There are a heck of a lot of end-of-year lists floating around at the moment. But most of them are dominated by talkies. To rectify this, allow me to present The Silent London End of Year Poll. I’m looking for the best silent film show of the year – anywhere in the world. And I’d like your help.
If you love going to watch silent films with live music then there have been ample opportunities to indulge your passion this year. The scene is thriving in London, not that we wouldn’t like to see more screenings. And my Twitter spies tell me that from New York to Paris to California to Sussex people are enjoying silent cinema shows of all kinds. So what has been your personal highlight of 2010? The show that introduced you to silent film or reinvigorated your appreciation of it? A new film or musician that blew you away – or a classic done just right?
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.
It’s a fairly safe bet that the discerning readers of this blog won’t be buying Matt Cardle’s single this Christmas.* But what should we be slipping into the fleecy stockings of our loved ones instead?
Well, in a moment of rare cross-medium helpfulness, Silent London advises you to forgo Surfin’ Bird, When We Collide and anything that has ever been recorded by Cliff Richard, in favour of 4′ 33″ by Cage Against the Machine. Not just because it’s the most genuinely subversive record to have a chance of entering the UK charts in ages, but because of the video. Yes, there’s a video, and it’s a thing of beauty.
Before visiting the Capturing Colour exhibition, I did a little light background reading on the subject of colour photography. Rather swiftly, I remembered why Physics was not my strong point at school. However, the exhibition at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery chooses to dazzle rather than baffle, using photographs, projected films and video to help tell the story of the development of colour photography.
“I think that exhibition is an important part of film preservation and the audience participation is part of that as well. If you bring somebody whether it’s a date or kids, you’re helping to build the audience for these great films.”
Yes, this film is dated 2010. Silent film-making didn’t keel over and die when Al Jolson waved his jazz hands in 1927, though we admit modern silent films are rare beasts. The Tenement Ghost is unusual on two counts – it’s silent, and it is being distributed online.
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.
Early Cinema Myth No 1 is surely that all silent films were black and white. It’s not true in the slightest, which is why we’re so keen to see this new exhibition in Brighton, which explores early attempts to achieve colour – from magic lanterns onwards.
We take the moving image in colour for granted, but the search for a way to capture the world in colour is a story of ingenious inventions, personal obsession, magic and illusion, scientific discovery, glamour, hard work and determination.
The Capturing Colour exhibition is at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery until 20 March 2011 and admission is free.
Silent London is planning a field trip to take a look at the show later in the week – we’ll report back here.
The screening kicks off with some silents of course: four militant suffrage comedies from 1910. Sounds great.
Tickets are £8 or £6 for concessions.
The afternoon screenings illustrate women’s relationship with the cinema through a wide range of films, moving from early suffragette films which demonstrate cinema’s role – not always complimentary – in making visible women’s political activity in the public sphere, to women’s later use of film to examine what it means to be a woman in the workplace, and finally to the flowering of women’s alternative practices using animation.
This is a real one-off. Josef Von Sternberg’s The Docks of New York, starring George Bancroft and Betty Compson, screens at the National Gallery at 2.30pm tomorrow, that’s Saturday 4 December. Bancroft plays a sailor on shore leave in the Big Apple, who falls for Compson’s jaded dancer.
Fog-enshrouded cinematography by Harold Rosson (The Wizard of Oz), expressionist set design by Hans Dreier (Sunset Boulevard), and sensual performances by Bancroft and Compson make this one of the legendary director’s finest works, and one of the most exquisitely crafted films of its era.
This looks like something very special, on a weekend already jam-packed with silent screenings in London.
Tickets are £6 or £4 for concessions, but online booking has now closed – so you’ll have to get down to the gallery to get your seat.
Bristol is only three hours away on the train, so we couldn’t resist bringing this weekend of silent slapstick to your attention. The Slapstick Festival runs from 27-30 January across several venues in the city.
There’s a Gala Event on the Friday night featuring Barry Cryer, Ian Lavender, Neil Innes and Bill Oddie. Other highlights in the festival, as far as Silent London is concerned, include Kevin Brownlow introducing some unseen Chaplin footage on the Thursday, Mantrap starring Clara Bow on Friday, and Rediscoveries and Revelations!, a bonanza of lost films on Sunday morning.