A few of the fabulous things on my radar right now…
Edited by Tony Kaes and Cynthia Walk, this capacious website is a comprehensive source for anyone studying, or refreshing their interest in, Weimar Cinema. There are guides to where to watch films online, other useful websites, and more traditional publications. They also publish “scholarly web-based essays that benefit from moving images and links”, so get in touch if you have something you’d like to write for them. I really liked this, by Paul Flaig, on “Chaplin’s cinematic promise”. They also welcome submissions of archival material, dossiers and updates to their listings.
British Cinema: A Very Short Introduction, by Charles Barr (Oxford University Press)
An entertaining and very informative tour of British film history, starting from the silent days of course, but taking a more productive route than a simple chronological tour. Yet, Barr covers everything from Rescued By Rover to Hitchock, Quota Quckies, Powell and Pressburger, Ealing, the British New Wave and Chariots of Fire right up to titles as recent as Last Night in Soho. I particularly enjoyed the way he paired films to discuss them, eg comparing such near-simultaneous yet wildly different releases as Downton Abbey and Sorry We Missed You. When you finish reading this valuable book you are sure to immediately turn the TV on to Talking Pictures, and I don’t blame you.
Just consistently brilliant – a feather in London’s cap. Next up, an evening of treasures on 9.5mm including the masterpiece: The Wonderful Lie of Nina Petrovna.
Hollywood: the Oral History, by Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson (Faber)
I am reviewing this beautiful book for a magazine, so I should not give away any spoilers here. Suffice to say that this is as chatty, and anecdotal a way to discover the history of Hollywood as you’ll find. The transcripts are taken from the Harold Lloyd Seminars that began in 1969, and that determines who was asked and what they were asked about, but this is still a rare chance to hear about the early days of tinseltown from the mouths of those who were there at the beginning, from Raoul Walsh to Lillian Gish.
Casper Tybjerg on Benjamin Christensen
On the wonderful Stumfilm.dk, a comprehensive career overview of the Häxan director. “Even though ‘Häxan’ is indisputably his greatest work, all the elements that characterised the masterpiece – technical innovation, sense for the visual, and self-staging – were repeated in the important, yet tumultuous career, he made for himself both before and after the film.”
Adam Piron on The Daughter of Dawn
“As the preview video kicked in, my sight locked in on an extra in the near background. As I remember it, at that exact moment my perception of time began to blur like a slowed shutter… The background actor’s gaze rose to the screen, and it was in that moment that I realized I was looking at my great-great-grandfather, Tso-Odle, staring back into the camera. An ocean of time and family history melded into each other in that thirty-second clip, instigating some kind of psychic shift within me.” A fantastic essay on the Criterion website. “A century after it was made, the film has become an even more invaluable record of the language as it was used by those who grew up conversing in it regularly.”
Three Minutes: A Lengthening (Bianca Stigter, 2022)
“Most memorials have names, dates and places. At first, this had none.” I wrote about this wonderful film in the current issue of Sight and Sound. It represents screen archaeology re-enacted before your very eyes, as the secrets of one short clip from a 1938 home movie are unearthed, revealing a terrible story of the 20th century.
Cinema’s First Nasty Women (Kino Lorber)
They may have been delayed, but you can’t stop these anarchic screen presences. This fabulous box set is released on 19 December.
Silent films at BFI Southbank
Slapstick Festival, 14-19 February 2023
The full programme is online now, so go check it out.
Hippodrome Silent Film Festival, 22-26 March 2023
The Silent London Poll of 2023…
Will be launching soon – watch this space!
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