Tag Archives: silent film

The Story of Film – and Orphans of the Storm, September 2011

Orphans of the Storm (1921)
Orphans of the Storm (1921)

Mark Cousins’s epic 15-part documentary The Story of Film: an Odyssey begins this Saturday, at 9.15pm on More4. This promises to be an excellent series, with Cousins roaming far and wide to put together a history of cinematic innovations and achievements. The early episodes obviously hold the most interest for us, and people who have seen the first instalment tell me it’s a must-see. Episode one explores the birth of the medium, from the development of techniques such as close-ups to the first movie stars and the early picture palaces. Episode two takes us into 1920s Hollywood and the golden era of comedy, with Keaton and Chaplin.

Filmed in the buildings where the first movies were made, it shows that ideas and passion have always driven film, more than money and marketing.

The series’s scope is wider than just American films, though, and if you had any doubt as to whether Cousins’s heart is in the right place, check out his new tattoo:

I know what you’re thinking – it would be great if Channel 4 could schedule some silent films to accompany these early episodes. What’s the point of telling people about Chaplin, Griffith, Dreyer and Eisenstein if we can’t watch the movies themselves? Well, there is a glimmer of hope. In the week following the first episode, Film4 will be showing Griffith’s French Revolution epic Orphans of the Storm (1921), starring Lillian and Dorothy Gish. The film will be screened at 00.50am on Tuesday 6 September (set your video) and again at 11am on Thursday 8 September.

A little update, courtesy of a helpful commenter below – Film4 will also be showing Battleship Potemkin later in the month – 19th and 22nd September to be precise. More of this please, Film4!

Meanwhile, if you’re enjoying what Mark Cousins has to say about silent cinema, and you live in or near London, watch this space for news of screenings with live music in the capital.

The Story of Film: an Odyssey screens on Saturday nights on More4 and is repeated throughout the week.

I tip my hat to @LondonMovieLoon on Twitter for alerting me to the screening of Orphans of the Storm. Much appreciated.


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.

From the Archives: Made in Barnet at the Phoenix Cinema, 18 September 2011

The Phoenix Cinema
The Phoenix as it used to look

It’s always a pleasure to visit one of Britain’s oldest and most beautiful cinemas – and what a treat also to see some early films on the big screen. As part of the Phoenix Cinema’s ongoing Century of Cinema celebrations, film historian Gerry Turvey will present a selection of films from the BFI’s archives celebrating Barnet’s pioneering film-makers. There will be work from Birt Acres and RW Paul among others – and what’s more, it’s all free.

 

From the Archives: Made in Barnet screens at the Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley at 2pm on 18 September 2011. Tickets are free but booking is essential, so call the box office on 020 8444 6789. For more information, visit the website.

Louis (2010) at the Barbican

Louis (2010)
Louis (2010)

Modern silent films come in all shapes and sizes, but we’re used to seeing them online or at amateur film festivals. However, since The Artist charmed the critics, and the Weinsteins, at Cannes, and Martin Scorsese is serving up Méliès to kids in Hugo, perhaps the day will come when modern silents invade the multiplex, too.

Louis (2010) is definitely helping to put modern silents on the map, but you won’t be seeing it in your local Odeon any time soon, because it is only to be shown with its live musical accompaniment, a score composed by Wynton Marsalis and performed by a hand-picked band of musicians. This is a film all about jazz in fact, set in New Orleans in 1907 – it’s a fictionalised account of the early years of Louis Armstrong, with a few nods to the cinema of the time.

Louis is a companion piece to a sound film, Bolden, which is coming out next year, about the ‘Cornet King’ Buddy Bolden. Both films have been directed and co-written by Dan Pritzker, a billionaire musician turned film-maker, who has certainly hired some big names to help realise his vision – not just Marsalis, but an Oscar-winning director of photography too.

