Tag Archives: Ritzy

Argentine silent films at the Ritzy Cinema, 22 April 2012

It takes, er, three, to tango
It takes, er, three, to tango

Every so often a groovy film festival sweeps into town and shakes up the schedules a bit, introducing us to some silent movies that were hitherto a mystery to us. This month, the Argentine Film Festival arrives, complete with critical hits such as Las Acacias, but also with a programme of silents and live music at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton.

I’ll admit, I’m not au fait with Argentine silent cinema. A little reading around tells me that only a handful of films made in the silent era in Argentina are still with us today, and that the films the Ritzy is showing have never been seen in the UK before. So this event should be a surprise to most of us.

These four short films, including the newsreel Film Revista Valle (1926), My Sorrel Horse (Mi alazán tostao -1923), The Return to the Bulin (La vuelta al bulín -1926) and Creole Mosaic (Mosaico criollo -1929) – one of the oldest preserved sound films – form part of the first collection of silent films to be recovered by the Pablo C. Ducrós Hicken Film Museum in Buenos Aires, and have never before been screened in the UK.

Together, they offer an intriguing vignette of life in 1920s Argentina, a country that was very much under Europe’s influence – as could be seen in the leisure pursuits of its upper classes – yet retained its own distinct character, not least through the tango.

The news reels featuring fox-hunts, visits from foreign dignitaries and elegant river cruises present a glamorous world which does much to explain how Buenos Aires acquired its title as the “Paris of South America”. At the same time the comic scenes from the tango underworld in The Return to the Bulin and the lawlessness in the country drama My Sorrel Horse are more reminiscent of North American genre films. Creole Mosaic sees one of the first attempts to include sound in films, using a synchronised gramophone record along with the actual screening. More of a musical review than a movie, it presented audiences with the voices and figures of popular radio artists.

It wasn’t easy to be a film-maker in Argentina in the 1920s. Money was tight, equipment was scarce and directors often found them selves multitasking, working on both sides of the camera, and editing films not on a Moviola but with a pair of scissors. Jose Ferreyra, who directed The Return to the Bulin, managed these challenges better than most. His films were made on the fly, often taking tango lyrics as the inspiration for the story. Sadly, Ferreyra’s films were not very well received, but those directed by one of his actors, Italian-born Nelo Cosimi, picked up better reviews. Cosimi didn’t restrict himself to tango themes, but looked farther afield for his subjects. My Sorrel Horse is one of his first films, and shows the influence of Hollywood cinema of the time.

The Argentine silent film programme screens at 5.05pm on Sunday 22 April 2012 in Screen 3 at the Ritzy Cinema, and will be followed by “a musical tour of Argentine tango history” in the bar afterwards. Tickets are available on this link.

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Nosferatu at the Ritzy Cinema, 29 April 2011

Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu (1922)

Twilight, this is not. We could argue for hours about which is the greatest vampire film ever made, but Nosferatu is probably the most visually distinctive of the lot, definitely one of the scariest and a fairly faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula to boot.

If you haven’t seen Nosferatu before, no doubt you will have seen many a homage to its expressionist style and the stiff, hollow-eyed lead performance by Max Schreck. The shadow of Nosferatu gliding up the stairs must be one of the creepiest, and most often copied, moments in cinema.

This screening at the 100-year-old Ritzy Cinema in Brixton benefits from an acclaimed live score by the band Minima, who will have performed at the Prince Charles Cinema the previous night accompanying The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, and will play the following night at the East End Film Festival. Believe me, these guys know how to create an atmosphere. And you can insert your own joke about how scary it is to go south of the river here.

Nosferatu accompanied by Minima screens at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton on 29 April 2011 at 8.45pm. Tickets cost £11.60 or less for concessions and they’re available here.

Un Chien Andalou and Sunrise at the Ritzy, 24 March 2011

Un Chien Andalou (1929)
Un Chien Andalou (1929)

Well, this is a heck of a good way to say happy birthday. The Ritzy Cinema in Brixton is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a series of vintage screenings throughout the year. Kicking things off is this double-bill of one of the silent era’s most sophisticated and elegant films, coupled with one of its most violent, strange and difficult. Yes, Un Chien Andalou (1929) is the eye-slashing surreal short film made by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. It’s seriously odd and surely features on all right-thinking people’s must-see films lists. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), on the other hand, is a romance: a story of a young man from the country (George O’Brien) succumbing to the dangerous temptations of the big city, and a bona fide vamp. Which puts his lovely wife (Janet Gaynor) in a very precarious position. This is one of my favourite scenes from the film:

There will be live musical accompaniment for the double-bill, which begins at 8pm on Thursday 24 March. Tickets cost £16.60 or less for concessions and they are available here.