929) is a fantastic film, directed by German director E A Dupont and set in a glamorous, jazzy West End nightclub. Anna May Wong plays Shosho, a dishwasher who is “discovered” while dancing on the kitchen sink, and whose sensual routines propel her to fame as the club’s lead dancer. She wins the heart of the nightclub’s owner too, which provokes his ex (Gilda Gray) to become dangerously jealous. Anna May Wong is absolutely stunning in the film, which has been recently restored by the BFI, preserving the original’s striking blue and amber tinting and making the most of its proto-noir photography. This is a film you’ll really love, I’m sure. You can get a taste for it in this extract:

Piccadilly screens at the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s glittering West End on 13 April 2011 at 8.45pm. Tickets are £10 or £6 for members – and they’re available here. Piano accompaniment will be provided by Costas Fotopoulos.

Metropolis at Riverside Studios, 23 March 2011

That glamorous robot lady gets about, doesn’t she? Frtiz Lang’s awe-inspiring sci-fi epic Metropolis (1927) is still popping up all over the city – even chic West London. On Wednesday 23 March, you’ll be able to see Metropolis at the Riverside Studios, an arts centre in Hammersith. It’s a great place, with lovely views from the balconies next to the cafe-bar. So why not make a date with the new, restored, extended Metropolis this month?

Metropolis screens at 8.15pm on Wednesday 23 March 2011. Tickets are £8.50 (£7.50 for concessions) and they are available here.

Battleship Potemkin watch: April 2011

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as excited as the next silent film fan about the theatrical release of the the newly restored Battleship Potemkin (1925) with Edmund Meisel’s orchestral score. I circled the date in my diary, I even wrote a blog about it. But when I heard that the government had called a bank holiday, purely to celebrate its UK release, well, I felt like my own efforts were a little inadequate. Wow, David Cameron sure likes Sergei Eisenstein a lot more than you would expect.

So, while the rest of you are distracted by the preparations for your Battleship Potemkin street parties (the bunting must be red, of course, but let’s not put maggots in the bread eh?), I will make it my mission to keep you updated with where and when you can catch this masterpiece on the big screen. This is quite an endeavour for a woman who still, still, can’t watch that pram bump down the Odessa Steps without squirming.

Our first port of call (see what I did there?) is the BFI Southbank, who will be screening Battleship Potemkin on 29 and 30 April and all through May. The April dates have been announced and they are as follows:

  • 29 April 2011: 4.20pm, 6pm, 8.45pm
  • 30 April 2011: 3.30pm, 6.10pm, 8.30pm

Tickets as usual cost £9.50, or less for concessions and members. Of those screenings, I would recommend 6pm on Friday 29 April or 3.30pm on Saturday 30 April, as those are the NFT1 shows. You really want to see this on a big screen if you can. Grab your tickets here, on the BFI website.

Sparrows at the BFI, 20 March 2011

Sparrows (1926)
Sparrows (1926)

Yes, yes, I know, Sparrows is playing at the BFI Southbank on Tuesday 15 March with a live score by Aristazabal Hawkes from the Guillemots. But you may not have noticed this note on the BFI web page for that screening:

Please note, this film will now be projected from high quality video on Tue 15 March as the specially written score has been locked at that speed. For customers who wish to see the film projected from the 35mm print with live improvised piano accompaniment, we have arranged a special screening on Sun 20 March 13:00 NFT2. Ticket-holders should contact the box office via phone or in person for an exchange or refund. We apologise for any inconvenience.

So, for the 35mm fans among you or perhaps those who just couldn’t get tickets for the first (sold-out) screening in NFT3, this is a godsend. It will definitely be a shame to miss out on Hawkes’s score, but it’s great to get the chance to see the film on film, as it were.

Sparrows (1926) is set in a creepy “baby farm” in the middle of a swamp. The collection of orphans who live there are terrorised by the owner, Mr Grimes (Gustav von Seyffertitz). Their only defence against this brute is the oldest among them, plucky Molly (Mary Pickford). But can she lead the youngsters to safety, in such perilous circumstances? Start growing your nails now, because you’ll be chewing on them for sure. Is that a bit gross? Sorry.

Sparrows screens at the BFI Southbank on 20 March 2011 at 1pm in NFT2. Tickets are £9.50 or less for members and concessions. They’re available here. There will be live improvised piano accompaniment at this screening.

The 14th British Silent Film Festival – full programme and ticket details

Twinkletoes (1926)
Twinkletoes (1926) (image from acertaincinema.com)

Ta-dah! The full programme for the 14th British Silent Film Festival has been announced. You will find a few surprises in there, and a few things that you have been expecting since the first announcement in December last year. I am very pleased to say that there are some interesting British films in the schedule, as well as gems from abroad such as Ozu’s I Was Born, But… and the Beggars of Life screening at NFT1 with music from the Dodge Brothers and Neil Brand. There will also be a world premiere in the form of the restored British musical score for the Russian film Morozko, and lectures from experts including Matthew Sweet, Luke McKernan and Bryony Dixon. So, without further ado, here’s what you can look forward to at the event, which runs from 7-10 April at the Barbican:

Continue reading The 14th British Silent Film Festival – full programme and ticket details

Un Chien Andalou and Sunrise at the Ritzy, 24 March 2011

Un Chien Andalou (1929)
Un Chien Andalou (1929)

Well, this is a heck of a good way to say happy birthday. The Ritzy Cinema in Brixton is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a series of vintage screenings throughout the year. Kicking things off is this double-bill of one of the silent era’s most sophisticated and elegant films, coupled with one of its most violent, strange and difficult. Yes, Un Chien Andalou (1929) is the eye-slashing surreal short film made by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. It’s seriously odd and surely features on all right-thinking people’s must-see films lists. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), on the other hand, is a romance: a story of a young man from the country (George O’Brien) succumbing to the dangerous temptations of the big city, and a bona fide vamp. Which puts his lovely wife (Janet Gaynor) in a very precarious position. This is one of my favourite scenes from the film:

There will be live musical accompaniment for the double-bill, which begins at 8pm on Thursday 24 March. Tickets cost £16.60 or less for concessions and they are available here.

