Tag Archives: July 2013

The Last Laugh at the Mimetic Festival, 16 July 2013

The Last Laugh (1924)
The Last Laugh (1924)

A short note to let you know that I am introducing a screening of Murnau’s heartbreakingly brilliant The Last Laugh (1924) as part of the Mimetic Festival on 16 July 2013. More to the point, the extremely talented Costas Fotopoulos will be accompanying the film live on piano – so don’t miss it.

The Mimetic Festival is a celebration of the power of mime across film, theatre, cabaret, comedy and film. This particular screening is presented by the lovely people at Around the Corner Cinema, who recently showed Sunrise in Winchmore Hill, north London. We chose this film for the festival because it doesn’t rely on intertitles to tell its story. Instead, the audience is swept along by Murnau’s floating camera movements and Emil Jannings’ fluid, physical performance in the lead role.

The Last Laugh is a mesmerising film, a work of expressionist genius, which applies the visual genius of Ufa’s greatest talents to the seemingly dour and mundane tale of a hotel doorman who loses his position, and his self-respect, when he is demoted to a toilet attendant. The result is unexpectedly breathtaking – and without giving anything away, you won’t have seen an ending like this before.

CA Lejeune, the legendary film critic of the Observer newspaper, had this to say about it:

Probably the least sensational and certainly the most important of Murnau’s films. It gave the camera a new dominion, a new freedom…It influenced the future of motion picture photography…all over the world, and without suggesting any revolution in method, without storming critical opinion as Caligari had done, it turned technical attention towards experiment, and stimulated…a new kind of camera-thinking with a definite narrative end.

The Last Laugh will also screen with The Projectionist, Jamie Thraves’s short film about the mystery of The Mountain Eagle, which Fotopoulos wrote the score for.

The Last Laugh and The Projectionist screen at Enfield Grammar School Hall, EN2 on Tuesday 16 July, 2013. Doors open at 6.45pm and the film will begin at 7.30pm. There will be a licensed bar. Snacks, including Sardinian artisan antipasti boxes, will be on sale too. Tickets cost £6.50 or £5.50 for concessions. To read more, and to book tickets, click here.

Advertisements

Win tickets to see Underground at Hackney Attic

Underground (1928)
Underground (1928)

This blog has been championing the new BFI restoration of Anthony Asquith’s dark and dangerous Underground for quite some time. The recent theatrical release packed out cinemas and the DVDs and Blu-Rays have been flying off the shelves too we hear. Quite right too, as it’s a stunning film: the twisted tale of love triangle that turns violent, with excellent use of London locations and Asquith’s artsy, expressionist lighting and jazzy editing.

But if you are sad that you missed the chance to see Underground on the big screen, turn that frown upside-down this minute. Hackney Attic’s fabulous Filmphonics folk are screening Underground  later this month, with live music provided by “one-man silent film orchestra” Igor Outkine. If you haven’t had a chance to see Outkine perform, here’s what Filmphonics have to say about his music:

Like a Russian Rick Wakeman of the button accordion, Igor switches from a conventional instrument to a Midi accordion (a veritable Tardis of an instrument, much more than it appears) from which he coaxes everything from guitar tones and saxophone solos to a James Brown back-up band. He has a unique way of interpreting every nuance of the film, which almost feels like actual dialogue at times.

That you have to see.

The even better news is that you can win a pair of tickets for this screening, just by answering a ridiculously easy question. Email the correct answer to this question to silentlondontickets@gmail.com with “Underground” in the subject line by noon on Friday 19 July 2013 for your chance to win.

  • Norah Baring plays Kate in Underground – what is the name of her character in Asquith’s A Cottage on Dartmoor?

The winner will be notified by email. Good luck!

Underground screens at Hackney Attic, Hackney Picturehouse on Sunday 21 July 2013 at 7.30pm presented by Filmphonics with live musical accompaniment by Igor Outkine. To book tickets click here.

