Tag Archives: July 2012

The Great White Silence at the Exhibition Road Show, 28 July 2012

The Great White Silence (1924)
The Great White Silence (1924)

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is contributing to Olympic mania by staging what it describes as “London’s most sophisticated street party”. It’s a festival really, featuring games, dance, science, debates, music, writers’ commissions and visual art installations, with a little nod to the Great Exhibition that took over Hyde Park in 1851. The Exhibition Road Show will take place on the street they’re calling “London‟s cultural and intellectual heartland”, just a short hop from the Olympic beach volleyball venue in Earl’s Court.

The Show runs from 28 July to 5 August, and on its opening night you can pop along to a free outdoor screening of Herbert Ponting’s elegant, unflinching Scott of the Antarctic documentary The Great White Silence – with its acclaimed live score by Simon Fisher Turner and his musicians.

Fisher Turner’s score for The Great White Silence premiered at the London Film Festival in 2010, and was described by The Guardian as “”skillfully judged, and the blend of real sounds – such as the gramophones that would have played on the ship, the Terra Nova, as well as a recording of the ship’s bell – and sparse musical scoring seemed to respect the idea of silence while making sound”.

The Great White Silence screens on the evening of Saturday 28 July 2012. For more details, see the Exhibition Road Show website.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari with Martyn Jacques at the Soho Theatre, July & August 2012

Martyn Jacques and his accordion
Martyn Jacques and his accordion

Well I do enjoy posting news of silent film screenings, but 12 in a row takes some beating. Martyn Jacques, of punk-cabaret band The Tiger Lillies, will perform his own score to expressionist classic The Cabinet of Dr Caligari at the Soho Theatre this summer four days a week, three weeks on the trot. Jacques is known for his eccentric performances and his powerful falsetto voice – he will accompany himself and the film on piano and accordion.

It’s very lazy blogging to copy and paste Wikipedia. However, this is really all the introduction to Mr Jacques you’ll need I feel:

Martyn Jacques spent 7 years living above a brothel in Soho while training his characteristic falsetto voice. In his Tiger Lillies appearances, Jacques commonly sings about “sexual perversions, seedy underbellies, the gruesome, macabre and visceral”. Jacques has been described as enjoying when audience members walk out of his shows, noting “It’s always funny when people are offended by what I do … after all, I’m just an entertainer.”

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

So this is clearly not going to be your common-or-garden silent film screening. However, Jacques is a devotee of silent cinema and this is a very personal project for him:

‘When I was fourteen my childhood desire to play the piano was finally satisfied. My first teacher was Florence De Jong. This was forty years ago and Florence was a very old lady. She had been a famous theatre organist accompanying silent films. She was so good she made gramophone recordings. I’ve always remembered her and this is my tribute to her and the profession. Silent films were for me the golden age of film. They had a magic and enigma you don’t get with talkies. Dr Calagari is a fine example. A freak show in the fairground…
If you’re not familiar with The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, you have a treat ahead. It’s a nightmarish, audacious and superbly stylish horror film, featuring a carnival, a sinister medic, a bloodthirsty somnambulist and a string of murders, let alone some mindbending sets and unforgettable imagery. It sounds as if Jacques’ music could be the perfect fit.
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari screens at the Soho Theatre in London from 25 July to 11 August 2012. To find out more and to buy tickets, visit the Soho Theatre website.

The Women of Old Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard (1950)

When the tintypes first galloped westward in the 1910s, what was it like to be a woman working in the film industry? A special event at Conway Hall, part of the Looking In Looking Out festival of film and philosophy, hopes to find out. The evening will take a look at the earliest days of Hollywood, the era of Lois Weber, Frances Marion, June Mathis Mary Pickford, Mabel Normand and Clara Bow.

We’ll be asking questions such as: how much did women contribute to the formation of the cinema as we now know it? Were there more opportunities for women in the then-new industry or did broader social ideas about women’s roles hold them back? Do the films that women made during this period represent a specifically female or even feminist point of view? Have women been written out of cinema history? But we’ll also be celebrating the many fantastic achievements by women both well-known and obscure in silent-era Hollywood.

The LILO event will comprise, first, a panel discussion chaired by Bidisha and featuring Kira Cochrane, Jenny Hammerton and Muriel Zagha as well as um, me. This will be followed by a screening of Billy Wilder’s sublime Sunset Boulevard (1950), with its unforgettable lead performance by Gloria Swanson as the embittered silent film star Norma Desmond.

6.30pm Bidisha leads a high-kicking whirl through Hollywood history and a celebration of the brilliant women who co-founded Hollywood, with film experts, critics, Old Hollywood fans and film lovers Jenny HammertonMuriel ZaghaPamela Hutchinson and Kira Cochrane.

8pm Sunset Boulevard (1950) Gloria Swanson’s career-defining performance in Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett’s Oscar-winning tragic tale of a star in decline. As much a reflection on the idea of Hollywood itself, as it is on love and loss.

So please, come one, come all – this should be fun. The Women of Old Hollywood event takes place at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London on Tuesday 3 July 2012. Doors open at 6pm. Tickets cost £10 and are available here. You can read more on the Conway Hall website, or on Facebook. There’s a Twitter feed too. And if you want more, here’s a very smart feature from the clever chaps at Real|Reel Journal introducing the festival.

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror at the East End film festival, 7 July 2012

Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu (1922)

The outdoor silent film screenings at the East End film festival are always a highlight of the year. Held in the centre of Spitalfields market, the screenings are accompanied by live music from Minima – guaranteed to send a shiver down the spine. But this year Minima, and the festival, have come up with something that promises to be extra-special.

This summer’s screening is of Nosferatu, the landmark vampire horror by FW Murnau, which is 90 years old this year. It’s a movie Minima have accompanied many times before, but not like this:

East End Film Festival presents the World Premiere of A Symphony of Horror, a unique collaboration between soundscapers Minima, Paul Ayres’ Queldryk Choral Ensemble and Hackney-based spatial artist Lucy Jones to create a re-imagined film score and performance on the 90th anniversary of the classic 1922 film.

Enter the fully immersive eerie and unsettling world of Nosferatu where the very walls of Spitalfields Market will be alive with creeping shadows and silhouettes, and reverberating with the soaring tones of the Queldryk Choral Ensemble, featuring 60 choristers, accompanied by the festival’s favourite soundtrackers, Minima.

Silent film screenings with live music have always spearheaded the immersive, live cinema trend, but this event goes a step further, combining an atmospheric location with projections and a spooky soundtrack turned up to eleven.

Admission is free, and the film won’t start until the sun goes down, but you’ll want turn up early to get a good seat and bring your own cushions/blankets/cagoules. For more information, visit the East End film festival website.

For more on Nosferatu, check out Sight & Sound contributing editor Mark Sinker discussing the film on the first Silent London podcast.

Robin Hood with the Royal Philharmonic at Cadogan Hall, 12 July 2012

Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (1922)
Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (1922)

I can tell you right now – the 2012 summer blockbusters will have nothing to match Robin Hood (1922). The towering sets, the impossible stunts, the mischievous humour, the prancing Merrie Men and at the heart of it all, handsome lunatic Douglas Fairbanks springing from one perilous situation to the next. In tights. It’s ridiculous, sure, but it’s ridiculously good fun too. Not for nothing did Kevin Brownlow call it “unique in every respect … as legendary as the story which inspired it.”

This July, Robin Hood will be shown in the grand surroundings of Chelsea’s Cadogan Hall, with an equally grand accompaniment – the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing a new score composed by John Scott. If you want to introduce your children to silent cinema, I can think of few better ways to do it. This quote from Scott bodes well for a feisty soundtrack and a thrilling night.

The film calls for an action-packed score. There is romance, intrigue, terror, spectacle, suspense, and as the story progresses it demands more and more, culminating in the spectacle of a royal wedding.

Robin Hood screens at Cadogan Hall on 12 July 2012 at 7.30pm. Tickets start at £12.50 and you can buy them here on the Cadogan Hall website.