There is more than one way to build a silent film festival, but perhaps some events might like to acknowledge twins – fellow fests that take the same approach to curating and commissioning archive cinema screenings. I think I have found a kindred spirit for the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival. I wonder if they would agree?
Saturday night at Hippfest was a bit of a departure – a horror double-bill. Is this the start of a new tradition? If so, it has begun well. We finished the night with Benjamin Christensen’s loopy house-of-horrors caper Seven Footprints to Satan (1929), gorgeously accompanied by a brilliant new score from Jane Gardner. The first feature was a classic: Lon Chaney as the villainous double-amputee Blizzard in the sharp shocker The Penalty (Wallace Worsley, 1920). That film is set, beautifully, in San Francisco, which was perfect – at least according to my latest theory!
When the glasses were clinking and plans were being made at the close of the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema this year, there was one thing that gave us pause. A sobering thought among the celebrations…
2016, it seemed, was the year of the unhappy ending. From the high tragedy of Stella Dallas, to the poignancy of Peter Pan, the sweet irony of Exit Smiling, and the apocalyptic predictions of Wunder der Schöpfung – there was not a happy-ever-after in sight. And don’t get me started on Variety, Mania or Daybreak …
But despite that, I was grinning like a loon for most of the weekend. Hippfest offers a warmer welcome than most film festivals, but crucially, it has the quality to match its quirkiness. An excellent range of films, screened with accompaniment from some of the world’s best silent cinema musicians. The vintage cinema may be cute, but the festival itself is seriously credible. Here’s a flavour of the fun we had in Bo’ness this year.
Hippfest feedback from a happy punter
Beautiful Bo’ness sunset
The gorgeous Hippodrome cinema
Loved the walk down from the hotel into town – a good opportunity to check out the town bandstand
Hippfest has the best – and most Scottish – goody bags
Great feedback from happy Hippfesters. Photograph: Sheldon Hall
Great feedback from happy Hippfesters. Photograph: Sheldon Hall
A fabulous show from the Bevvy Sisters at the Hippfest Speakeasy. Photograph: Sheldon Hall
A prize-winning shop window display – the local bookshop had plenty of reading material for silent cinema enthusiasts. Photograph: Nicky Smith
One of the most popular screenings at Hippfest was The Wrecker here, at Bo’ness’s fantastic railway station. Photograph: Nicky Smith
All dolled up for the Friday night gala
Hippfest director Alison Strauss and BFI silent film curator Bryony Dixon talk cinema and WWI
It might be the northern welcome, it could be the gorgeous vintage cinema, but it’s probably the combination of great films and first-class music … the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema is a highlight of our calendar. This year’s festival runs from 16-21 March 2016 and excitingly, the programme has just dropped!
This means you can start booking your tickets now and believe me, these events often sell out, so act fast.
One of the greatest films of all time, Dovzhenko’s Earth, is the opening night gala, with a brand new score from Jane Gardner and Hazel Morrison.
Camera acrobatics in Dupont’s thrilling love-triangle drama Varieté starring Emil Jannings and Lya di Putti, with Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius providing excellent, multilayered accompaniment.
The hilarious Exit Smiling starring Beatrice Lillie (“the funniest woman of our civilisation,” according to Noël Coward) as an aspiring stage star in a shabby touring company, with the ever-brilliant Neil Brand on the piano. That’s the Friday night gala with an introduction by Bryony Dixon – and the perfect excuse to dress up.
The unbeatable tearjerker Stella Dallas (the 1925 version), with a new score by Stephen Horne performed by himself and Elizabeth-Jane Baldry, and an introduction by your own humble correspondent.
Intergalactic German space documentary Wunder der Schöpfung screens with a wild soundscape score by Herschel 36 (who will be talking about how they wrote their score in another event at the festival) on Saturday night.
Late Chinese silent Daybreak, starring Li Lili, with accompaniment by John Sweeney. This screening will be supported by a talk on early Chinese Cinema, which is sure to be illuminating.
My own favourite film star, Pola Negri, in one of her early German films, Mania, with music from kraut-rock band Czerwie.
Reel rations – Bryony Dixon’s tour of British propaganda films from the Great War.
Herbert Brenon’s charming, inventive Peter Pan, with an acclaimed live score by harpist Elizabeth-Jane Baldry.
British train crash drama The Wrecker – screened at Bo’ness train station!
Comedy! Courtesy of a Laurel & Hardy triple-bill, as well as Buster Keaton in My Wife’s Relations and Anita Garvin and Marion Byron in A Pair of Tights.
The fifth instalment of Scotland’s only silent movie festival announces its programme today – and judging by previous years, you should start snapping up tickets straight away (tickets go on sale today, 10 February 2015, at noon). The Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema takes place in Bo’ness, a small town tucked away on the banks of the Firth of Forth in Falkirk, Scotland. Bo’ness has a stunning vintage cinema, the Hippodrome, which has been restored to its 1920s glory, and each year hosts of a celebration of the silent era that is as welcoming as it is wide-ranging.
HippFest celebrates its fifth birthday in style with three major World Premiere Festival Commissions, a pop-up cinema at Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway, the chance to discover forgotten stars Colleen Moore and Eric Campbell and get hands-on with a series of workshops and interactive events covering everything from beatboxing to Joan Crawford’s favourite dinner party recipes.
You can find all the information about the festival, and how to book tickets for the events, on the festival website here. You can also follow the festival on Facebook and Twitter. This year’s event runs from 18-22 March 2015 and below I have picked out some highlights from the programme. I have to say I am pretty excited.
The Friday night gala screening will be the hilarious Synthetic Sin, starring Colleen Moore. There’s a dress code ladies and gents – flapper glamour! Neil Brand will accompany on piano and some silent movie blogger or other will be introducing the film …
“The Film Explainer” Andy Cannon will perform alongside extracts from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, along with musicians Wendy Weatherby and Frank McLaughlin.
I’ve just returned from the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema in Bo’ness, Falkirk. It’s a fantastic event – I really enjoyed myself and only wish I could stay longer. To give you a flavour of the weekend, if you missed out this time, here’s a mini-podcast and a selection of social media updates too. Surely there is no cooler hashtag for a #silentfilm event than #hippfest?
Hats off to Alison Strauss and her team and Falkirk Community Trust to – Hippfest is a triumph.
Scotland’s only silent film festival returns to the glorious Hippodrome cinema in Bo’ness with another impressively wide-ranging programme. There are some real treasures to be unearthed here: rare screenings of little-seen but highly valued films, and innovative ways to share the magic of silent cinema with younger audiences. Gala screenings include the Dodge Brothers‘ Scottish debut, accompanying the Hollywood classic Beggars of Life, starring Louise Brooks; Jacques Feyder’s heartstopping Visages d’Enfants closes the festival, with music from Stephen Horne; Frank Borzage’s wartime weepy Lucky Star plays on the Friday night, with Neil Brand on the piano; and Jane Gardner will perform a specially commissioned new score for Ozu’s gangster drama Dragnet Girl. German group The Aljoscha Zimmermann Ensemble will provide a score for Murnau’s timeless The Last Laugh; Jason Singh will create his magical vocal soundscapes for Grierson’s landmark documentary Drifters, live at the Hippodrome.
Scotland’s only silent film festival seems to go from strength to strength. The newly released lineup for the third Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema looks more varied and ambitious than previous years – and well worth a journey north of the border for us southern softies. It’s bigger than before, too – running from Wednesday to Sunday.
Friday night’s gala screening is Allan Dwan’s part-Technicolor comedy Stage Struck(1925), starring Gloria Swanson – with Neil Brand on the piano. Other notable highlights include the Dodge Brothers’ spirited accompaniment to the rarely seen Soviet film The Ghost That Never Returns; Japanese favourite Crossways with a score by electronic rockers Minima; and Lubitsch’s irrepressible comedy The Oyster Princess, with music from Günter Buchwald.
Elsewhere in the week, you’ll find Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Baby Peggy, the rediscovered Hollywood film The Goose Woman, early Scottish cinema, the Film Explainer, Berlin: Symphony of a Great City and an often-overlooked gem called The Artist …
Watch a video of last year’s highlights here:
And read the full programme for the Falkirk festival here:
Stage Struck – Neil Brand accompanies the glamorous Friday Night Gala starring Gloria Swanson, familiar to audiences today as bitter and forgotten silent movie queen Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd. Includes ‘champagne’ reception.
The Ghost That Never Returns – In their Scottish debut, The Dodge Brothers make joyous music inspired by Woody Guthrie for this little-known Soviet gem.
