Tag Archives: December 2012

Celebrating Flicker Alley, 13 December 2012

Cecil Court, AKA Flicker Alley
Cecil Court, AKA Flicker Alley

I have written before on this blog about Cecil Court, a small street in London that used to be known as Flicker Alley. It’s a turning off Charing Cross Road, crammed with bookshops – and in the windows of those shops you will find circular blue labels commemorating the pioneering film businesses that established themselves here in the earliest days of the cinema.

On 13 December this year, a more permanent memorial will be unveiled, a bona fide Westminster Council blue plaque at No 27 Cecil Court, to mark the street’s importance to the British film industry. And to celebrate the plaque, there will be an afternoon of festivities. First, at 2.30pm, a screening of early films at No 5, with piano accompaniment by John Sweeney, then Christmas carols and refreshments at 4.45pm. Later in the evening, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy will be signing books in Goldsboro Books at No 23.

This blogpost has lots more information about the street, including an audio interview with two Cecil Court shopkeepers Etan Ilfeld and Tim Bryars.

To keep up with news about the event on 13 December and other goings on at Cecil Court, you can like the Facebook page here.

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Silent films at the West London Trades Union Club, 2012 season

Hindle Wakes (1927)
Hindle Wakes (1927)

The West London Trades Union Club in Acton, London W3 is a welcoming place for those who enjoy a well-kept ale and a natter, and a haven for left-leaning cinephiles too. The venue’s Saturday afternoon film club is friendly, and pleasingly broad-minded: recent seasons have taken a look at the work of film-makers ranging from Joseph Losey to Paul Robeson as well as giving club members the chance to show their own favourite titles, week by week.

Last year I spent four hugely enjoyable, chatty Saturday afternoons in west London showing silent films chosen in collaboration with members of the club. The discussions afterwards were well-informed, not to say boisterous, and one topic we often returned to was: what are you going to show next year?

So, the silent film club is back, with some much-longed for comedy, another British film, some Weimar glamour and French impressionism. Here’s what’s coming up this autumn in Acton:

Buster Keaton in The General (1926)

Comedy double-bill: The General (1926) and The Circus (1928)

Two classic films from the two titans of silent comedy: Buster Keaton’s ingenious civil-war chase film The General and Chaplin’s poignant, hilarious The Circus. These two films offer an opportunity to marvel at the best of silent comedy, but also to compare and contrast the different styles of these two great film-makers. Buster Keaton’s deadpan mechanical inventiveness versus Chaplin’s sentimental appeal and graceful physicality – you decide.
8 September 2012, 4pm

Hindle Wakes (1927)

This adaptation of the much-loved northern melodrama was filmed by Maurice Elvey, a giant of British silent cinema, now sadly all but forgotten. Elvey was a trade unionist himself, and Hindle Wakes is the story of a clandestine romance between a factory worker and an industrialist’s son. It’s gorgeously filmed, with some fantastic “Wakes Week” sequences shot in Blackpool – and the heroine, played by Estelle Brody, is a refreshingly modern woman. Not to be missed.
20 October 2012, 4pm

Louise Brooks Pandora's Box (1929)
Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box (1929)

Pandora’s Box (1929)

Another modern woman, and one of the most famous films of the silent era. Louise Brooks is truly iconic as the liberated, amoral Lulu breaking hearts in swinging Weimar Germany. Erotic, witty and ultimately tragic, Pandora’s Box is a classic that rewards repeated viewing and while coolly received at the time, has subsequently made an international star or its reckless leading lady – it now stands as the definitive portrait of a decadent society.
10 November 2012, 4pm

L’Argent (1928)

When Marcel Herbier announced his intention to adapt Zola’s L’Argent but to place it in the contemporary setting of the 1920s Paris stockmarket, many were horrified that he would take an acclaimed historical novel about ruthlessly greedy, over-reaching bankers out of its context. But Herbier’s passion, “to film at any cost, even (what a paradox) at great cost, a fierce denunciation of money”, proved as pertinent in pre-crash Europe as it does now, in the fallout of the global financial crisis. L’Argent is not just social commentary, it’s an ambitiously innovative film, a masterpiece of poetic impressionism.
15 December 2012, 4pm

Charlie Chaplin in The Circus (1928)
Charlie Chaplin in The Circus (1928)

You don’t have to be a member of the club, or even of a trade union, to turn up and receive a warm welcome – and you will find the venue at 33 Acton High Street, London W3 6ND. It’s about five minutes walk from Acton Central train station, and on plenty of bus routes.