Tag Archives: November 2012

Cut! An introduction to silent film, at the Pathology Museum, 21 November 2012

Image courtesy The Pathology Museum
Image courtesy The Pathology Museum

The Pathology Museum at St Bartholomew’s Hospital is a fascinating place – and one of London’s best-kept secrets. Access to the collections is currently by appointment only, but if you want to peruse the specimen jars of an evening, while enjoying a glass of wine and learning a little something, you should look out for their lecture and seminar events. Topics covered so far range from the history of tattoos to Marilyn Monroe – and this November, silent cinema.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

I will be speaking at the Museum on 21 November, about the history of silent cinema generally, and also, inspired by the surroundings, some of the more bizarre bodies on silent film. There will be drinks, freshly made popcorn, film clips and an opportunity to ask questions after the talk.

Do come along, admission costs just £6 a person and we’re hoping that this will be the first of many silent cinema events at the museum.

Cut! takes place at the  Pathology Museum, Robin Brook Centre, West Smithfield, London EC1A 7BE on 21 November 2012. Doors will open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start. To book a ticket and find out more, follow this link. The museum’s Time Out listing is here.

Win tickets to see His People (1925) at the UK Jewish film festival

His People (1925)
His People (1925)

The UK Jewish film festival features screenings across the country from 1-18 November, but we’re especially lucky in London as we will be able to see Edward Sloman’s 1925 silent classic His People, with a new improvised score. The film is set in Manhattan and film historian Tom Gunning praised it, saying that: “few silent films give so thorough a picture of Jewish home life in the American ghetto”.

This is an exciting chance to see the work of a director whose work Kevin Bownlow described as: “remarkable … with a very American smoothness of narrative”. Unfortunately, very many of Sloman’s pictures are now lost, but His People was his biggest commercial success, taking millions at the box office on its original release. It also stars Rudolph Schildkraut, one of the director’s favourite actors: “Whatever you planned with Schildkraut always came off – sometimes even better than you’d dreamed it. Rudolph Schildkraut was one of the great actors of his era,” he told Brownlow in The Parade’s Gone By.

The festival website has this to say about the film:

A rare opportunity to see one of the most evocative films of the 1920s with a new, live score. The sights and smells of New York’s bustling immigrant Jewish Lower East Side have seldom been captured better than in this sparkling tale of a generational clash of cultures. The two sons of a Jewish migrant family opt for different paths in life and love, but as the story progresses, assumptions about good and bad are soon firmly challenged.

A classic morality tale with a bold, contemporary cinematic feel, accompanied by an improvised live soundtrack from Sophie Solomon, (violinist and artistic director of the Jewish Music Institute), Quentin Collins (trumpet), Ian Watson (accordion) and Grant Windsor (piano).

To win a pair of tickets to see His People at the Barbican, just send the answer to this question to silentlondontickets@gmail.com by noon on Friday 9 November. The winner will be chosen at random from the correct entries.

  • His People director Edward Sloman was born in Britain – but in which city?

His People screens at 7.30pm on 13 November 2012 at the Barbican Cinema. To book tickets, please click here.

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.