Tag Archives: BFI

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

The Birth of a Nation, BFI Southbank, 24 January – postponed

The Birth of a Nation (1915)
The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Due to technical difficulties, the screening of The Birth of a Nation (DW Griffith, 1915) at the BFI Southbank on 24 January has been cancelled, but it will be rescheduled for later in the year. Hopefully, the rearranged screening will also benefit from an introduction from Kevin Brownlow as originally planned. Of course, we’ll pass on the details as soon we know more.

Hamlet (1920) at the BFI, 27 January – a change to the advertised programme

Asta Nielsen as Hamlet

Asta Nielsen as Hamlet, Lilly Jacobson as Ophelia in Hamlet (1920)

Look what I found tucked into my copy of Shakespeare on Silent Film: A Strange Eventful History by Robert Hamilton Ball. It’s not a “vintage” postcard, but was bought for me by relatives on holiday in Berlin when I was writing a dissertation on silent Shakespeare. Asta Nielsen as Hamlet also graces the cover of the book, and looking at these pictures again I am reminded why I am so excited about the BFI screening of Hamlet next week. I’ve not seen this 1920 film directed by Sven Gade before, as it was not available on DVD when I was at university, and it still isn’t.

The BFI screening will be a chance to see a restored print of the film, and this event was also to be the premiere of a new score by Claire van Kampen – but unfortunately, that is no longer the case. However, I’m sure that Neil Brand’s improvised piano accompaniment will be up to his usual high standards.

Hamilton Ball says of the film that: “by adaptation and acting appropriate to pictures in motion, the least Shakespearean Hamlet becomes the best Hamlet film in the silent era”. He also quotes from a contemporary review in the periodical Exceptional Photoplays:

Rare is it indeed to see so complete a suggestion of all physical means – appearance, gesture, even the movement of an eye-lid – to the sheer art of showing forth the soul of a character as that which Asta Nielsen accomplishes in her role of Hamlet … For here is a woman whose like we have not on our own screen. Asta Nielsen’s art is a mature art that makes the curly headed girlies and painted hussies and tear-drenched mothers of most of our native film dramas as fantastic for adult consumption as a reading diet restricted to the Elsie books and Mother Goose … It is well … to put Shakespeare resolutely out of mind in seeing this production and take it on its own merits, though that is a mental feat made harder than it need have been by the frequent use of Shakespeare’s words in subtitles … Taken all in all, Hamlet reaches a level not often seen in our motion pictures.

Hamlet (1920) screens at the BFI Southbank on 27 January at 6.45pm. There are still a few tickets available here.

BFI Silents: February roundup

Lord Richard in the Pantry
Walter Forde is on the right, directing Richard Cooper in Lord Richard in the Pantry (1930)

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.

BFI silents: January roundup

There is lots to look forward to in the BFI’s January schedule.

First up, we are very excited about Hamlet (1920) starring Asta Nielsen. This is the first UK screening of a new print of the film, with a new score by Claire van Kampen. Silent Shakespeare has a special place in Silent London’s heart and this is a classic. Some people can get a bit agitated about the fact that Asta Nielsen, who plays Hamlet, is a woman. But she’s Danish too, which is more than you can say for Laurence Olivier. Plus, the film puts a little twist on the plot of the play, which explains everything.

Hamlet is on Thursday 27 January at 8.45pm.

Second, is The Birth of a Nation (1915). It’s horribly racist and terribly long, but DW Griffith’s epic is a game-changer in the history of feature films. Plus, it is shown here with an introduction by Oscar-winner Kevin Brownlow – so this is a good time to catch it, if you haven’t seen it already.

The Birth of a Nation is on Monday 24 January at 6.10pm.

The Howard Hawks retrospective was always going to be a treat, but we’re really pleased to see five silent features (and one incomplete film, Trent’s Last Case, as well) in there.

Fig Leaves (1926) is on 1 January at 6.30pm and 5 January at 8.40pm.

The Cradle Snatchers (1927) with Trent’s Last Case (1929) is on 1 January at 8.40pm and 7 January 6.20pm.

Paid to Love (1927) is on 2 January at 4.10pm and 10 January at 8.30pm.

A Girl in Every Port (1928), which stars Louise Brooks, is on 2 January at 6.30pm and 7 January at 8.45pm.

Fazil (1928) screens on 2 January 8.40pm and 10 January at 6.30pm.

All of the Hawks films are shown in NFT2 and have live piano accompaniment.

Honourable mention also to a short, London After Dark (1926), shown as a companion piece to Say it With Flowers (1934) on Wednesday 12 January 6.30pm.

Priority booking for BFI members is open on 7 December.

BFI silents: December roundup

This is a good month for silent film at BFI Southbank. You can still catch the “new” Metropolis, just about, and the BFI has a full programme as part of the Fashion in Film festival, but there’s plenty more besides:

There are a couple of cartoons from the silent era in Cartoon Classics and Animated Oddities 2, 15 December.

The 1910 Show, curated by Bryony Dixon and accompanied on piano by Stephen Horne, is on Monday 13 December.

One of Fashion in Film’s six kinoscopes will be installed in the foyer until 14 December. Also during the first half of the month, you can watch, deep breath, The Red Lantern (1919), Male and Female (1919), The Affairs of Anatol (1921), Salome (1923), La Revue des Revues (1927), The Island of Love (1928), Moulin Rouge (1928) and Secrets of the East – all of which feature fabulous costumes and most of which are screened on two separate dates.