Tag Archives: October 2011

Nosferatu with Minima and organ, Halloween 2011

Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu (1922)

Murnau’s acclaimed Dracula adaptation, Nosferatu (1922) is still one of the most chilling horror movies ever made – and probably the most influential. So if you’re looking for a cool halloween night out, you can’t beat watching Max Schreck’s shadow creeping up those stairs with Minima’s heavy rock soundtrack. Luckily, then, there will be a few chances for you to catch the Nosferatu-Minima show this witching season. They’re playing two gigs in London, at Stoke Newington International Airport on 29 October 2011 and at the Prince Charles Cinema on 24 November. Check out the venues’ website for times and ticket prices, and if you live outside London, have a look at Minima’s website for performances of Nosferatu in Devon, Hertfordshire and Somerset.

And if you prefer a more traditional silent film accompaniment, Nosferatu is also playing at the Brentford Musical Museum, with a live organ score by Donald Mackenzie on 19 November 2011. Tickets cost £10. For more information and to book, visit the museum website.

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The Phantom of the Opera for Halloween 2011

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

Call it a spooky coincidence, but there are three screenings of The Phantom of the Opera (1925) coming up in the London area this month. Could it be that Halloween is approaching?

From the novel by Gaston Leroux, Lon Chaney creates one of his most grotesque performances as the crazed man without a face, who lives in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera, and falls in love with the voice of a young opera singer. Infatuated, he kidnaps her, dragging her to the depths below where she will sing only for him.

The Phantom of the Opera is a spectacularly grand horror film – from its Paris Opera House setting, to lead actor Lon Chaney’s gruesome makeup, and the early use of Technicolor in the Bal masqué sequence. You really can’t beat seeing this on the big screen – and with live musical accompaniment, of course. And this month, you have two chances to do.

On 19 October 2011, you can watch The Phantom of the Opera in a very unusual location: the medieval Croydon Minster in Surrey. The screening will be accompanied by David Griggs, who will improvise a score on the church organ. Tickets cost £10 and are available by emailing enquiries@croydonminster.org or calling 020 8688 8104. For more details, visit the Croydon Minster website.

The Phantom of the Opera is haunting the West End too. On 27 October 2011, the Prince Charles Cinema will be screening the film with piano accompaniment by Costas Fotopoulos. The PCC’s silent screenings always have a great atmosphere, so this should be a suitably spine-tingling way to kick off the the Halloween weekend. Tickets cost £11 or £7 for concessions and are available from the PCC website.

And the Phantom can also be found at London’s newest cinema. The box-fresh Hackney Picturehouse hosts a screening of the film, with a live soundtrack by Wirral band the Laze.

 This Halloween they bring Picturehouse their bespoke score for the classic silent horror Phantom of the Opera (1925).  Influenced by a history of horror soundtracks, from Bernard Hermann & Angelo Badalamenti to Goblin & John Carpenter, The Laze implement elements of Progressive Rock, Classical, Jazz, Doom and Electronica in their auteur musical accompaniment.

The band are also performing their score at cinemas in Liverpool, Newcastle and Aberystwyth. Find out more on their Facebook page and click here to book tickets for the Hackney show.

Pêcheur d’Islande at the Institut Français, 11 October 2011

Pêcheur d'Islande (1927)
Pêcheur d'Islande (1927)

Pierre Loti’s novel Pêcheur d’Islande combines realism and impressionism as it explores the hard life of Breton fishermen who risk their lives to catch cod in Icelandic waters. The tragic air extends as far as the novel’s love story, a romance between a sailor, Yann and a young girl, Gaud, who meet at a party. Gaud is in love with Yann, but he is also in love with the sea …

In 1927 the novel was adapted for the screen and directed by the Jacques de Baroncelli, a Frenchman who had made many films in the silent era. Pêcheur d’Islande was shot on location in Brittany, and the landscapes both on land and at sea are magnificent. It’s a rarely seen film, and so you’ll be very happy to know that its forthcoming London screening will be introduced by – Kevin Brownlow. Not only that, but Neil Brand will provide piano accompaniment.

Pêcheur d’Islande screens at the Ciné Lumière at the Institut Français on Tuesday 11 October at 6.30pm. Tickets cost £10 or less for concessions and are available on the Institut Français website here.

