Tag Archives: Royal Festival hall

Divine inspiration: Greta Garbo and Carl Davis at the Royal Festival Hall

The divine Greta Garbo, queen of the close-up, is celebrated in a special event at the Royal Festival Hall in March. One of her full-length Hollywood features and the only remaining reel of another, will screen with orchestral accompaniment by the Philharmonia Orchestra . The really good news is that they will be playing scores by the maestro Carl Davis.

The Mysterious Lady (1928)
The Mysterious Lady (1928)

The feature film is The Mysterious Lady, in which Garbo stars as a Russian spy who falls in love with the man she is supposed to be stealing secrets from, a soldier played by Conrad Nagel. It’s one of my favourite Hollywood romance, filled with glamour, lavish sets and smouldering passion from the two sultry leads. This will be shown alongside the single recovered reel from The Divine Woman, a drama based loosely on the life of Sarah Bernhardt and directed by Victor Sjöstrom. Garbo’s co-star in this is Lars Hanson – you may remember their chemistry from Flesh and the Devil.

 

 

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Competition: Win tickets for Charlie Chaplin on Screen at the Royal Festival Hall 

Competition time! You could win two top-priced tickets for a very exciting event, Charlie Chaplin on Screen at the Royal Festival Hall.

On Sunday 10 April the Philharmonia Orchestra presents a screening of three Charlie Chaplin films, with live music conducted by Carl Davis. Chaplin’s own music accompanies A Dog’s Life, in which Charlie strikes up a friendship with a stray dog that leads him into farcical antics, and Shoulder Arms, where hapless Charlie is sent over the top whilst fighting in the First World War. Davis also conducts his own score to short film Kid Auto Races at Venice, the first ever film appearance of Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” character.

A few words from Carl Davis: “The scores are each in their own way highly evocative with a strong music hall style. A Dog’s Life even has a music hall scene in which the leading lady is accompanied by a musical saw. These, what I call ‘half features’, are a stepping stone from Chaplin’s cycle of two-reelers – The Mutuals – and his first feature-length film The Kid of 1921. Our evening opens with a real collector’s item, Charlie’s third short, Kid Auto Races in Venice released in 1914. Its significance is that Charlie is wearing for the first time on film the iconic makeup and costumes that he became so strongly identified with: the little moustache, top hat and oversized shoes. I tried to pretend I was composing for a little band that might have been brought in to entertain the public attending the race, i.e. rough and raucous!”

For your chance to win two top-priced tickets for Charlie Chaplin on Screen, simply email your answer to the following question to orchestra@philharmonia.co.uk:

Which actress appeared in two of the three films shown at Charlie Chaplin on Screen?

  • a) Georgia Hale
  • b) Edna Purviance
  • c) Mabel Normand

Good luck! The competition closes on Friday 1 April at 12pm.

 

 

 

Garbo and Gilbert in Love at the Royal Festival Hall

War and Peace is nearly at an end (the raunchy BBC TV adaptation, that is). But don’t despair – Tolstoy up your life with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. Hollywood’s hottest ever on-screen couple ™ starred in the sumptuous Anna Karenina adaptation Love (Edmund Goulding, 1927), which is showing at the Royal Festival Hall this month.

Yes, the Royal Festival Hall – with the Philharmonia orchestra (featuring violinist Vadim Repin) playing a brand new score for the film written by Aphrodite Raickopoulou. You may remember that she wrote a very lush, romantic score for a similarly grand screening of Faust a few years back.

The even better news is that tickets for this event now begin at £5 – which is unbeatable value really. This screening is the premiere of the new score and will kick off the 2016 UK-Russia Year of Language and Literature here in London. The film and score will then embark on a world tour, taking in Russia, Japan and South Korea. But you’ll see it here first in London.

LOVE POSTER

Love, a Carmen Zgouras production, screens at the Royal Festival Hall on Thursday 25 February 2016 at 7.30pm.

 

Victory for Napoléon: cinema and DVD/Blu-ray release at last

Hold on to your three-cornered hats. This may well be the news you have been waiting for since … ooh 1980 or thereabouts. BFI and the Photoplay have announced jointly that Napoléon, Abel Gance’s silent masterpiece, is coming to a screen near you – whether that is a concert hall, cinema, TV or computer. We all have three-screen TVs right?

