Midweek Matinee

SilentFilmLost

Here’s a strange fact about cinema. More than half the films every made no longer exist.

 Buster Keaton 1

Studios churned out product in the early days, with little thought of preservation. Most films had no future before television. Every few years a previous hit would go on general re-release, but these were always monster hits like Gone With The Wind. Other films just took up room.

English: Buster Keaton wearing his trademark p...

English: Buster Keaton wearing his trademark porkpie hat in the 1922 film The Blacksmith Available at http://us.imdb.com/gallery/mptv/1301/Mptv/1301/20676_0002.jpg?path=gallery&path_key=0012945 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The highly combustible celluloid was a fire hazard too, so the prudent producer would strip the film for re-usable minerals and destroy the waste. The fact that some of that waste contained the life work of a Buster Keaton or a Rex Ingram didn’t really register. How many people archive their newspapers, or their Facebook page?

Every so often, happily, something is plucked from the maw of time. The latest rediscovery is five new minutes of Keaton’s 1922 comedy The Blacksmith. You can read about the rediscovery, and catch a glimpse of the footage, in this excellent article from the (other) Guardian: Here

Posted by Kevin McGee

Midweek Matinee

Decaying Hollywood MansionsDecaying Hollywood Mansions

Another website recommendation today. If you want a painless and freewheeling way to explore Hollywood’s past, visit Decaying Hollywood Mansions on Facebook. The site is dedicated to stills and other ephemera of several golden ages of cinema, from the earliest experiments with motion to the frontier wildness of the early 1970s.

John WayneJohn Wayne in The Searchers

The page is a labour of love by Charles Lieurance, who is a relentless truffler in the cinematic undergrowth. Recent highlights of his “multi-media spookhouse of cinema’s past” include a vintage comic-book version of The Searchers, and this fabulous PR shot from 1928:

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Kudos if you recognised the young Joan Crawford. If you also clocked the grizzled Gibson Gowland (last seen hereabouts in Stroheim’s Greed), give yourself a gold star.

Scenography for the movie Greed. 1926.

Scenography for the movie Greed. 1926. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cropped screenshot of Joan Crawford from the f...

Cropped screenshot of Joan Crawford from the film Category:Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Kevin McGee

Midweek Matinee

Louise BrooksLouise Brooks

3EPKANO & LOUISE

Everyone who attended last year’s Nenagh Silent Film Festival remembers the band 3epkano. They provided the music for Murnau’s Nosferatu. It was a hell of a noise for four people to make. I think I saw someone afterwards counting the drummer’s hands.

Pandora's BoxPandora’s Box (1929)

They’ve expanded their silent-film repertoire to include another German masterpiece. This time it’s Pabst’s Pandora’s Box, a late silent movie starring the scandalous, and scandalously beautiful, Louise Brooks.

NosferatuNosferatu

Brooks is one of not many silent stars who could walk into a producer’s office today and emerge with a starring role. She also wrote one of the indispensable acting memoirs, Lulu In Hollywood. Marvel here at her looks, her art, and her ridiculously influential hairdo. And turn up your speakers: that’s 3epkano bringing the noise:

 

Posted by Kevin McGee

 

Midweek Matinee

A BLACK LOOK AT SNOW WHITE

 Blancanieves3

The Artist was never going to revive the silent film industry, but it has made it easier for other film-makers to get their silent films made. None of these has scaled the commercial heights of Hazanavicius’ film, but at least one shows a comparable artistry.

 BlancanievesBlancanieves Poster

Blancanieves was Spain’s offering for the Best Foreign Film Oscar this year. It is a fervid retelling of the story of Snow White, but this is not a movie to babysit kids with. Not unless you want to explain what the nice lady in stockings was doing with the riding crop.

Pablo BergerPablo Berger

Director Pablo Berger is steeped in silent cinema, particular the work of the Frenchman Abel Gance. But in some ways his film is an anthology of prototypical Spanish concerns. There is flamenco, there is Francoist repression, and most of all there is bullfighting. The heroine ‘Blancanieves’ is the lost daughter of a dashing torero. Raised by a cruel stepmother, she blossoms into her father’s trade as the companion to seven dwarf matadors in a traveling show.

 Snow_White_ZombieSnow White Zombie

The fairy-tale outlines are clear, but what Berger catches most breathtakingly is the cruel and sinister edges of the fairy-tale world. This is more Grimm than Disney, more Gorey than Perrault.

 Blancanieves1

It is easy to see why Berger spent nearly ten years searching for funding, and only the unexpected success of The Artist could have convinced his investors to take the risk. Whether they recouped their money or not, they can at least be proud of their choice. The film is a revelation. At once sophisticated and brutal, romantic and filled with dread, Blancanieves manages to be both familiar and utterly unpredictable. Silent cinema has a new masterpiece, and it’s out now on DVD.

Posted by Kevin McGee

Midweek Matinee

Acting Styles 1
BE NATURAL

One of the biggest problems people have with silent films is the acting style.

Lee StrasbergThe growing naturalism of the sound era culminated in the Method of Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio. Derived from the Russiona theatre director and theorist Stanislavski, the Method emphasised inner life and emotional truth. If that truth expressed itself sometimes in muttering and uncertainty, then that was a fair price for truth.

Actors like Brando, Newman, Clift, Burstyn, Dean and Karl Marden moved far beyond the stage-school approach which made early sound films look like a slow day in Noel Coward’s living room. These guys were allowed to mumble. They were required to bump into the furniture.

If the upright style of Grant and Gable now looked old-fashioned, then the gesticulations of the silent era seemed positively antique. But even in that time, there were visionaries of naturalism. Some were actors, most notably Lillian Gish. One was a director, now forgotten, called Alice Guy-Blaché. Guy-Blaché’s cry was “BE NATURAL”. She had the motto hung on her studio wall.For more information on Ms Guy-Blaché, and for a chance to support a new film about her career, visit the Kickstarter site by following the link here!

And be natural.Lillian Gish

Posted by Kevin McGee

Midweek Matinee

lantern logoClick Image to vew lantern.mediahlist website

An extraordinary new resource for early film buffs has just gone live. Lantern.mediahist.org is an online collection of film books and magazines from the earliest days of film up to 1963. it is fully searchable, and all the materials may be downloaded and reused.

Rex Ingram's Four Horsemen of the Apocalyse

A sample search for “Rex Ingram” returned 1,707 entries. Some of these will refer to the actor of the same name, of course, but within minutes I was reading an on-set report from our director’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Ingram had just been clattered with an umbrella, wielded by a sweary Algerian dwarf.

Will retribution follow? If you want me, I’ll be in 1924.

 

Posted by Kevin McGee

Midweek Matinee

Jay Stowitts with Rex IngramJay Stowitts as the Satyr in The Magician with Great Silent Film Director Rex Ingram, Cannes, 1926

We hope to have news soon about a Dublin screening for Rex Ingram’s The Magician, with its Nenagh-premiered live soundtrack by Eoin Mac Ionmhain. Eoin’s work is stunning, of course, but is not the only composer or performer specializing in silent film. If you’re looking for the thrill of accompanied silents, we’ll bring you occasional news of other acts to look out for.

 The Cabinet of CaligariThe Cabinet of Caligari

Minima are making a big splash on the UK circuit, beloved of everyone from the Guardian to the plaid-sideburned trend-hounds of the Daily Telegraph. As well as old favourites like Nosferatu and Caligari, they bring an eerie touch to some of the silent era’s weirder efforts.

The Seashell & the ClergymanThe Seashell & the Clergyman

One of the more exciting oddities on Minima’s list is The Seashell and the Clergyman. Written by Antonin Artaud, and heavily influenced by Freud and Surrealism, it preceded the eyeball-splitting ant-fest Un Chien Andalou by a whole year.

Un Chien Andalou Un Chien Andalou

The British Board of Film Classification gave The Seashell and the Clergyman one of the greatest reviews ever. The film was “apparently meaningless,” they said, “but if there is a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable.”

 The ClergymanThe Seashell & the Clergyman

Case closed? Judge for yourself with a slightly blurry copy here on Youtube! Don’t forget to click learn more about today’s topic and also to view of the productions that are mentioned! Till next week then!

Posted by Kevin McGee

 

Midweek Matinee

MetropolisFestival News

If you’re passing through Colorado this month, perhaps unveiling a statue to Denver natives Myrtle and Lincoln Stedman, you should spend some time in Estes Park. In the first and third weekends of August, the beautiful Park Theatre will host films by Chaplin, Keaton, Arbuckle and other heroes of the silent era. Music will be provided by the improvising pianist Jordan McBeen.

 Park Theatre Colorado

The Park Theatre itself is no stranger to silent films. It opened in 1913, and will have shown some of these comic gems the first time around. Its distinctive tower, added in 1926, is a beloved local landmark. So if you’re curious to find out more about the theatre, and the festival, follow the link here: http://www.historicparktheatre.com

 Old Irish Cinema

Can any cinema in Ireland claim over a century of unbroken use?

Stedman & Myrtle Myrtle and Lincoln Stedman

Interested in Myrtle and Lincoln Stedman and knowing a bit more? Well then follow the link below:

www.earlysilentfilm.blogspot.ie

Posted by Kevin McGee

 

Midweek Matinee

Silent But Deadly: The Dawn of the Martial Arts Film

Greed

Ask a film buff for the longest silent movie ever made. Chances are, you’ll get the answer Greed. Erich Von Stroheim’s self-proclaimed master-work was the nine-hour tale of a young California miner who turns to dentistry, marries, wins the lottery, and ends up handcuffed to a dead man in the Nevada desert.

Erich von Stroheim

It was an extraordinary piece of work, as far as we can tell. Stroheim‘s script survives, as does the novel it was based on. Much of the footage has been lost, however. The best that can be seen now is a heavily-chopped copy. Even at two hours, it is occasionally a punishing experience. But how many works of narrative art could survive so well the loss of three-quarters of their length?

The Burning of the Red Lotus

It was nowhere near the longest silent, however. That honour may go to 1928’s The Burning of the Red Lotus. At 27 hours, it is better thought of as a series than as a single movie. Though it was entirely lost by 1940, it’s impact as the first major martial arts movie continued to be felt with a series of remakes extending through to the 1950s.

Enter the Dragon

To feel its impact today, we have to look at the works it influenced, even at second hand. So do yourself a favour. If you haven’t seen Enter The Dragon, or haven’t watched it since your misspent youth, dig out a copy this week. It is forty years old on Friday, and it hasn’t aged a day.

Posted by Kevin McGee

Midweek Matinee

THE EVEN OLDER OLD MAN AND THE SEA

 

Robert Redford has made a silent movie. And it sounds terrific.

 Robert Redford

In J.C Chandor’s All Is Lost he plays a lone sailor who runs into trouble on the ocean. Yes, it sounds very much like a rerun of The Old Man And The Sea. Astonishingly, Redford is now eighteen years older than Spencer Tracy was when he played Hemingway’s nameless old man in 1958.

 Old Man and the Sea

Tracy’s film was adapted by Peter Viertel and directed by John Sturges. For a meditative seafaring tale, it was surprisingly chatty. The Old Man talked so much, the marlin pretty much flung himself into the net.

All is Lost Poster

Redford’s film has no voice-over, no supporting cast, and no long monologues. We are promised a swear-word or two to keep things realistic. That sounds fair. Adrift on the Indian Ocean, even Mother Theresa might launch the odd volley.

 Lost at Sea Cat

All Is Lost gets a European release in December. Will we see it in Nenagh? Negotiations are under way.

 

Posted by Kevin McGee