Win tickets for The First Born at the London Film Festival

Miles Mander’s edgy, sophisticated silent drama The First Born is one of the most exciting recent rediscoveries of British silent cinema – and it will be presented in style at this year’s London Film Festival.

A philandering politician, the double standards of the upper classes, jealousy, miscegenation and a generation torn between centuries of tradition and a more modern morality… the plot of The First Born feels not unlike a lost episode of Downton Abbey. Sir Hugo Boycott (Miles Mander) and his young bride (a pre-blonde Madeleine Carroll) have a passionate relationship, but it founders when she fails to produce an heir. This is a surprisingly ‘adult’ film and made with both elegance and invention. Particularly surprising among Mander’s sometimes Hitchcockian box of visual tricks is a handheld camera sequence that allows the audience to become voyeur as Boycott stalks the marital bedroom to find his wife in the bath. The story is oddly reflected in reality: the ‘first born’ is played by Mander’s own son and it was well known that the leads were involved romantically – well enough known to bring Mander’s wife to the set to demand an explanation. This major new restoration by the BFI National Archive includes reinstated missing footage and the reintroduction of a beautiful range of tints.

This very special film will be screened at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank, with a new score by Stephen Horne, performed by three musicians. You can find out more about the film, and the score, here. The music you can hear on the extract above is not an extract from the new score, but a piece that Horne wrote especially for the clip. I think you’ll agree it sounds marvellous.

So, do you fancy a free pair of tickets to this special Archive Gala performance? To be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets to see The First Born at the London Film Festival, just answer this simple question:

  • The First Born was co-written by Alma Reville. Which famous film director was she married to?

Email your answer to silentlondontickets@gmail.com by noon on Monday 10 October. The winner will be picked at random from the correct entries and emailed with the good news. Best of luck!

To find out more, and to book tickets, visit the London Film Festival website.

Terms and Conditions

  • The prize is non-transferable and there is no cash alternative available.
  • Recipients must be 16 or over and able to attend the screening at 19:30 on 20 October at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The Wheels of Chance at the Barbican, 9 October 2011

One of the many things that Silent London loves about the Barbican’s Silent Film and Live Music strand is the way it crosses over other with film festivals taking place at the venue. There are silent screenings coming up that are part of the Portuguese and Czech Film Festivals, for example. The Portuguese silent, The Wolves (1923), looks particularly interesting – but more of that in a future post.

The film festival we’re concerned with today is the Bicycle Film Festival, now in its 11th year and packed full of cool documentaries about urban bikers and BMX stunts. The Wheels of Chance (1922) is rather more genteel, though: an adaptation of an HG Wells novel by American director Harold Shaw. The hero of this caper is an awkward draper’s assistant, who falls for a cycling beauty while on holiday in the home counties. We’re told that the story is a “metaphor for the revolutionary effect of the bicycle on Edwardian society”, but it also sounds like a good deal of fun. This is how the Bioscope reported a screening of the film at Pordenone two years ago:

Filmed, as is seemingly usual with Shaw, largely on location with strong emphasis on pictorialism. Wheels of Chance is a comedy with a plot borrowed from a melodrama, with George K. Arthur, back from Shaw’s Kipps, as a draper’s assistant on a cycling tour foiling the machinations of a foreign-named cad – Bechamel – trying to elope, also by bicycle, with a naive suburban girl thereby trapping her into compromising situations in Home Counties pub/hotels, while her mother and her entourage set off in pursuit. Charming but never cloying, the happy ending here is not the unlikely riding off into the sunset – socially impossible in those times – but a recognition by all parties of the lessons learned; she is less naive, and she and her elders have learned respect for their ‘social inferior’; he gains self-respect, and has had his horizons broadened just a little bit … it’s a well-made film, with its heart in the right place, and those evocative shots of 1920s Surrey and Hampshire …

Music for the screening will be provided by Robin Harris on piano and the feature will be accompanied by two early shorts: Thomas Edison’s Bicycle Tricks (1899) and the hypnotic Ladies on Bicycles (1899), shown above.

The Wheels of Chance screens at the Barbican Cinema at 4pm on 9 October 2011. For more information and to book tickets, visit the Barbican website.

Neil Brand’s score for Underground: a preview

Underground (1928)
Underground (1928)

After months of work on his score for Undergound (1928), Neil Brand is still, happily, a big fan of the film. In fact he’s enthusiastic, and generous, enough to offer Silent London a preview of the music ahead of the world premiere next Wednesday and to chat about the film, and the process of scoring it too. Anthony Asquith’s film is set in London, but borrows its visual style from the European and Soviet art cinema that he loved so much: expect dark shadows, quickfire editing and geometric compositions. “Asquith was never again so bold as he was with Underground,” Brand says, and this score represents Brand’s attempt “to make music as bold as the film is”.

It hasn’t been an easy task. At first, he says, he was intimidated by the task ahead: the difficulty about writing for Underground, as opposed to Blackmail, which Brand scored for the BBC Symphony Orchestra last year, was that Asquith’s film requires snatches of lighter music. Blackmail is like an “icicle to the heart”, but Underground has wry, comic moments, at least towards the beginning of the film, before the characters make some disastrous decisions, and the film’s romantic triangle becomes an “Expressionist nightmare”. “Those first 20 minutes were horrendous to write,” he says. But four months later he has a complete score, which will be played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Timothy Brock, at the Barbican Concert Hall next month.

Brand is of course known for his piano scores, often improvised, for silent films, and here he has incorporated a piano into an orchestra score for the first time. He tells me this is partly because he wanted to use the love theme he had written for the film when he accompanied it at the London Film Festival with the Prima Vista Social Club two years ago. He also wanted to use the piano’s percussive bass sound and he enjoys the sound of a solo piano, at moments, over a quiet orchestra. “It’s almost a Morricone effect.”

Other than that though, Brand tackled the score as he always does, from the beginning to the end. This means that every morning, before starting work on the next segment of the film he would play through the existing score from the start. So he has heard the opening of the score, on his home computer setup, many, many times.

Continue reading Neil Brand’s score for Underground: a preview

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans at Screen 17, 20 October 2011

Sunrise (1927)
Sunrise (1927)

Walthamstow wants a cinema. In fact, Walthamstow has a cinema, but it is in a terrible state of disrepair at the moment, and its owners want to use it as a church. So the campaign fights on, but meanwhile the cinephiles of E17 are starved for local entertainment. Which is where Screen 17, a local ‘microplex’ cinema comes in.

Based in a Regency villa in the heart of Walthamstow Village, Screen 17 is a new, but very welcome, addition to the local arts scene. They’ve been showing children’s films on Saturday mornings and movies for grownups on Thursday evenings for a few weeks now, but they wanted to offer something a little different – to give people a chance to try another flavour of cinema. So Screen 17 is showing a silent movie with live music in October, and the film they have chosen is the beautiful Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927).

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Sunrise, directed by FW Murnau, is one of the greatest films of all time, and a masterpiece of late silent cinema. The story concerns a pair of newlyweds from the country, and a vamp from the city who tries to come between them. It’s beautifully photographed, with stunning fluid camerawork, and touching lead performances from Janet Gaynor and George O’Brien. It’s by turns comic, romantic and as in this scene, thrillingly melodramatic:

I’m really excited about this. If you hadn’t guessed, I’m a proud Walthamstow resident, and it’s wonderful to see a silent film shown in my local area. The guys who run Screen 17 are also behind the popular Vintage Cabaraoke evening, so they know how to put on a great night’s entertainment too. There will be a live improvised piano accompaniment for the film, just like in the good old days, and DJ Roxy ‘Moonshine’ Robinson will be spinning some 78s as well. If you want to dress up in your best 20s gear for the occasion – go ahead!

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans screens at Screen 17 on 20 October 2011. Doors open at 7.30pm and the film begins at 8.30pm. There will be a licensed bar, hotdogs and popcorn. Over 18s only. Tickets cost £8 and are available on the door or on We Got Tickets. For more details, visit the Screen 17 website.

Not So Silent Movies at Kings Place

Harold Lloyd in Safety Last (1923)
Harold Lloyd in Safety Last (1923)

This is a silent film screening, a concert, an experiment and lunch, all rolled into one. Not So Silent Movies will happen on the first Sunday of every month at the Kings Place arts centre in Kings Cross. It’s the brainchild of composer and cellist Philip Sheppard and puts a range of leading musicians to the ultimate test of their improvisational skills – accompanying silent films. The films will be a complete surprise to the musicians, who will have had no opportunity to watch the movies in advance, or heaven forfend, rehearse. This is what Sheppard says about the project:

‘I love throwing caution to the wind and creating a spontaneous composition, and I have absolute confidence that these musicians can pull it off. There’ll be as much slap-stick on stage as on screen; we get such a buzz from taking the risk with no safety net – it’s the adrenalin that makes it work, and when it’s over you can’t repeat it – it’s a one off!’

The choice of films will be a surprise for the audience too, of course. But a little bird tells me we can expect plenty of Buster Keaton (from the shorts to the features), some Harold Lloyd, maybe even some Chaplins in the future. Sheppard is huge fan of silent comedy and keen to show a broad range of films. He has something very special planned for Christmas, too, hopefully involving a special guest. But he’s keen to hear suggestions from Silent London readers. So if you want to nominate some silent comedies that you would like to see with a spontaneous score, comment below.

The roster of musicians involved is very impressive, and changes from month to month. Here are the line-ups for the first three Sundays.

Sunday 2 October:
Special guests
Guy Pratt bass (Pink Floyd & Roxy Music)
Geoff Dugmore drums

House band
Philip Sheppard cello
Elspeth Hanson violin (Bond)
Pip Eastop horn (London Sinfonietta)
Mark Neary pedal steel guitar

Sunday 6 November:
Special guest
Dame Evelyn Glennie OBE percussion

Sunday 4 December:
Roger Eno piano
Robin Millar CBE
 guitarist/star producer
Steve Mackey bass player, Pulp

Not So Silent Movies takes place on the first Sunday of every month in Hall Two of Kings Place. Tickets cost £9.50-£12.50, or £29.50 with Sunday lunch and a bloody mary at the Rotunda restaurant included. Find out more here.

Which silent comedies would you like to see shown at Not So Silent Movies? Please leave your comments below.

Win tickets for Underground with the BBC Symphony Orchestra

There’s nothing like seeing a film with a live orchestra – it’s far more exciting than surround sound. That’s why at Silent London we’re so excited about the world premiere of Neil Brand’s score for Anthony Asquith’s Underground (1928), which will be performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra on 5 October.

Undergound is set in London, among what Asquith called “everyday” people, but that doesn’t mean that this is an unsophisticated film. Far from it. The director’s appreciation of European and Russian cinema (he was a co-founder of the London Film Society) is betrayed by his use of Expressionist shadows, subjective camerawork and montage editing. This is 1920s London, but not like you may have seen before.

Underground tells the story of four young working people making their way in 1920s London. The parallels with life in the metropolis today are poignant and it is fascinating to see location footage of the Underground network, old London pubs, department stores and of course the climactic chase through the Lots Road Power Station in Chelsea … Asquith had a remarkable ability to portray the lighter and darker aspects of life through staging and cinematography. He was aided by the superb and unusually good-looking cast of Brian Aherne and Elissa Landi as the nice young couple, with Norah Baring and Cyril McLaglen as the unluckier, troubled duo.

The print of Underground that will be shown at the Barbican is the product of many hours of restoration work by the BFI, using new, cutting-edge techniques. The BBC Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by Timothy Brock.

To be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets to watch Underground at the Barbican Concert Hall, just answer this simple question:

  • Cyril McLaglen, who plays Bert in Underground, had an older brother who was also a film actor. What was his name?

Email your answer to silentlondontickets@gmail.com by noon on Monday 26 September. The winner will be picked at random from the correct entries and emailed with the good news. Best of luck!

To find out more, and to book tickets, visit the Barbican website.

Sherlock Jr and Sing for Joy, Exmouth Market, 13 October 2011

Sherlock Jr (1924)
Sherlock Jr (1924)

There are few things more joyous than watching a Buster Keaton classic with live music, but this event might be one of them. It’s a fundraiser for the Sing for Joy Bloomsbury choir, incorporating a concert by the group themselves and a screening of Sherlock Jr, with piano accompaniment by the marvellous John Sweeney.

Sing for Joy is made up of singers who have Parkinson’s disease or other neurological conditions, and their friends and carers. Singing as a group isn’t just fun, it boosts confidence and helps with the speaking and breathing exercises that people with Parkinson’s do to keep tremors under control. You can find out more about the choir, and their director Carol Grimes, here.

If you’re not familiar with Sherlock Jr, it’s one of Keaton’s most inventive and charming films. Keaton plays a projectionist who fantasises about being a detective hero in a movie. When he falls asleep in the projectionist’s booth one night, he dreams that he walks through the cinema screen and into the heart of the action. You may have seen some clips of it if you watched The Story of Film on Saturday night.

The Sing for Joy Sherlock Jr event will take place in the hall of The Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer (full disabled access) 24 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE (nearest tube Farringdon) on 13 October 2011. Tickets cost £18, which includes a buffet dinner. They are availale from Mike Blackstaffe on 07584 471 104  or tickets@blackstaffe.demon.co.uk. Doors open at 7pm, which is when dinner will be served. The programme begins at 7.45pm and there will be a licensed bar.

The Lost World with John Garden – on tour

The Lost World with live score by John Garden
The Lost World with live score by John Garden

As previously reported with breathless excitement on this very site, composer and Scissor Sister John Garden has written an electronic score for The Lost World (1925). This is marvellously enjoyable silent film pioneered the use of stop-motion special effects, and brought us the unforgettable images of a brontosaurus running riot around the streets of London.

Now, Garden is taking The Lost World on tour. He’s going to Brighton, Manchester, Southampton, Exeter and performing two dates in London: one at the Barbican Centre, and one, among the real-life dinosaur (skeletons) at the Natural History Museum.

Here are the dates in full – check with the venues for exact times and ticket prices:

September
Saturday 24th – Duke of York’s, Brighton – CANCELLED
Sunday 25th – Barbican Cinema, London

October
Thurs 13th – Phoenix Cinema, Exeter
Friday 14th – Turner Sims, University of Southampton
Sunday 16th – Cornerhouse, Manchester
Friday 21st – Natural History Museum, London

If you want a sample of the film, and Garden’s score, check this out:

The Lost World tour is brought to us by the excellent people at Bristol Silents. If you haven’t done so already, bookmark their shiny new blog right now.

Silent films at the 55th London Film Festival – a preview

Berenice Bejo in The Artist (2011)
Berenice Bejo in The Artist (2011)

• This post was updated on 30 September 2011

Stand by for 15 days of non-stop film-film-film in the capital – the London Film Festival approaches. High-profile events such as this are renowned for attracting the best new films, but increasingly they offer a space for freshly restored classics as well. Happily, this year, silent films fall into both of those categories.

The headline news is that Michel Hazanavicius’s hotly-tipped The Artist (2011) is coming to London. This modern silent, a love letter to 1920s Hollywood, has consistently charmed critics since it was first shown at Cannes and the Weinsteins are opening it in America at Thanksgiving, leading inevitably to what the magazines call “Oscar buzz”. There is still no news of the UK release date, so these two London gala screenings, while pricey, are certainly precious. I can’t wait to see it, myself.

Miles Mander and Madeleine Carroll in The First Born (1928)
Miles Mander and Madeleine Carroll in The First Born (1928)

The next big thing, as it were, is the London Film Festival Archive Gala, which this year will be the BFI’s brand-new restoration of Miles Mander’s The First Born (1928), as I revealed on Wednesday. This stunning film will be accompanied by the premiere of a new score written by the incomparable Stephen Horne when it screens at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank. Do not miss.

The Goose Woman (1925)
The Goose Woman (1925)

Stephen Horne will also provide musical accompaniment for two of the other silent film screenings at the festival – in the Treasures from the Archives strand. First up is The Goose Woman (1925), a Hollywood film directed by Clarence Brown (Flesh and the Devil, Anna Christie). This film is a recent rediscovery, which been restored by Kevin Brownlow and Robert Gitt, who will introduce the screening. The Goose Woman stars Louise Dresser as a former opera singer who tries to regain some of her fame by claiming to have witnessed a murder. Unfortunately, her false testimony frames her son, played by Jack Pickford. This movie was a great success at this year’s San Francisco Silent Film Festival, so it’s very exciting to finally be able to see it in the UK. The screening at BFI Southbank will be prefaced by a couple of early Vitaphone shorts  – yes, sound films.