Jujiro (Crossways) – Leading UK contemporary electronic ensemble Minima perform their new score for one of the first Japanese films ever shown in the West.
The Oyster Princess – Virtuoso Günter A. Buchwald makes his Hippodrome debutwitha glorious comedy directed by Ernst Lubitsch (The Shop Around the Corner).
The Goose Woman – After 2012 Festival success with The Black Pirate, Jane Gardner returns to perform her new score for this film based on a still unsolved real-life murder, with Hazel Morrison and Su-a Lee on percussion, cello, musical saw.
The Film Explainer Returns –Andy Cannon, Frank McLaughlin and Stewart Hardy bring archive films to life with their blend of storytelling and trad folk music.
New Found Sound – The third year ofhugely talented Falkirk Council secondary school pupils composing and performing their own scores under the mentorship of Tom Butler of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Scottish Screen Archive Shorts – Continuing the relationship with the national film archive, Mike Nolan and Forrester Pyke accompany shorts before selected features.
BIG NOISES in the SILENT ERA
Baby Peggy, the Elephant in the Room – UK premiere of this fascinating new documentary telling the moving and inspiring story of the oldest surviving silent film star whose acting career started at 18 months and stopped abruptly at age 4.
The Artist – Oscar-winning performances in the modern silent movie sensation.
‘Bright, Steady and Free from Flickr’: Early Cinema in Bo’ness and Beyond – Prof John Caughie of the University of Glasgow uncovers new research into this fast-changing chapter in the history of Scotland’s early cinema
A Chance to Dance – Learn the Charleston and other early jazz steps from the Roaring Twenties in this public dance workshop for everyone aged 16 and over.
SILENT OVERTURES FOR FAMILIES, CHILDREN & YOUNG PEOPLE
Chaplin & Keaton Double Bill – Bring a clean jam jar to get 2-for1 tickets to see Neil Brand accompanying Chapin’s The Immigrant and Keaton’s One Week.
Another Fine Mess with Laurel & Hardy – The boys’ triple bill of Putting Pants on Philip, Their Purple Moment and Double Whoopeewith Günter A. Buchwald.
Make Movie Music! – The Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra return with a fun-filled session for primary schools using the classic Berlin, Symphony of a City.
#HippFest @ Fusion – Using his incredible vocal talent,human beatboxer Jason Singh creates soundtracks with Fusion, a popular night for Bo’ness young people.
Watch a trailer for the 2013 festival here:
The Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema runs from 13-17 March. Tickets go on sale at 10am today. Call 01324 506850, or visit the Steeple Box Office, High Street, Falkirk FK1 1NW.To read more and to book online, visit www.hippfest.co.uk. If you book before 25 February – you’ll get a 10% discount on your tickets!
The Hippodrome Cinema in Bo’ness, Falkirk, beautifully restored to match its 1920 heyday, will host Scotland’s first silent film festival – and it promises to be an event with a real ‘vintage’ feel. The programme incorporates some enduringly popular silents, from a rare chance to see It (1927), starring Clara Bow, to FW Murnau’s influential vampire film Nosferatu (1922) and Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), plus a handful of comedies from Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and Harold Lloyd.
Neil Brand will provide musical accompaniment to several of the films, and he will also perform his acclaimed one-man show The Silent Pianist Speaks. David Allison of The Island Tapes will reprise his score for Nosferatu at the festival’s closing night gala, and another of the films will benefit from a specially commissioned soundtrack performed by local schoolchildren.
There will be a Slapstick Workshop for over-12s by Scottish theatre company Plutôt La Vie, and a new, specially commissioned soundtrack for one of the films performed by local schoolchildren. Another retro treat for younger viewers is the “jeely jar special” – a revival of a 1920s practice whereby film fans can get a two-for-one deal on tickets for The Kid if they bring along a clean jam jar (with lid). Bargain.
And for a touch more glamour, the Opening Gala screening of It has a 1920s dress code. Dropped waists, long strings of beads and cloches – it’s the perfect opportunity to indulge your inner flapper and give Clara Bow a run for her money. Perhaps you can find some sartorial inspiration here. Festival director Allison Strauss says:
The whole event is designed to celebrate the magic, glamour and pure entertainment of films from the silent era. Our programme and the supporting events include something for all ages and we’ve made sure that the wide appeal will involve a broad range of tastes, from cinephiles to anyone discovering early film for the first time.
For full details and to download a brochure, visit the website here.