René Clair was one of France’s most celebrated auteur directors, who made great films in both the silent and sound eras and on each side of the Atlantic. We’re thrilled that our festival will host the UK premiere of Lobster Films’ new restoration of his first feature film, Le fantôme du Moulin-Rouge (The Phantom of the Moulin Rouge, 1925). And we’re even more excited to say that this screening will be accompanied by two of our favourite musicians, multi-instrumentalist Stephen Horne and harpist Elizabeth-Jane Baldry.
Although Clair is credited, quite rightly, with one of the most sophisticated transitions to the talking pictures with the eloquent sound design of Sous les Toits de Paris (Under the Roofs of Paris, 1930), his silent work is particularly fascinating and has been overlooked by too many people. His silent work combines the avant-garde, the comic and the fantastical to make films that are filled with beauty and wonder, as well as humour. Continue reading →
Von Morgens bis Mitternachts (From Morn to Midnight, 1920)
This year, the British Silent Film Festival is commemorating the anniversary of the birth of the Weimar Republic. This means we will be looking both at some acclaimed German films of the 1920s, but also international co-productions and those British films that betray the clear influence of Weimar cinema. We are also exploring the origins of the horror genre, as the nights draw in. So there is no finer way to begin our festival than with an influential and bold classic of German Expressionist cinema. We want to create the perfect atmosphere too, so our opening night movie will screen at the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester, which is home to an internationally acclaimed collection of Expressionist art.
The film we are screening is Karlheinz Martin’s From Morn to Midnight (1920) – a bold film that epitomises the styles and concerns of German Expressionism. The Expressionist movement moved from fine art – distorted perspectives and artificiality combine with thick, obvious brush strokes to create a visual representation not of naturalism but of the artist’s innermost psychological turmoil – to the theatre . From Morn to Midnight was made very shortly after the famous The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919), which has widely been celebrated as the first true Expressionist film. It shares with that film a sense of foreboding and introspection, a feeling that the outside world is filled with danger – and of course a heavily stylised, theatrical production design.
Adolph Philipp and Marie Pagano in The Midnight Girl (1919)
We’re standing on the verge of the Roaring Twenties all over again. It’s often instructive (and fun!) to look back at how cinema has advanced in a century and 1919 was a particularly strong year for the movies. As the Cento anni fa strand at Il Cinema Ritrovato proved this year, many films we now acknowledge as silent classics were released just before the feted 1920s began. In 1919, the war in Europe had ended, Hollywood was growing strong, the feature film was rapidly becoming a fixture, and things were about to get very interesting in Germany. At the 20th British Silent Film Festival, we’re commemorating the anniversary of the Weimar Republic by looking at the fascinating German cinema of this period and its global influence too.
We’ll be screening several diverse films from 1919 at this year’s festival in Leicester: from Mauritz Stiller’s captivating Swedish drama Song of the Scarlet Flower starring Lars Hanson, to Maurice Elvey’s WWI movie Comradeship and Ernst Lubitsch’s frenetic comedy The Oyster Princess. One of the 1919 films on the slate is likely to be unfamiliar to most of us – The Midnight Girl, a charming two-reel comedy, which reveals the extent of the influence not just German culture but the New York stage had on mid-period silent cinema. Not only that, but our screening of the film will be very special.
Adolph Philipp, the writer and director of The Midnight Girl, was born in Germany but ran away as a teenager to join an acting troupe. In the early 20th century he opened a theatre in New York, where he staged many of his own musicals for the substantial German-speaking audience in the city, as well as selling his sheet music. Continue reading →
Sången om den eldröda blomman (The Song of the Scarlet Flower)
Dir: Mauritz Stiller, Sweden 1919, 1hr 41mins, recorded music.
A big-budget classic from the golden age of Swedish silent cinema starring Lars Hanson as the wilful homme fatale and farmers’ son Olof who is expelled from home after a familial disagreement. Olof joins an itinerant group of loggers who ride the rapids down the local river. But despite his bravado and logging prowess, Olof can’t forget a woman he left behind. Stunning location cinematography and a justifiably famous log-riding sequence highlight the relationship between humans and their magisterial landscape. The original music score by Armas Jarnefelt, who along with Sibelius was Finland’s most popular composer, is here reproduced to perfection.
rarities from the Archive Film Agency
Dir: Various, UK,
A selection of comedies and drama from the 1910s and early 1920s, recently digitised from nitrate originals by the Archive Film Agency and unseen in the UK for decades. A Merry Night is a drunken comedy with some disorientating special effects, The Nervous Curate and The Curate’s Double both feature hapless clergymen, always good for a joke as are henpecked husbands in Mr O’Kelly Takes His Missus to Southend. Part II of the programme changes tone and features H.B Parkinson’s 1922 A Tale of Two Cities with Clive Brook in an early role and Fred Paul’s 1921 The Oath made as part of the Grande Guignol series.
Below are just some of the films that we will be screening as part of the 20th British Silent Film Festival at the Phoenix in Leicester. We will post the final programme on the site once all films have been confirmed. More information to follow.
Comradeship (Maurice Elvey,UK, 1919)
One of the first British films made after the Armistice and the first produced by the Stoll Company. Comradeship covers the sweep of WWI on the home front and battlefield, on class relations, the role of women and the plight of wounded soldiers returning to civilian life. It was also one of the first films screen as part of the 1st BSFF in 1998. Starring Guy Newell, Gerald Ames and Lily Elsie. Introduced by Maurice Elvey expert Lucie Dutton.
Tell Me Tonight ( Anatole Litvak, UK/Ger, 1933)
An engaging musical comedy, starring Magda Schneider and Jan Kiepura, set in Switzerland and based around the popular song of the title. German star, Magda Schneider plays the local Mayor’s daughter and Kiepura , a famous Italian tenor who exchanges places with a fugitive in order to escape the limelight for a time. Tell Me Tonight was a German co-production, this time filmed in UFA’s Babelsberg Studios and directed by the talented Anatole Litvak. An engaging musical comedy set in Switzerland and based around the popular song of the title. German star, Magda Schneider plays the local Mayor’s daughter and Kiepura , a famous Italian tenor who exchanges places with a fugitive in order to escape the limelight for a time.
The Runaway Princess (Anthony Asquith and Fritz Wenhausen, UK/Ger, 1928)
A British –German co-production based on Elizabeth Russell’s 1905 riches-to-rags novel, Princess Priscilla’s Fortnight. Starring Mady Christians, Paul Cavanagh and Fred Rains . Christians stars as the lonely Ruritanian princess, betrothed to a man she has never met, who runs away to London with her professor (Rains) to escape her arranged marriage and meets the handsome detective sent in pursuit!