Shoes (1916)
Shoes (1916)

Next, a double-bill of restorations from foreign archives – The Nail in the Boot (1931), from the Gosfilmofun in Moscow, is a piece of Soviet silent propaganda, that was nonetheless attacked at the time for prioritising form over content. When a soldier fails in an assignment because of an injury caused by a broken shoe, a military inquiry is held to find out whether he is a traitor to the cause. The film is partnered an American film, Shoes (1916), directed by Lois Weber. This movie, which was been restored from separate prints by the EYE institute in the Netherlands, focuses on inner-city poverty – as experienced by a young shopworker who wants some new shoes, which of course she can’t afford. This programme screens at NFT1 in BFI Southbank.

Le Voyage Dans la Lune (1902)
Le Voyage Dans la Lune (1902)

A late addition to the programme, the restoration of Méliès’s hand-tinted, full-colour  Voyage Dans La Lune (1902) will screen twice at the festival, accompanying Roberto Rossellini’s The Machine That Kills Bad People (1952), “a satirical fantasy … about a photographer who discovers that his camera has magic powers: as he develops snapshots in his studio, their subjects expire in another part of the town, inspiring the cameraman to devise a scheme to kill the wicked, the greedy and the corrupt.” Click here for more information and tickets to the screenings, which will be held at BFI Southbank.

Cosmopolitan London (1924)
Cosmopolitan London (1924)

The final silent Treasure from the Archive is a collection of tinted and toned documentary travelogues, showing London in the 1920s. Wonderful London incorporates footage from all across the city, and the screening will be introduced by Bryony Dixon, with piano accompaniment by Neil Brand. Talk about silent London … you can watch these six films in two screenings at BFI Southbank.

I must add a special mention also, to a short film playing as part of a collection called Just Because You’re Paranoid, It Doesn’t Mean They’re Not After You at BFI Southbank. Henry Miller’s A Short Film About Shopping (2011) is described as “a silent study” in which a “a dentist’s mundane routine is radically altered by a trip to the shops. You can watch the trailer here.

The 55th London Film Festival runs from 12-27 October 2011. Everything you need to know about booking tickets for the London Film Festival is explained here.

The First Born will be the 55th London Film Festival’s Archive Gala film

Miles Mander and Madeleine Carroll in The First Born (1928)
Miles Mander and Madeleine Carroll in The First Born (1928)

The full lineup for the 55th London Film Festival has now been announced and I am pleased to say that this year’s Archive Gala film will be Miles Mander’s The First Born (1928) with a new score by Stephen Horne. The film will be screened with its new score at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in the Southbank Centre on 20 October 2011.

I’ll be writing more about the film in coming weeks, but for now I can tell you that The First Born is a sophisticated drama, adapted by Mander from his own novel and play, about a philandering politician and his wife. Mander plays the politician, Sir Hugh Boycott, and Madeleine Carroll is his unhappy wife. The couple are unable to have a child, which puts a further strain on their marriage and so Boycott’s wife attempts to dupe him into believing that someone else’s baby is his own…

Bryony Dixon explains more on the BFI Screenonline website.

The First Borndeals with difficult subjects – the double standards of the upper classes, jealousy and secrecy, miscegenation, and the tension between conformity and a more modern morality. Sewn into the plot are also references to the world of politics, of which Mander had much experience, as the younger brother of Sir Geoffrey Mander, the eminent Liberal radical … The treatment is unusually ‘adult’ and made with skill and a degree of invention. The most striking example is a point of view shot with handheld camera as Boycott stalks through the marital bedroom to tease and torment his wife as she is in the bath. The film is masterly in its construction and continuity.

Dixon goes on to speculate whether the influence of Alma Reville, who co-wrote the film, might be due credit for some of the film’s Hitchcockian flourishes. In October, we will be able to judge for ourselves.

And of course, the other big news for silent film fans is that Michel Hazanavicius’s modern silent The Artist will be screening at the festival as well. Wonderful news.

Silent film season at the West London Trade Union Club

Strike (1925)
Strike (1925)

The West London Trade Union Club on Acton high street may be a small venue, but it has won a commendation from Camra for its real ale and it has a dedicated film club too, recently hosting seasons devoted to Joseph Losey and Paul Robeson. What more could you want? Well, the W3 cineastes who meet once a month to watch movies on a 6ft screen and discuss them over a ale or two have now chosen to put together a silent film season.

The club has selected four great silent films, which will be shown at 4pm on Saturday afternoons and followed by a group discussion. I will be around too, to stir the conversation, stick up for my favourite era of cinema history and sample the beer. The four films, and dates are:

  • 17 September: Strike (Eisenstein, 1925)
  • 8 October: Faust (Murnau, 1926)
  • 12 November: Piccadilly (Dupont, 1929)
  • 10 December: Storm Over Asia (Pudovkin, 1928)

So there’s plenty to get stuck into there. A British favourite set in our own fair city, a couple of Soviet classics and even something scary for an early Halloween.

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.

Mania: the History of a Cigarette Factory Worker at the Barbican, 13 October 2011

Mania: History of a Cigarette Factory Worker (1918)
Mania: History of a Cigarette Factory Worker (1918)

Pola Negri was the first European star to be brought over to Hollywood, and her native Poland is understandably very proud of her. So much so that, to celebrate Poland’s presidency of the EU, the Polish Film Archive will be screening a new restoration of one of her “lost” films, with a specially commissioned orchestral score, at venues across Europe this year.

Mania: the History of a Cigarette Factory Worker is a “movie-poem” about a young woman caught between two suitors and with a terrible decision to make. The film was shot at Ufa in Berlin in 1918, and directed by Eugene Illés with sets designed by the master of Expressionism, Paul Leni. It comes to London on 13 October 2011, with a performance at the Barbican Arts Centre at 7pm. You can buy tickets here. And you can find out more about the film and its restoration here.

Meanwhile, I’ll be attending the “re-premiere” of Mania in Warsaw on Sunday – and reporting back with all the details soon. Watch this space.

British silent film screenings, autumn 2011

Underground (1928)
Underground (1928)

There is far more to British silent cinema than Hitchcock, whatever recent news reports might have you believe. From Yorkshireman Louis Le Prince’s claim to have invented motion-picture technology, through Cecil Hepworth’s pioneering days in Walton-on-Thames, to the directors who gathered at the London Film Society in the 1920s, our early cinema industry has much to offer. And it’s not just directors that we can praise, but actors, writers, producers and more besides.

That’s why I am so happy to report that, before Hitchcock’s work takes centre-stage next year, there are several screenings of silent films by other British film-makers coming up in London soon. This is a great opportunity to learn more about what we can loftily, but quite rightly, call our cinematic heritage – and to enjoy some rather good films. Continue reading British silent film screenings, autumn 2011

High Treason at BFI Southbank, 5 October 2011

High Treason (1929)
High Treason (1929)

The British Metropolis? Not quite. But Maurice Elvey’s High Treason was heavily influenced by Fritz Lang’s film – in its slick futurist designs and its pacifist theme too. Based on a play written by unpleasant MP Noel Pemberton Billing, High Treason is set in the far-off future that is 1950 AD, when a war between the America and Europe seems inevitable. The leader of the Peace League is determined to avoid the conflict, leaving his daughter Evelyn torn between him and her boyfriend, a commander in the Air Force.

You can see an extract from High Treason here. It’s worth noting that in this bleak, dystopian vision of the future, Prohibition is still in force in America.

High Treason screens at the BFI Southbank with a short film from 1924, The Fugitive Futurist: a Qu-riosity by “Q”, in which an “inventor” attempts to hawk a device that can see the future, treating the audience to glimpses of London landmarks as they might appear in time, including Trafalgar Square submerged by water, and a blimp anchored to the Palace of Westminster.

High Treason screens at NFT1 on Wednesday 5 October at 6pm. The screening will be introduced by BFI curator Simon McCallum and is part of the BFI’s Capital Tales season. There will be live piano accompaniment. Tickets are available from the BFI website.

Neil Brand and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to score Underground (1928)

Underground (1928)
Underground (1928)

There is a some very exciting news over at The Incredible Suit blog. According to the man we must refer to as Mr Suit (Incredible to to his friends), composer and silent film pianist Neil Brand has been commissioned by the Barbican and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to write a score for the new restored print of Anthony Asquith’s London-set romance Underground (1928).

So, make sure you’re in town on Wednesday 5 October, which is when the score is due to premiere at the Barbican – and then keep your eyes peeled for a forthcoming DVD featuring the new soundtrack.

This short video offers some technical details about the BFI restoration of Underground, and offers a snippet of the score that Brand performed at the Queen Elizaebeth Hall when the new print was first shown in 2009.

UPDATE: You can buy tickets here, on the Barbican website.

Underground screens at 8pm on Wednesday 5 October 2011 in the Barbican Hall at the Barbican Arts Centre.