So you can see Napoléon (1927) with the Philharmonia orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall this autumn – and many of us know what a treat that can be – but it will also be available to buy on DVD/Blu-ray, to stream on the BFIplayer and theatrically released in cinemas too. And make no mistake, this is the Kevin Brownlow restoration with Carl Davis’s epic score – the definitive five-and-a-half hour version of Napoléon that you really need in your life.

And while the live and cinema screenings will be magical experiences, I am getting a little thrill from the idea of being able to rewind sequences from the film and look at them again, and more closely. The snowball fight, for example! As that occurs at the the beginning of the movie, it could take me some time to get right to the end …

Napoléon (1927) Photograph: BFI
Napoléon (1927) Photograph: BFI

I won’t say too much more now, as we will no doubt be talking about Napoléon all year, which I am hugely looking forward to. But I do want to share some details about the restoration, and the people who made it possible. For example, we have been told that the digital process of restoration has cleaned up some damage in the 35mm print and allowed for greater capacity to recapture the tinting and toning of the original film.

This project has been achieved thanks to major work undertaken by the experts of the BFI National Archive and Photoplay Productions working with Dragon DI post-production in Wales, and to the generosity of Carl Davis and Jean Boht, who have made possible the recording of the score by the Philharmonia. The original restoration of the 35mm film elements in 2000 was funded by the generous support of the Eric Anker-Petersen charity, with the support of many archives around the world but especially the Cinémathèque Française and the Centre Nationale de la Cinématographie in Paris.

The film has been entirely re-graded and received extensive digital clean-up throughout, all of which offers significant improvements in overall picture quality. This is the most complete version of the film available, compiled by Academy Award™-winning film-maker, archivist and historian Kevin Brownlow who spent over 50 years tracking down surviving prints from archives around the world since he first saw a 9.5mm version as a schoolboy in 1954. Brownlow and his colleagues at Photoplay, initially the late David Gill, and then Patrick Stanbury, worked with the BFI National Archive on a series of restorations. The film version has been screened only 4 times in the UK since the year 2000 at memorable events with full orchestra performing the original score by composer Carl Davis.

Continue reading Victory for Napoléon: cinema and DVD/Blu-ray release at last

Modern Times at the Royal Festival Hall: tickets for a tenner

Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard in Modern Times
Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard in Modern Times

This date should already be in your diaries. Charlie Chaplin’s wise and heartwarming not-so-silent silent film Modern Times screens at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank on 22 March, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis. It’s a magnificent movie: a slyly hilarious portrait of Depression-era America, with a tremendous score written by Chaplin himself. There’s a lot to love about Modern Times – not least the final screen appearance of the Little Tramp and the debut of Chaplin’s song Smile.

If you’d like to see Modern Times, and who wouldn’t, you can take advantage of this special offer and get best available seats for just £10 if you quote FILM when booking online or by calling 0844 847 9910. Find out more and book online here.

A guide to London for Napoléon tourists

Napoléon (Abel Gance, 1927)
Napoléon (Abel Gance, 1927)

Controversially, I have been known to say that London is the centre of the silent film universe. You may think I’m biased – and you would be right. But this November, I will be feeling pretty smug. The most audacious of all silents, Kevin Brownlow’s restoration of Abel Gance’s epic Napoléon, will screen at the Royal Festival Hall in London – accompanied by the Philharmonia orchestra, conducted by Carl Davis as they play his masterful score.

It couldn’t be more convenient for me. I’ll hop on the tube for 25 minutes, grab a coffee and spend all day absorbed in a cinematic masterpiece. But I’ve already heard whispers from fellow silent film fans in the States, in Canada, in continental Europe and yes, even places-in-Britain-that-are-not-London, that they may want to sample the Napoléon experience too. It’s a dream come true – a world of silent cinema aficionados in this fair city, under one roof.

This video, advertising last year’s California screenings of Napoléon, should help you to understand why it’s worth the airfare.