The Great White Silence at the BFI and nationwide in 2011

• This post was updated on 9 May 2011

An eerie filmed record of Captain Scott’s tragic journey to the South Pole, The Great White Silence (Herbert Ponting, 1924) was rightly acclaimed as a highlight of last year’s London Film Festival. The print had been restored to great effect: allowing us to see the vivid tints of the original film, and the Archive Gala screening featured a performance of Simon Fisher Turner’s intriguing minimalist score, which incorporated the Elysian Quartet, “found sounds”, and a haunting vocal from Alexander L’Estrange.

His part-improvised score includes some pre-recorded elements and Simon Fisher Turner has gone to great lengths to include relevant ‘found sounds’. The first was a gift from a friend, Chris Watson, who made a recording of the ambient silence in Scott’s cabin in the Antarctic. Fisher Turner has also recorded the striking of the Terra Nova ship’s bell at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. He has even managed to track down the expedition’s original gramophone to play some of the records which were played by members of the expedition.

If you have satellite TV, you may have recently caught the documentary on the small screen, but if you missed it, never fear, you have plenty of chances to catch it on the big screen in May and June.

First off, there will a special screening of The Great White Silence, with a recorded version of the score, at BFI Southbank on 18 May 2011, followed by a panel discussion led by Francine Stock, which will take the scoring of silent films as its subject – participants include Fisher Turner, sound recordist Chris Watson, plus Bryony Dixon and Kieron Webb from the BFI. The following weekend, there will be screenings nationwide of the film.

You want more? The Great White Silence will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 20 June.

The Great White Silence screens at NFT1 on 18 May at 6.20pm. The panel discussion will follow at 8.30pm. Tickets cost £13, or £9.75 for concessions and £1.50 less for members. They will be available from the BFI website.

The Great White Silence screens in the Studio at BFI Southbank several times throughout May and June 2011. The film will also screen at the Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Richmond and HMV Curzon Wimbledon, and at cinemas across the country including Broadway Nottingham, Cambridge Arts Picturehouse, Phoenix Oxford and Chapter Cardiff.

On Friday 20 May at 11am Bryony Dixon, BFI silent film curator, will give a talk entitled Films of the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration – The Restoration of The Great White Silence in NFT3. Tickets are free for over-60s, and usual matinee prices for everyone else.

At the Curzon Mayfair on Saturday 21 May at 4pm, and Curzon Richmond on Sunday 22 May at 3.30pm, Ian Haydn Smith will host an illustrated talk called The Great White Silence and Cinema’s Exploration of the World. Tickets are £12.50 or £9.50 for members at the Mayfair cinema and £11.50 or £9.50 for members at the Richmond branch. You can buy tickets here, on the Curzon website.

The Strong Man at the Barbican, 13 April 2011

Mocny Czlowiek or The Strong Man (1929)
Mocny Czlowiek or The Strong Man (1929)

For this post, we will mostly let the pictures do the talking. This swooning embrace is from The Strong Man, a Polish film from 1929 about an unscrupulous journalist so hungry for literary fame that he steals his dying friend’s manuscript. It’s playing at the Barbican on 13 April.

Pink Freud
Pink Freud - Monster of Jazz

These guys are Pink Freud. Together they are a monster of jazz, and they will be providing the live score. I think this looks like a huge amount of fun.

The Strong Man screens at the Barbican on 13 April 2011 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10.50, or £8.50 online, but £2 cheaper for Barbican members. More details here.

Pola Negri
Pola Negri

On a related note, this is Pola Negri, Polish silent film actress extraordinaire. One of her Polish films, Mania: A History of Workers in a Cigarette Factory (1918) has been recently restored and is to be screened in 10 European capitals, including London, to promote Poland’s presidency of the EU, which begins in July. This decision has not been without controversy, but you can judge for yourself when the film comes to town with a new score by Jerzy Maksymiuk, performed by the Wroclaw Chamber Music Orchestra Leopoldinum.

Körkarlen at the Mucky Pup, 7 March 2011

Körkarlen or The Phantom Carriage (1921)
Körkarlen or The Phantom Carriage (1921)

Fancy a drink? Cigarette Burns‘s monthly pub night is back on Monday, with a programme of occult horror. Top of the bill is Equinox, a 1970 American horror film that seems to be a sort of proto-Evil Dead, with a group of teenagers heading into a forest and stumbling across some very hostile demons.

However, we’re interested in the first course, which on this occasion is Körkarlen (1921), also known as The Phantom Carriage. This is a Victor Sjöström film, adapted from a novel based on a spooky legend that the last person to die in any one year, if they are suitably wicked, will have to spend a year driving the phantom carriage, picking up the souls of the dead. It’s a nasty business indeed, and should have you clutching your pint glass in terror.

This was Sjöstrom’s last Swedish film before he went to Hollywood, so if you’re going to see his The Wind at the BFI on Wednesday, you might like to watch this as a point of comparison. And to scare yourself silly, too.

The Cigarette Burns night is the Mucky Pup pub in Islington on the first Monday of every month. Körkarlen starts around 6.30pm, so get there nice and early. I hear there will be pizza.

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

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.

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