Wonderful news from a true friend of Silent London. Musician, broadcaster, writer and man of many talents Neil Brand has composed a new orchestral score for a truly staggering British silent film, South (1919) – the gripping document of Ernest Shackleton’s journey to the Antarctic, with stunning photography by Frank Hurley. It is the highlight of a BFI Southbank celebration of British explorers and the films that captured their endeavours. Here’s more about the season.
On 5 January 1922, the ‘heroic age’ of Antarctic exploration drew to a symbolic close with the death of Anglo-Irish explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Marking both this centenary, and that of Britain’s first attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the BFI presents TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: EXPLORATION AND ENDURANCE ON FILM, a season at BFI Southbank throughout January, with associated film releases in cinemas and for home entertainment. There will be themed collections on BFI Player (available from 5 January) and in the BFI Mediatheque.
And yes, there will be plenty of silent film in the season:
We’re back! For the third year running, I will be presenting a series of screenings at the West London Trades Union Club in Acton, London W3. Silent film fans of west London, come one, come all. And if you’re new to silent movies, you should definitely pop us in your diary: the autumn/winter collection for 2013 contains some stone-cold classics.
The Trades club on Acton High Street offers well-kept, reasonably priced ale and friendly conversation between left-leaning movie fans too. We show films on Saturday afternoons at 4pm, with no entrance charge, a short introduction courtesy of your favourite London-based silent movie blogger* and generally a good free-for-all chinwag afterwards.
This year’s lineup includes a jaw-dropping tale of British exploration, a high-tension thriller, an Expressionist masterpiece and the divine Clara Bow. Interested?
The Great White Silence (1924)
You’ve seen films about Scott of the Antarctic before – but not like this one. Herbert Ponting took his camera (almost) every step of the way on Scott’s final, fatal expedition. It’s an intimate portrait of Scott’s team at work, and a staggering vision of the unspoiled Antarctic landscape. All this, plus a gleaming restoration from the BFI and an unforgettable score by Simon Fisher Turner, incorporating some surprising found sounds. And penguins. Watch this now as the perfect preparation for viewing the BFI’s new restoration of The Epic of Everest in October. 14 September, 4pm
A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929)
Did you see Underground when it was released earlier this year? That is just one of Anthony Asquith’s two great silent thrillers. A Cottage on Dartmoor is darker, edgier, artier and altogether murkier than Underground – it’s all about jealousy, frustration and razor blades. There’s even a subplot about the coming of sound. Horrific. A Cottage on Dartmoor deserves to be seen on the big screen, and will be shown at the WLTUC with Stephen Horne’s fantastic score too. 26 October 2013, 4pm
You may think you’ve seen Metropolis, but think again. If you haven’t seen the new version of Metropolis with rediscovered footage, you haven’t seen it at all. No WLTUC screening of Lang’s sci-fi masterpiece would be complete without a discussion of the labour politics at the heart of the film, it’s true. But equally, you can gaze upon the gothic futurist splendour of it all – and remind yourself where all those other, more recent, sic-fi movies stole all their best ideas. 16 November 2013, 4pm
Clara Bow, Elinor Glyn declared, had ‘it’. And you don’t need me to explain what ‘it’ is do you? In the greatest flapper movie of them all, Bow plays a determined, perky working-class girl in pursuit of her dream guy. A delicious pre-Christmas treat, It will immerse you in the bustle and swing of 1920s New York, and remind you why Bow is still such a revered fashion icon. Watch out for a cameo by Glyn, and an early appearance by Gary Cooper, whom many say was the great love of Bow’s tragic life. 14 December 2013, 4pm
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. Visit the club’s website here, or join the Facebook group.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is contributing to Olympic mania by staging what it describes as “London’s most sophisticated street party”. It’s a festival really, featuring games, dance, science, debates, music, writers’ commissions and visual art installations, with a little nod to the Great Exhibition that took over Hyde Park in 1851. The Exhibition Road Show will take place on the street they’re calling “London‟s cultural and intellectual heartland”, just a short hop from the Olympic beach volleyball venue in Earl’s Court.
The Show runs from 28 July to 5 August, and on its opening night you can pop along to a free outdoor screening of Herbert Ponting’s elegant, unflinching Scott of the Antarctic documentary The Great White Silence – with its acclaimed live score by Simon Fisher Turner and his musicians.
Fisher Turner’s score for The Great White Silence premiered at the London Film Festival in 2010, and was described by The Guardian as “”skillfully judged, and the blend of real sounds – such as the gramophones that would have played on the ship, the Terra Nova, as well as a recording of the ship’s bell – and sparse musical scoring seemed to respect the idea of silence while making sound”.
If you’ve seen The Great White Silence, Herbert Ponting’s devastating film of RF Scott’s Antarctic expedition, or Frank Hurley’s South, which follows Ernest Shackleton’s voyage through the same freezing waters, you’ll know this is an exciting piece of archive programming. The BFI’s Cinematic Race to the South Pole season features footage of expeditions by Scott, Shackleton and yes, Amundsen too, in three themed packages. You can read more about it here.
Thanks to the touching generosity of the BFI, I’m giving away a pair of tickets to a screening in the season along with a gorgeous poster for The Great White Silence. To enter, all you have to do is send an email. No question this time!
To win a pair of tickets to the BFI Southbank’s season commerating the race to the South Pole PLUS a copy of the BFI poster for the film The Great White Silence, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with Silent in the subject header by 10 March 2012.
The film’s devastating imagery and its innovative, mournful score by Simon Fisher Turner definitely deserve the big-screen treatment, so enter our competition and you could win a pair of tickets to any BFI Southbank screening of The Great White Silence. Just answer this simple question:
What was the name of the Norwegian explorer who beat Scott and his crew to the South Pole?
Email your answer to email@example.com by Thursday 19 May. The winner will be picked at random from the correct entries and emailed with the good news. Best of luck!