You’re tempted, aren’t you? Therefore, in the spirit of welcome, for those of you who haven’t been to the Big Smoke before, or at least not since Napoléon last played here in 2004, here’s my 10-point guide to making the most of your trip, Silent London-style.

1. Location

The nearest station to the Royal Festival Hall is called Waterloo. No, really. You couldn’t make it up. Embankment station is also pretty handy, and there are several bus routes that pass by too. The RFH is part of the Southbank Centre, a large arts complex on the south bank of the River Thames, an area imaginatively known as the “Southbank”. Waterloo is a good station to aim for: the Northern, Jubilee, Bakerloo and Waterloo & City lines all pass through, as well as several mainlines from the suburbs and the south-west of England, if you’re not staying in town.

If you are travelling from the continent, bear in mind that it’s no longer the place where the Eurostar arrives though – that’s Kings Cross St Pancras (take the Victoria line southbound and change on to the Bakerloo line at Oxford Circus).

You may also like to know that many of the scenes in the silent film Underground, recently re-released by the BFI and available on DVD in June were filmed at Waterloo. And this scene featuring a hapless Guardian journalist from The Bourne Ultimatum too. If you walk over from Embankment, you get to cross the Hungerford bridge though, which is quite a treat for those who appreciate a good bridge.

The Southbank is really quite a groovy part of London, so if you’re around for a few more days, you may want to explore further – stroll along the front, and visit the amazing Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, the National Theatre or the Hayward Gallery. There’s lots of sleek but brutal concrete, gangs of youthful tousle-haired skateboarders and pop-up artisanal food markets to admire also. And those daft living-statue things. They give me the creeps.

Of course, the BFI Southbank, formerly known as the National Film Theatre, is another neighbour. Pop in here to watch a film, visit the library, browse the museum displays, shop in the filmstore (DVDs, books, magazines, T-shirts) or just lounge in one of the trendy cafés with a cappuccino. If you’re wearing the film-buff uniform of black polo neck and chunky glasses while carrying a copy of Film as Art, you’ll fit right in.

The best thing about the Southbank for many film fans is that it’s a stone’s throw from where a little-known film-maker called Charlie Chaplin grew up. Feel the vibe, take a detour into Lambeth, commune with his spirit, and if you are feeling flush, take a trip to the London Film Museum further down the river where you can browse their permanent exhibition on the Great Londoner.

2. Tickets

Happily, seats for Napoléon start at a very affordable £11, but they do go up to £60 for a “premium experience”, which may tempt you to push the boat out. Tickets are available here, and you’ll be able to pick and choose where you want to sit. For more information, especially if you have not been to the RFH before, try the very useful website TheatreMonkey, which will explain where the best (and worst) bargains are to be had.

Clara Bow in The Runaway
Your hotel room probably won’t look like this …

3. Practicalities

You’ll probably need somewhere to stay: Napoléon begins at 1.30pm and doesn’t finish until 9.30pm, which means you can probably get a late train home, but you’ll more than likely be a bit dazed and in need of a liedown. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, which means that hotels are not cheap, I’m afraid. So, if your budget doesn’t stretch to the Ritz or the Savoy, check out one of the economical chains such as Travelodge, Premier Inn or Holiday Inn; book in advance and look for a location that is handy for public transport rather than dead central. If you’re watching the pennies, commuting in as a tourist from Zone 3 or 4 of the tube network really doesn’t take very long and needn’t be stressful in off-peak hours. Cast your eyes eastwards, where hotels that sprang up in time for the London 2012 Olympics may be looking to fill up their empty rooms. Alternatively try the YHA, or Couchsurfing. You know about lastminute.com too, right?

You’ll want to eat before Napoléon, during Napoléon, or after Napoléon. Possibly all three. There is a 100-minute interval for a reason and a person can’t live on coffee and cinematography alone. Not a problem though. There are cafés and bars in the Southbank Centre, and quite-posh restaurant called Canteen too (book ahead). There’s also a pizza place opposite and all kinds of food from sandwiches to noodles to burgers available nearby on the Southbank. The RFH itself is licensed too, if you want to accompany your viewing of a French cinema classic with un petit vin rouge.