Kevin Brownlow’s The Other Hollywood: The Music of Light, BFI Southbank, 26 July

Kevin Brownlow (Vanityfair.com)
Kevin Brownlow (Vanityfair.com)

Everyone’s favourite Oscar-winning silent film historian, the erudite and tireless Kevin Brownlow, is bringing his mega-restoration of Abel Gance’s Napoléon back to London later this year. You already have your tickets, right? Ahead of that screening there is a timely chance to see one of his finest silent film TV documentaries at BFI Southbank this July – introduced by the man himself.

All silent film fans are familiar with Brownlow and David Gill’s landmark 1980s series Hollywood, crammed with legendary interviews with silent film stars and film-makers from the US. The documentary showing at the former NFT is from the followup 1995 series focusing on the other side of the Atlantic: Cinema Europe. This episode, The Music of Light, is all about French Cinema – and in particular the genius and ambition of Napoléon director Abel Gance.

Abel Gance
Abel Gance

The screening is paired with Barrie Gavin’s 1967 TV documentary The Movies: The World of Josef von Sternberg, which also features a contribution from Brownlow.

The Music of Light screens on Friday 26 July at 6.10pm in NFT2, with an introduction by Kevin Brownlow. Click here to read more and book tickets.

This news seems like the perfect excuse to post this 1980 clip of Brownlow talking about Abel Gance, just to whet your appetite:

Jean Grémillon’s silent symphonies of life, BFI Southbank, July 2013

Maldone (1928)
Maldone (1928)

“Who could fail to sense the greatness of this art, in which the visible is the sign of the invisible?” – Jean Grémillon

The name Jean Grémillon may be spoken in hushed tones by French cinephiles, but it is less familiar to our ears. A director many consider in the same ranks as Renoir, Carné and Feyder, Grémillon began as a documentary-maker in the silent era, but switched to fiction in the late 20s and continued to produce intensely beautiful films until the 1950s. In July, the BFI is holding a retrospective season called Symphonies of Life, including Remorques (1941), starring Jean Gabin and Madeleine Renaud, and Lumière d’été (1942), written by Jacques Prévert and Pierre Laroche.

Grémillon espoused a style of film-making that has been called enchanted realism, or poetic realism: the noirish, fatalistic lovechild of French impressionism and surrealism. Grémillon was not interested in what he termed “mechanical naturalism”, but rather: “that subtlety which the human eye does not perceive directly but which must be shown by establishing the harmonies, the unknown relations, between objects and beings; it is a vivifying, inexhaustible source of images that strike our imaginations and enchant our hearts.” Sadly, Grémillon’s artistic ambitions often clashed with demands of studios and producers. At the end of his career, he returned to documentary-making, and he died aged just 58.

Grémillon’s most famous works are those he made during the 30s and and under German occupation, but the silent features on offer in the season are very exciting. Both will be presented with live piano accompaniment and there are two opportunities to see each one. The films are also showing at the Edinburgh film festival this month. Maldone has been recently restored by the CNC in France and screens with Chartres, a silent short made by Grémillon in 1923 about the famous medieval cathedral. Here’s what the BFI has to say about the season:

Maldone (1928)

Beautifully performed and packed with resonant details, this dark drama tells of Olivier Maldone (Dullin), who left his wealthy family’s estate for a free and easy life on the canals only to return to a life of staid respectability when his brother dies. But temptation – in the form of the gypsy Zita, met during his youthful wanderings – still beckons… Even in this early feature, Grémillon had a great crew: the camerawork by Georges Périnal and Christian Matras and designs by André and Léon Barsacq contribute to a magical mood pitched expertly between realism and expressionism.

Maldone screens at BFI Southbank’s NFT2 on 4 and 10 July, with Chartres. Read more and book tickets here.

Gardiens de Phare (1929)

Gardiens de Phare (1929)
Gardiens de Phare (1929)

A father and son go to spend a month tending their remote lighthouse off the Brittany coast, little knowing that a dog which recently bit the latter was rabid… Grémillon’s intense drama combines expressionism and a real feeling for the traditions of the Brittany coastal communities. Not much ‘happens’ in Jacques Feyder’s script, but the skilled use of flashbacks and cutaways, the meticulous pacing and George Périnal’s striking compositions and lighting make for sustained suspense throughout.

Gardiens de Phare screens with Dainah la Métisse at BFI Southbank’s NFT 3 on 6 July and NFT2 on 10 July. Read more and book tickets here.

The Passion of Joan of Arc at the Union Chapel, 17 July 2013

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Just a quick note to tell you about a very special screening of one of our favourite silent films: Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc will be shown in the atmospheric setting of Islington’s Union Chapel in July.  It’s an intense, cathartic, grotesque and beautiful film – every silent film fan should see it at least once.

Do you need me to tell you that it’s based on the transcripts of Joan of Arc’s trial, that Falconetti’s performance will break your heart and it’s one of the greatest films of all time? No, you knew all that. So book your tickets already.

While the director famously intended the film to be played in silence, musicians over the years have created some unforgettable scores for this masterpiece – and this screening will be accompanied by organ, voice and electronic instrumentation. You can watch a clip of the film with this score in the video above.

On Wednesday 17th July the organ will be at centre stage in the musical accompaniment to a landmark screening of Carl Dreyer’s 1928 silent film The Passion Of Joan Of Arc. Composer Irene Buckley has created a haunting score to accompany what is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time, and this London premiere performance is set to send shivers down the spines of all of those lucky enough to witness it in the atmospheric surroundings of Union Chapel’s stunning Gothic architecture. Organist James McVinnie will bo on hand, and performed at the recent Royal Wedding, plus in concert with Philip Glass and Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire and he also recorded with The National on their latest album. This incredible production has recently sold out in Glasgow and Cork to great critical acclaim – it’s been hailed as “a once in a lifetime experience … pure cinema genius”. The Passion of Joan of Arc comes to London for one night only and cannot be missed.

Henry Willis Organ © Daniela Sbinsy
Henry Willis Organ © Daniela Sbinsy

Why the organ? Why the chapel? Well, the cine-concert is the highlight of a week of events at the Union Chapel called the Organ Project, celebrating the restoration of its classic Henry Willis organ, originally built in 1877:

Restoration is complete on the Union Chapel’s 19th Century organ, which will officially be launched to the public on 14 July 2013 in a week long programme encompassing traditional recitals, stunning contemporary performances and the London premiere of Carl Dreyer’s masterpiece of silent film, The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, set to a new critically acclaimed score for soprano, church organ and electronics. In the launch week and future concerts,The Organ Project will not only honour the legacy of this amazing instrument but also discover new musical perspectives by exploring styles and genres rarely attempted on a mechanical organ. Proceeds will go towards Union Chapel’s Organ Education Outreach Fund.

The Passion of Joan of Arc screens at the Union Chapel on 17 July 2013. Doors open at 7pm and the film will screen at 8.45pm. Tickets cost £15 in advance. Read more and book tickets here.

Blancanieves: UK release on 12 July 2013

Macarena García in Blancanieves (2012)
Macarena García in Blancanieves (2012)

We’ve been waiting for this news as patiently as Snow White awaited her kiss of life – and here, in the shape of StudioCanal, is our Prince Charming. Pablo Berger’s utterly gorgeous, slightly twisted, Gothic fairytale Blancanieves gets a UK release on 12 July 2013. I have been intrigued by this film since we first heard about it in March 2012, and in October last year when I saw it at the London Film Festival, I became smitten. If you saw it then, or at the recent Ciné Lumière screening, you’ll know what I mean.

Blancanieves is a silent, black-and-white film – a loose adaptation of Snow White set in 1920s Spain. There is a poisoned apple, a wicked stepmother (brilliantly played by Maribel Verdú) and a coterie of dwarves, but also bull-fighting, flamenco and a pet cockerel called Pépé. It’s a beautifully accomplished homage to European silent cinema (at the screening I attended, the director paid tribute to everyone from Abel Gance to our own Anthony Asquith) and at the same time satisfyingly rich and quirky – this is a very hard film to categorise. The cinematography is at times exquisite, and the score, by Alfonso de Vilallonga, is fantastic. As yet, I don’t know whether we can expect a full or limited release – but if you love silent cinema, and Blancanieves is playing near you, you really should go to see it.

Until then, feast your eyes on this: