This year’s British Silent Film Festival has an extraordinarily full schedule of films, talks and gala screenings. Whether you favour Soviet gem The Ghost That Never Returns with the full-throttle rockin’ blues of the Dodge Brothers (featuring Mark Kermode), Miles Mander’s sophisticated drama The First Born with Stephen Horne‘s elegant, haunting score, or some much-loved but little-seen favourites from the archives, there should be something to tempt you. And the whole thing takes place in the beautiful city of Cambridge this year (just 45 minutes from the Big Smoke by train).
BUT, very excitingly, the British Silent Film Festival has been kind enough to give away some tickets for free! To you beautiful Silent Londoners. To win a pair of tickets to a screening of your choice, just send the answer to this super-easy question to me, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the name of the French silent film-maker whose life was dramatised in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning film Hugo (2911)?
The winner will be chosen at random from the correct answers at 1pm on Wednesday 18 April 2012, when the competition closes – and then notified by email. Good luck, and see you in Cambridge!
Glad tidings from east London. The capital’s newest cinema, the Hackney Picturehouse on Mare Street, also boasts the capital’s newest silent film screening venue. Hackney Attic hosts all kinds of live music and cinema events, scheduled by an outfit called Filmphonics. They have already dipped their toe into the silent waters with a sold-out screening of The Adventures of Prince Achmed, complete with belly dancers. Now Filmphonics are officially launching a series of monthly screenings with an event that is sure to be popular – a screening of the nightmarishly creepy The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, with live accompaniment from rock band Minima. if you’ve never seen Minima accompany a silent film, you’ve been missing out. They’re a rock band, albeit one with a cheeky cello, who specialise in the kind of spine-chilling soundscapes perfect for a film this creepy and strange.
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari screens at Hackney Attic on Sunday 22 April 2012. Doors open at 6.30p and the films begins at 7.50pm. Tickets for the screening cost £9, but less for concessions and members. Alternatively you can buy a dinner ticket, which includes the movie, a meal and a glass of wine for £20. That’s a pretty unbeatable night out, I’d say. Tickets are available online here.
Every so often a groovy film festival sweeps into town and shakes up the schedules a bit, introducing us to some silent movies that were hitherto a mystery to us. This month, the Argentine Film Festival arrives, complete with critical hits such as Las Acacias, but also with a programme of silents and live music at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton.
I’ll admit, I’m not au fait with Argentine silent cinema. A little reading around tells me that only a handful of films made in the silent era in Argentina are still with us today, and that the films the Ritzy is showing have never been seen in the UK before. So this event should be a surprise to most of us.
These four short films, including the newsreel Film Revista Valle (1926), My Sorrel Horse (Mi alazán tostao -1923), The Return to the Bulin (La vuelta al bulín -1926) and Creole Mosaic (Mosaico criollo -1929) – one of the oldest preserved sound films – form part of the first collection of silent films to be recovered by the Pablo C. Ducrós Hicken Film Museum in Buenos Aires, and have never before been screened in the UK.
Together, they offer an intriguing vignette of life in 1920s Argentina, a country that was very much under Europe’s influence – as could be seen in the leisure pursuits of its upper classes – yet retained its own distinct character, not least through the tango.
The news reels featuring fox-hunts, visits from foreign dignitaries and elegant river cruises present a glamorous world which does much to explain how Buenos Aires acquired its title as the “Paris of South America”. At the same time the comic scenes from the tango underworld in The Return to the Bulin and the lawlessness in the country drama My Sorrel Horse are more reminiscent of North American genre films. Creole Mosaic sees one of the first attempts to include sound in films, using a synchronised gramophone record along with the actual screening. More of a musical review than a movie, it presented audiences with the voices and figures of popular radio artists.
It wasn’t easy to be a film-maker in Argentina in the 1920s. Money was tight, equipment was scarce and directors often found them selves multitasking, working on both sides of the camera, and editing films not on a Moviola but with a pair of scissors. Jose Ferreyra, who directed The Return to the Bulin, managed these challenges better than most. His films were made on the fly, often taking tango lyrics as the inspiration for the story. Sadly, Ferreyra’s films were not very well received, but those directed by one of his actors, Italian-born Nelo Cosimi, picked up better reviews. Cosimi didn’t restrict himself to tango themes, but looked farther afield for his subjects. My Sorrel Horse is one of his first films, and shows the influence of Hollywood cinema of the time.
The Argentine silent film programme screens at 5.05pm on Sunday 22 April 2012 in Screen 3 at the Ritzy Cinema, and will be followed by “a musical tour of Argentine tango history” in the bar afterwards. Tickets are available on this link.
Pandora’s Box, (1929), directed by G. W. Pabst, on Friday 13th April at 7.30 pm
A masterpiece of German Expressionism, of cinematic eroticism which depicts the rise and inevitable fall of an amoral but naive young woman, who inspires lust and violence in those around her. The film remains as indelibly strange as ever, capable of reducing some critics to awed silence.
People on Sunday, (1930), directors Robert & Curt Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer, on Friday 20th April at 7.30 pm
This effervescent, sunlit silent, about a handful of city dwellers (a charming cast of non-professionals) enjoying a weekend outing, offers a rare glimpse of Weimar-era Berlin. People on Sunday was both an experiment and a mainstream hit that would influence generations of film artists around the world.
The Classic Film Club takes place at Ealing Town Hall, New Broadway, Ealing W5 2BY. The nearest rail and underground station is Ealing Broadway. Tickets £7 (concs £6) Membership £10 for 12 months. One day membership £1.
If you were at the British Silent Film Festival last year, you won’t need telling twice to book for Beggars of Life. The gorgeous Louise Brooks, leery Wallace Beery, a hulking great train, ‘Wild Bill’ Wellman at the helm and a soundtrack by the coolest skiffle band in town.
This show is a fine example of how invigorating the combination of a great silent movie and live music can be. The Dodge Brothers, an Americana-drenched quartet featuring none other than bequiffed film critic Mark Kermode on bass and harmonica, will accompany rail-riding rom-com Beggars of Life at the Barbican next month. And their numbers will be swelled by Neil Brand on the piano. Here’s a taster of one of the quieter moments from their score.
There’s nothing like a little prohibition-era pizzazz to to jazz up a silent movie screening. And the Volupté Lounge in central London is all about glamour. It’s a “burlesque cabaret bar” that calls itself the “the most decadent little supper club in town”, and if that doesn’t get you hot under the collar, check out its plans for silent cinema screenings. Phew!
On the first Sunday of every month, the club will show a silent movie in its underground cinema, the Ciné Illuminé, with live piano accompaniment from Luke Meredith. The series begins on Sunday 1 April 2012 with screening of the Buster Keaton’s must-see masterpiece The General. It sounds as if these shows will definitely be worth dressing up for too, promising usherettes, vintage cocktails and a “Bon Bon bar” for your sweet tooth.
Doors are at 6pm for a screening at 8pm. Tickets are £7 in advance or £9 on the door. You’ll find the Volupté Lounge at 9 Norwich Street, EC4A 1EJ. Call 0207 831 1622 or email email@example.com to book tickets. Don’t forget to check out the Facebook page for future screenings.
I’m very pleased to say that more details of the programme for next month’s British Silent Film Festival have just been released. The festival takes place in Cambridge this year, from 19-22 April. Delegate passes for the weekend are now available to buy here, and the full schedule is available to browse here. Screenings will include Graham Cutts’s Cocaine, to accompany the ‘What the Silent Censor Saw’ programme, The First Born, with Stephen Horne’s ensemble score, Norwegian drama Fante-Anne (Gipsy Anne) with a new score by Halldor Krogh, Soviet documentary Turksib with accompaniment from Bronnt Industries, folk films from the ‘Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow’ collection and new restorations from the Imperial War Museum. There will be some British silent cinema highlights from 15-year history of the festival, a Grand Guignol strand of macabre movies and Ian Christie will deliver the Rachael Low lecture.