Some of the nearby bars will open late, if you want to party like it’s 1927 after the movie, and the tubes run until around 1am, with nightbuses and black cabs to scoop up the wilder ones among you.

4. Crime

We’ve all read Oliver Twist and learned that London is crammed with grubby-faced urchins with their eyes on your pocket watch. Sort of. Pickpocketing and other crime does happen, but not really as often as you may think. Keep hold of your valuables in crowds, think twice before walking home somewhere quiet late at night, and don’t jump into an unlicensed minicab. Just like you’d do at home.

5. Conversation

English innit. Just like what the Queen talks. But if you want to mingle with ease among the British silent film crew, just drop in a few references to “Porders”, the carrier-bag rustlers in NFT2, your intimate friendship with Kevin Brownlow, the LFF archive gala, that time you got lost on the way to the Cinema Museum/inside the Barbican, the latest issue of Sight & Sound, where you think next year’s BSFF should be held and, of course, your devotion to a certain marvellous silent cinema website, whose name briefly escapes me.

Seriously, this should be a very social occasion, and hopefully between this site, the Bristol Silents site, Nitrateville and the wider world of Twitter and Facebook, we should be able to make quite a party of it and meet lots of new and old faces. Don’t be a stranger.

Buster Keaton prepares for the London weather
Buster Keaton prepares for the London weather

6. Weather

Obviously, this is another popular topic of conversation. If you’ve not been to the UK before, you need to know that London in November will be cold. Not properly cold, not Norway cold, but definitely nippy. Bring your coat and your umbrella too, because the English skies love to rain. Unfortunately, however, you have been lied to by the movies and there is very little chance of you being caught in a “right old pea-souper”. That’s a good thing, really, as the views down the Thames from the Southbank are gorgeous.

7. Being a tourist

Apparently there is more to do in London than just watching old movies. News to me. If you’re staying for a few days, and you have exhausted all the possibilities here, then you’ll want to look further afield for entertainment. An official tourism website such as this one should keep you busy with palaces, museums, West End shows, abbeys and graveyards, but for something a little more quirky, cultural or off the beaten track, try the dispatches from Londonist or the listings from Time Out. The Vintage Guide to London may well be your cup of char too.

La Roue (1923)
La Roue (1923)

8. Preparation

Once you’ve read Kevin Brownlow’s wonderful book about the filming and restoration of Napoléon, and listened to a sampler CD of Carl Davis’s score you’ll want to watch Abel Gance’s earlier films J’Accuse and La Roue on DVD. This has a two-fold benefit: you’ll learn more about the great French impressionist’s work, and you will become accustomed to watching really, really long films too.

And to get you in the mood for the big show in November, anyone based closer to London should book now for Modern Times in March and The Thief of Bagdad in June – both Photoplay presentations with Carl Davis and the Philharmonia, just like Napoléon, and showing at RFH too.

9. Souvenirs

Your loved ones will no doubt be delighted that you went all the way to London just before Christmas and brought back lots of Region 2 DVDs from the BFI shop for their stockings. I can just imagine their happy faces now. On the off-chance that that isn’t true, London has lots more to offer shops-wise. Covent Garden, Camden Market, Marylebone High Street and the gift shop at any of the big museums should sort you out and keep your rellies happy. The London Transport Museum gift shop in Covent Garden is particularly good for retro souvenirs of Laaaahndan Town. Alternatively, you can buy some Edinburgh shortbread at the airport. No one will know the difference.

10. If, sadly, you can’t make it this time

Cheer up.

A Napoléon triptych
A Napoléon triptych

Napoléon screens at the Royal Festival Hall on 30 November 2013, accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Win tickets to watch Faust at the Royal Festival Hall

It’s already one of the most exciting silent film events of the year – and could be the perfect way to celebrate (fingers and toes crossed) a silent film winning the Best Picture Oscar on Sunday night. FW Murnau’s classic Faust (1926), screens at the Royal Festival Hall on Monday 27 February, with a new score by Aphrodite Raickopoulou, performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra and accompanied by improvisation from acclaimed pianist Gabriela Montero. Hugh Grant will introduce the film and the orchestra will be conducted by Benjamin Wallfisch. Read more here.

If you want to win one of ten pairs of tickets to watch this wonderful film with its fantastic new score, just answer this simple question:

  • We all know that FW Murnau directed Faust. But what do his initials FW stand for?

Email your answer to silentlondontickets@gmail.com with FAUST in the subject line, by noon on Friday, 24 February 2012. The winners will be picked at random from the correct entries and emailed with the good news. Best of luck!

Faust at the Royal Festival Hall, 27 February 2012

Faust (1926)
Faust (1926)

This is wonderful news. Next year, at the Royal Festival Hall, the Philharmonia Orchestra will accompany a screening of FW Murnau’s masterpiece Faust (1926). The orchestra will be playing a brand new orchestral score, written by composer Aphrodite Raickopoulou, and unusually, there will also be live improvisation from the renowned classical pianist Gabriela Montero. The film will be introduced by the world-famous actor and scourge of the tabloids Hugh Grant.

If you’re not familiar with Faust, then allow me to introduce it to you. Murnau’s film is an adaptation of the Faust legend, in which a doctor sells his soul to Mephistopheles in return for a cure for the plague epidemic that has struck his town. The doctor is played by Gösta Ekman, and Mephistopheles by the always wonderful Emil Jannings, in an outstanding performance that is by turns charming and grotesque. As in so many of Murnau’s films, the real story is an epic struggle between love and hate, and the visuals are as epic as the themes. Faust may be shot in monochrome, but it is kaleidoscopically beautiful. Special effects sequences such as the summoning of Mephistopheles and the cloak ride are still impressive – and the clouds of black smoke that represent the plague visiting the town are as haunting as they were technically difficult to pull off. Ekman’s transformation from an old man to his younger self is fantastic as well.

But Faust is more than the sum of its technical achievements. It’s a hugely moving film, with a melodramatic finale, and as unforgettably brilliant as Murnau’s other much-loved classics, Nosferatu and Sunrise. This new score has been a real labour of love for Raickopoulou, who was moved to tears after watching the film for the first time. She told me: “Being a dreamer has its great risks but true passion and true love will always prevail.” A sentiment very much in tune with the spirit of the movie, I’m sure you’ll agree.

This project has benefited from the advice of Patrick Stanbury from Photoplay Productions – and you’ll be pleased to know that the Royal Festival Hall will be showing a 35mm print of the domestic version of the film.

Faust screens at the Royal Festival Hall on Monday, 27 February 2012 at 7.30pm. Tickets begin at £10 and you can book them here, on the Southbank Centre website.

The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Festival Hall, 27 March 2011

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

Carl Davis is back, with the Philharmonia Orchestra, at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, to perform his score for The Phantom of the Opera (1925). You’ll be pleased to know that this film, which stars Lon Chaney, and the score, have nothing at all to do with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

More than 80 years after its première, Lon Chaney’s extraordinary performance as the Phantom – a crazed escapee from Devil’s Island, formerly imprisoned in a torture chamber on the site of the Paris opera – still has the power to shock; and the film is also notable for its sumptuous set-piece scenes, including a masked Ball in which the Phantom appears as the Red Death on the Grand Stairway.

The Phantom of the Opera screens at 3pm on 27 March 2011. Tickets range from £8-£38 and are available here.

3 January 2011: The Gold Rush with the Philharmonia orchestra

This is a real treat in the new year. The Philharmonia orchestra is performing a live score for Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush at the Royal Festival Hall on Monday 3 January 2011.

The score for this special performance (and screening!) has been ‘reconstructed’ with reference to Chaplin’s notes for his Oscar-nominated score for the 1942 sound version. It is the work of Carl Davis, who will also conduct.

If this is not a landmark date in the silent film calendar … I’ll eat my old boots.

Featuring Chaplin in his quintessential Little Tramp role, the film was described by The New York Times upon its 1925 release as ‘a comedy with streaks of poetry, pathos, tenderness, linked with brusqueness and boisterousness… the outstanding gem of all Chaplin’s pictures’.