Shot by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond as a modern re-imagining of early silent film, “Louis” is an homage to Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin, beautiful women and the birth of American music. The grand Storyville bordellos, alleys and cemeteries of 1907 New Orleans provide a backdrop of lust, blood and magic for 6 year old Louis (Anthony Coleman) as he navigates the colourful intricacies of life in the city. Young Louis’s dreams of playing the trumpet are interrupted by a chance meeting with a beautiful and vulnerable girl named Grace (Lowry) and her baby, Jasmine. Haley, in a performance reminiscent of the great comic stars of the silent screen, plays the evil Judge Perry who is determined not to let Jasmine’s true heritage derail his candidacy for governor.

When Roger Ebert saw a preview of Louis in Chicago, he praised its “energy and wit,” saying: “It’s not a social documentary, and its recreation of New Orleans is certainly on the upbeat side, but then Louis Armstrong was on the upbeat side … What he’d especially approve of might be Marsalis – who took his performances as an inspiration – and the jazz band.”

I have taken a peek at the trailer, and at first glance Louis’s moody colour palette doesn’t look quite like any silent film I’ve seen before – but the Chaplinalike villain, speeded-up chase sequences and some neat physical comedy all recall the silent era. Some of the slick superimpositions and swooping camera movements feel comfortable, too, despite their 21st-century sheen. That said, the raunchy dancing in some scenes is more reminiscent of a Christina Aguilera video than anything I’ve seen in a silent film.

We will be able to judge properly soon, though, as Louis comes to London as part of the London Jazz Festival, with two screenings at the Barbican Arts Centre. This is an exciting opportunity to see a new silent film on the big screen and hear some leading jazz musicians play. Whether the music or the film will shine the brightest remains to be seen.

Louis screens at the Barbican on 13 November 2011 at 3pm and 8pm. Tickets cost between £10 and £25 and are available here. It’s worth pointing out that this film is not suitable for children – it was rated R in the US for sexual content and nudity.

The Artist – the US trailer

The American trailer for The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius’s love letter to silent cinema, is here. It’s beautiful, and almost note for note the same as the French trailer we saw in the spring. The only differences are that the US version doesn’t name any of the actors until the final card, and I swear they have beefed up the sound of tap shoes clicking across the floor in the dancing sequences. It’s not synched sound, and there’s definitely some of it in the French version, but there’s more now. It’s still utterly gorgeous though – I’m not sure what delights me more, Jean Dujardin’s Hollywood smile, Uggy the performing dog or Bérénice Bejo’s wardrobe.

The Artist is released in France on 12 October 2011 and in the US on 23 November 2011. No word on a UK release date yet.

The Chess Player at the Cinema Museum, 18 September 2011

The Chess Player (1927)
The Chess Player (1927)

There has been a lot of talk about Napoléon (1927) recently – Abel Gance’s extravagant film, painstakingly restored by Kevin Brownlow, scored by Carl Davis and scheduled for some long-overdue screenings in San Francisco next year. But Napoléon is not the only lavish French epic to have benefited from a Photoplay restoration. Raymond Bernard’s The Chess Player (1927) is a wildly ambitious film, and if you are interested in the far reaches, excesses and extraordinary achievements of late-period silent cinema, you won’t want to miss it.

The Chess Player is based on a novel that takes the true story of the Turk, a seemingly ingenious 18th-century chess computer, subsequently revealed to be a devastatingly simple hoax, and introduces it to Catherine the Great’s Russian empire. The inventor of the device is an eccentric man who lives in Polish Lithuania and is friendly with some leading local revolutionaries. After a peasant uprising is violently quashed (the film is celebrated for these battle scenes, and associated fantasy sequences), he attempts to smuggle one of his friends across Europe using the device as a cover…

The Chess Player is screening at the Cinema Museum on Sunday 18 September at 2pm as part of the first in a series of lectures on French cinema by Jon Davies. This lecture deals with the silent era, specifically “Méliès, Lumière, Gance and their contemporaries”. Tickets are £10 or £7 for concessions and they are available from WeGotTickets here. There is no mention of musical accompaniment for this screening, but the Milestone DVD of The Chess Player includes a performance of the original orchestral score by Henri Rabaud.  Find out more here on the Cinema Museum website.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari at the Roundhouse with Innervisions, 19 August 2011

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

The Roundhouse in Camden has long been one of London’s most inventive and atmospheric arts venues – and now it has just had a radical, zoetrope-inspired makeover courtesy of artist Ron Arad. What could be better? Perhaps a late-night screening of the mind-bending expressionist horror The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, with cool electronic accompaniment.

The illustrious Berlin-based electronic music label Innervisions joins forces with Ron Arad to present a spell binding evening of film, music and artistic installation. The evening will feature a projection of the epic 1920’s classic Dr. Caligari with Innervision’s Henrik Schwarz, Ame and Dixon performing a live score they’ve written to accompany the film.

The evening also features a live DJ set in collaboration with the technical and aesthetic expertise of Arad’s studio to project a range of stunning visuals by Berlin visual collective JUTOJO, providing a completely immersive and unique experience for the audience.

Tickets cost £25 or £18 for concessions. Doors open at 7.30pm and the film will begin at 8.30pm. To find out more, and to book tickets, visit the Roundhouse website.

Silent films with live music – festival special

The Great White Silence (1924)
The Great White Silence (1924)

No festival worth its salt is without a silent film screening these days – which is a great way to introduce people to this world. Rock festivals increasingly offer cinema tents and film festivals are often involved in commissioning new scores for films, or simply offering musicians an opportunity to perform their soundtracks in front of a large audience. It’s well worth keeping an eye on what’s going at festivals, even if you’re not planning to attend: what debuts at a festival one year, may turn up in your city the next. Here’s a selection of interesting festival events coming up in the next month or so alone.

  • At the Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons (19-21 August), the rock band Minima are performing an improvised set to a selection of early science films in the Einstein Tent. Over in the Cinema Tent, Blue Roses will perform her piano score to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1920). You may remember that this score first appeared as part of the Birds Eye View Festival’s Sound & Silents strand back in March. Watch out for news of a forthcoming UK Sound & Silents tour on their website.
  • The following week, at the Edinburgh Fringe, Minima will perform their score to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari six nights in a row – kicking off at midnight.
  • Also in Edinburgh and courtesy of the Birds Eye View Film Festival Sounds & Silents strand, there will be a screening of Lotte Reiniger’s Hansel & Gretel with a live score by Micachu  – that’s at the Edinburgh Art Festival.
  • The Cambridge Film Festival runs from 15-25 September and although it hasn’t announced its full lineup yet, I am pretty certain we’ll see some silent movies in the lineup. And before the festival even begins they are hosting a special screening of Douglas Fairbanks’s Robin Hood in Rendlesham Forest with a new score by Neil Brand – that’s on 29 August, bank holiday Monday.
In the Nursery perform their soundtrack to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
In the Nursery perform their soundtrack to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
  • Also on the bank holiday Monday, Bath Film Festival is hosting a screening of Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill Jr and the short film One Week, with live music from James Harpham.
  • At the beginning of September, the Little White Lies cinedrome at the End of the Road festival in Dorset will be showing all kinds of good things, including The Great White Silence.
  • Back in London, on 17 September, gothic electronic duo In the Nursery will soundtrack The Cabinet of Dr Caligari in a pop-up cinema as part of the Portobello Film Festival. And as reported elsewhere, the Peckham Free Film Festival is screening Safety Last and Battleship Potemkin, on 16 and 18 September respectively. And entrance to all of those screenings can be had for the very reasonable price of zero pence exactly.
  • The New Forest Film Festival has a very exciting event planned for 18 September. The Dodge Brothers (featuring Mark Kermode) and Neil Brand are teaming up to score another movie. The Ghost That Never Returns is a Soviet film directed by Abram Room (Bed and Sofa) about a fugitive from jail being chased by an assassin in South America. What makes the screening even more exciting is that the cinema will be powered by bicycle – it’s a movie, a gig and a workout, all in one. The Dodge Brothers’ performances have been a highlight of recent British Silent Film Festivals, so let’s hope we see this one in London soon.
  • The Branchage Film Festival in Jersey commissions and hosts all sorts of fascination film/music combinations, and holds events in London throughout the year too. Its festival closer this year is a very beautiful thing. On Sunday 25 September, Simon Fisher Turner and the Elysian Quartet will play their intensely emotional score for The Great White Silence live at Jersey Opera House. Not to be missed.

In October, of course, it will be time for the 55th London Film Festival. Watch this space to find out silent film events await us there.

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

The Lost World with live score by John Garden at the Barbican, 25 September 2011

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

The special effects genius Willis O’Brien, who sent King Kong to the top of the Empire State Building in 1933, was something of a dinosaur specialist. In the silent era, he worked on a handful of short films on a prehistoric theme, and one Hollywood feature – the Arthur Conan-Doyle adventure The Lost World (1925), directed by Harry Hoyt.

Wallace Beery plays Professor Challenger, who leads an expedition (including Bessie Love) into Venezuela to prove his pet theory that even in the 20th century, dinosaurs still walk the earth. Lo and behold, he’s right, and in a remote plateau the travellers encounter several dinosaurs, whose violent antics are brought to life by O’Brien’s pioneering stop-motion effects. One of the film’s most famous sequences is a based a little closer to home, however, as a brontosaurus shipped home to England by Challenger escapes, and rampages around the streets of London.

Composer John Garden, whom you might have seen performing with the Scissor Sisters, has written a new electronic score for The Lost World, and following several successful shows around south-west England, he will be accompanying the film at the Barbican in London. you can listen to samples of the score here on Soundcloud, but for a taster, here’s a sequence from the film with Garden’s score:

The Lost World with live score by John Garden screens at the Barbican on 25 September at 4pm. Tickets cost £10.50 full price but less if bought online or for members. Visit the Barbican website for full details and to book. This event is hosted in partnership with the marvellous people from Bristol Silents. To find out more and for details of where else in the country Garden is performing his score, check out the Facebook page.

• And if you want to see King Kong, it’s playing at the Roxy Bar and Screen on Saturday 13 August to open the Scala Forever programme.

The White Shadow – when a Hitchcock film isn’t a Hitchcock film

The White Shadow (1924)
The White Shadow (1924)

Celebrity sells, and newspapers, news websites and trade journals alike all know that the likelihood of a story being read increases if a big name is attached to it. Woe betide you if you want to write about the silent era without mentioning Chaplin, Hitchcock or DW Griffith – preferably in the first paragraph.

So reports of the discovery of “Alfred Hitchcock’s Earliest Surviving Film” need to be taken with a pinch of salt. To recap, a few reels of The White Shadow (1923) have been discovered in a film archive in New Zealand. And this is how the BBC opens its online news story:

Footage from Alfred Hitchcock’s first film has been uncovered in New Zealand.

The British director was 24 when he made the 1923 silent film, The White Shadow.

The piece goes on to mention the film’s stars Clive Brook (Shanghai Express) and Betty Compson (The Docks of New York) – but there is no word of the film’s director. Because yes, Hitchcock worked on The White Shadow, as assistant director, art director, editor and writer, but the film was directed by someone else – Graham Cutts. While we’re always interested in early work by Hitchcock, whatever his job title, particularly with the forthcoming 2012 silent Hitchcock extravaganza on the horizon, we should also be happy to find out more about Cutts.

In the 1920s, Graham Cutts was ticket-office gold. He was called “a sure-fire maker of box-office attractions” by Kinematograph Weekly, and his Rat trilogy, starring Ivor Novello as an absurdly attractive Parisian jewel thief, is still celebrated and enjoyed today. Cutts’s films are sophisticated, sexual and employ any number of tracking shots, dramatic lighting and off-kilter camera angles to ramp up the tension – and the cinematic pleasure. Yes he worked with Hitchcock as a young man, but also Novello, Noël Coward and Basil Dean. He even made a successful transition to sound – with a career behind the camera that ran into the 40s.

The White Shadow looks like a fascinating find, with Compson playing twin sisters, one good and one evil, and plenty of opportunity for Cutt’s dynamic style to come into play. But please don’t take the credit away from a name that has almost been forgotten and give it to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

And if you have a copy of The Mountain Eagle in your loft at home, that really is a lost Hitchcock silent – so please call the British Film Institute right away, and tell them I sent you.

Silent films at the Silent Cinema, Deptford Project, August 2011

Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu (1922)

• Update: Sorry, guys, I’ve just been told that these events have been cancelled. Don’t know why as yet, but hope to find out more soon – including whether they will be rescheduled for later in the year.

Have you ever been to a Silent Disco? It’s great fun. You dance around in a huge group of people but the music isn’t played out loud, it’s piped into your headphones. Hilarious for onlookers, but there’s a great sense of community on the dancefloor – like you’re sharing a secret with everyone in the crowd. The Silent Cinema in Deptford, south London, works on the same principle, but with films. The wireless headphones deliver the film’s soundtrack, but filter out the popcorn munching and chatter from your fellow audience members.

Although the name has obviously caught my attention before, I never thought they would show silent films there. But I was wrong. Silent Cinema is devoting a weekend in August to … silent cinema. They’re calling the programme the  “Black & White Classics Weekend”, and why not? Here’s the lineup:

Paul Merton and Neil Brand’s Silent Clowns at the Cinema Museum

Laurel and Hardy
Laurel and Hardy

Whether Paul Merton’s recent Birth of Hollywood documentaries piqued your interest in silent cinema, or you are already a fan of the era’s exquisitely hilarious comedians, this is a date for your diary. Merton, and silent film pianist Neil Brand, are reprising their Silent Clowns show, which toured throughout 2009, at the Cinema Museum this September.

According to my sources, we can expect some classic moments from Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd as well as a complete Laurel and Hardy short, We Faw Down, their first film to be directed by Leo McCarey, which is sometimes known under the simpler title We Slip Up. Paul Merton will introduce the clips, and Neil Brand will provide musical accompaniment. You really can’t go wrong. Anyone who has read Merton’s Silent Comedy book or watched his recent TV programmes, will know that he is passionate about this subject, and if you only know him from the radio, you’ll know that he is exceedingly funny himself.

Silent Clowns is at the Cinema Museum in Kennington on Saturday 3 September at 7.30pm, but doors will open an hour earlier for you to look around the collections. Refreshments will be available too, and there should be some time for you to mingle and have a high old time. Tickets cost £6.50 or less for concessions. For more information, visit the Cinema Museum website, or to buy tickets, visit WeGotTickets.

Want more links? Try Paul Merton’s official website, and Neil Brand’s site, too.

Pandora’s Box at BFI Southbank, 4 & 5 September 2011

Louise Brooks Pandora's Box (1929)
Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box (1929)

The Passport to Cinema strand returns to BFI Southbank in September and October, under the banner of Making the Modern. And the strand begins with a timeless silent cinema favourite, Pandora’s Box, starring Louise Brooks.

So, Pandora’s Box is the oldest film in the season, but its nonchalant treatment of sexuality, violent plot and chic Berlin architecture make it about as modern as modern can get. Perhaps that is why the film’s popularity has grown over the decades, from a disappointing start at the box office, to universal acclaim as a cool classic.

Judging by the running time given in the BFI programme, this might not be the new restoration of the film shown at the London Film Festival, but sex appeal like this really deserves to be seen on the big screen, nonetheless. So get your dancing shoes on, folks.

Pandora’s Box screens in NFT1 on Sunday 4 September at 3.20pm and in NFT2 on Monday 5 September at 6.10pm, with an introduction by Dr Nathalie Morris of the BFI and the Women and Silent British Cinema project. There will be live piano accompaniment at both screenings (by John Sweeney on the Sunday and Stephen Horne on the Monday), and tickets will be on sale in August.

Shadow Play: gallery talk and master class at the Barbican, 1 September 2011

Cinderella (Lotte Reiniger, 1922)
Cinderella (Lotte Reiniger, 1922)

The Barbican’s Watch Me Move animation exhibition continues all summer, and is well worth a look. These two events may be of particular interest to silent film fans, though. On 1 September, writer Marina Warner will be giving a talk in the gallery about “shadow play” animation, from Lotte Reiniger, through to more contemporary artists such as William Kentridge and Kara Walker (below):

The lecture is followed by a shadow play animation workshop – Warner will be joined by artist Reza Ben Gajra, and you’ll learn all you need to know to create your own piece in the vein of The Adventures of Prince Achmed.

Both events take place on 1 September 2011, at 6.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets for the talk cost £10, and for the master class £12. For more details, click here, and here.

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.

Sherlock Jr and One Week at Stratford Picturehouse, 24 July 2011

Sherlock Jr (1924)
Sherlock Jr (1924)

“If you’ve never watched a silent movie before, this is the time to do it,” says the Stratford Picturehouse. That’s the spirit. The east London cinema is having a day of cinematic interactive fun on Sunday – including screenings of Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr and One Week. After watching the first film, the audience will be encouraged to play along to the short, One Week, so if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to accompany a silent film, this is your big chance. Although the setup might be a little more raucous that your average screening at the BFI – audience members are asked to bring their own instruments, whether “real” or homemade.

The day of events is free and as well as the two Keatons, there will be “film karaoke”, plus screenings of The Gruffalo, krumping documentary Rize with a street-dance workshop and, as a finale, Singalonga Grease. Everything kicks off at 12 noon – for more details, click here.

Safety Last and Battleship Potemkin at the Peckham Free Film Festival, September 2011

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

• This post was edited on 10 August 2011

This is a lovely thing to report: openair screenings of two silent film classics, with a local twist. And best of all, they are free.

In September, the Peckham Free Film Festival will be showing Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last on a giant inflatable screen on Peckham Rye near the cafe. The film will be accompanied by Neil Brand on the piano and by a package of local archive footage including newsreels, too. You’ll be able to buy refreshments from the cafe, which focuses on “free range, fair trade, organic, locally sourced, healthy” food, but I can’t be held responsible for the consequences of laughing with your mouth full.

Safety Last screens at Peckham Rye on Friday 16 September at 8pm. Entrance is free. 

The festival will close in rousing style with another free silent film screening, on the roof of Peckham multi-storey car par. Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin will be screened near Franks Cafe and Campari Bar, also located on the roof, so you can grab a drink and something to eat while you watch. Live music will be provided by Super Best Friends club, who describe themselves this way:

Super Best Friends Club are a friendly beast from London. We wonder if it’s possible to transform this cutthroat universe to a loving frequency. And we wonder if its possible to do this through nudity and frantic dancing. I think its worth trying.

Battleship Potemkin screens on 18 September at 8pm. Entrance is free. For more information on the Peckham Free Film Festival, click here.

100 Silent Films: A Silent London special offer

100 Silent Films by Bryony Dixon
100 Silent Films by Bryony Dixon

A fortnight ago, I reviewed Bryony Dixon’s 100 Silent Films here on Silent London and I was very taken with it. It may have a simple format, but the choice of films is often surprising, so it’s as much a pleasure to read in one sitting as it is useful as a reference work. For those of you who want to buy a copy, perhaps to start ticking off films as you watch them, as some people have suggested to me on Twitter, the publishers are offering a discount to readers of this blog.

This illuminating guide provides a selection of one hundred key films of the silent period (1895-1930), featuring films from a variety of countries, genres and directors. You can order a copy of BFI Publishing’s 100 Silent Films by Bryony Dixon (RRP £12.99) for £8.50 on the Palgrave website here. Just quote the discount code WSILENT11.

The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon on BBC4

A quick mention for a chance to see some early films on TV. BBC4 is repeating the three-part series The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon and it is a very welcome return. The Mitchell and Kenyon hoard was discovered in the cellar of a disused shop in Blackburn in 1994 and contains many beautiful films of Northern England in the Edwardian era. When the programmes were first shown in 2005, Guardian TV critic Nancy Banks-Smith called them “Lowry come to life”.

The films were advertised to the public at the time as an chance to “see yourselves as others see you”, but now they are a precious opportunity to see ourselves as we once were. The collection has recently been added to the Unesco World Heritage list and is even being used by scientists at Imperial College London to study “handedness” – the researchers are scanning the films by computer to measure how many of the people waving at the camera in the films are using their left or right hands. For the rest of us, they offer a nostalgic, often bittersweet, glimpse at a time gone by.

If you want to learn more, visit the BFI Mitchell and Kenyon page or read this essay by Ian Jack.

The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon screens on BBC4 at 10pm and begins on Tuesday 19th July.

With thanks to Peter Walsh.