All this plus the Dodge Brothers will be scoring The Ghost That Never Returns live, there’ll be an outdoor screening on the Sunday night, golfing tales from PG Wodehouse, some classic Cambridge comedies and a couple of WW Jacobs adaptations in the form of The Boatswain’s Mate and A Will and a Way. The full announcement is pasted below.
The British Silent Film Festival will be celebrating its 15th Anniversary in Cambridge at the Arts Picture House. The four-day programme will be packed with rarely-seen films from the BFI and other international archives featuring a wide range of fascinating subjects such as: P.G. Wodehouse’s golfing tales including The Long Holeand The Clicking of Cuthbert; rarities based on the charming coastal stories of W.W. Jacobs including The Boatswain’s Mate and A Will and a Way; a celebration of thecentenary of the British Board of Film Classification with a look at ‘What the Silent Censor Saw’ with the rarely screened and risqué film Cocaine. We’ll be tracing the origins of Cambridge’s brand of ‘university humour’ before the Footlights with a selection of burlesque films from the 1920s and featuring A Couple of Down and Outs, the ‘silent Warhorse’ made in 1923 which tells the tale of a WWI soldier who goes on the run with his warhorse to save it from the ‘knacker’s yard’. We are also delighted to be screening the 1920 classic Fante-Anne (Gipsy Anne), directed bythe greatNorwegian director Rasmus Breistein; accompanied by a new musical score by composer and music producer Halldor Krogh.
We’ll also be featuring some 15th anniversary highlights including the legendary Grand Guignol programme of macabre stories with a twist in the tale and we’ll be including a selection of the best of British silent feature films screened over the past fourteen years. The Imperial War Museum will be presenting their latest silent restorations from their fabulous collection and we are very pleased to announce that Ian Christie will deliver the Annual Rachael Low Lecture.
This year’s ‘hot tickets’ will be the wildly popular Dodge Brothers performing their distinctive brand of Americana to The Ghost That Never Returns at the West Road Concert Hall; Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow with live folk accompaniment to silent films of English folk traditions and the Bronnt Industries playing to the stunning Soviet film Turksib. Regular Festival collaborator Stephen Horne will be performing his fabulous new ensemble music score to The First Born, a dizzying tale of sex, death and British politics.
Screenings will take place at the Arts Picturehouse, Emmanuel College and the West Road Concert Hall. The Festival will draw to a close with an outdoor highlights screening on Magdalene Street in the evening of Sunday 22 April.
Save the date: the 15th British Silent Film Festival will take place 19-22 April 2012 at a new venue, the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse. The change of location has influenced the programme too, which will feature some examples of undergraduate humour among a mix that includes adaptations of stories by WW Jacobs and PG Wodehouse as well a tribute to the BBFC. There’ll be a by-now customary performance by the Dodge Brothers too, skiffling along to Abram Room’s The Ghost That Never Returns.
The programme will include rarely seen silent films from the BFI and other archives around the world on a wide range of fascinating subjects such as: P.G. Wodehouse’s golfing tales including The Clicking of Cuthbert; rarities based on the charming coastal stories of W.W. Jacobs including The Boatswain’s Mate, A Will and a Way and brand new print of Head of the Family; a celebration of thecentenary of the British Board of Film Classification with a look at ‘What the Silent Censor Saw’ and the origins of ‘university humour’ before the Footlights. This year’s ‘hot ticket’ will be the wildly popular Dodge Brothers performing their distinctive brand of Americana to The Ghost That Never Returns.
Tickets are not yet on sale, but watch this space for more updates, including the full schedule and how to book. Click here for a report from last year’s festival, on the Guardian film blog. Below, Dodge Brother and film writer Mark Kermode introduces The Ghost That Never Returns at last year’s New Forest Film Festival: