Tuesday, August 25, 2009

China, Canada, et cetera

Interesting post on the Bioscope blog concerning Chinese silent film, and where to find it on DVD. Like Japanese cinema, Chinese cinema remained silent well into the 1930s, and while the quality of this footage, if nothing else, may deny us finds like Criterion’s Silent Ozu collection, I’m certainly interested. Step one, for a miser like me, is trying to find a place in Toronto that carries this stuff, so I don’t actually have to order it...

An aside: One of the joys of writing this blog is the pressure it places on me to search for new titles to view and present to you. Even though I’ve seen far more silent films than anyone I know, every director and star I stumble upon opens up whole avenues of silent art I’ve yet to see. Could Ruan Lingyu be a future favourite of mine? Perhaps.

It gives me pause, though. The formative cinema of a nation as vast as China is virtually unknown to me—as are the pantheons of fledgling film from dozens of other countries. I think that four-fifths of all the silents I’ve seen (and I may be conservative in writing this) are either German or American. I kind of hate to admit that, but really, that’s four-fifths of what’s readily available to the average joe, at least in North America. Knowing there is SO much more out there is daunting on one hand, and exciting on the other. It’s a promised lifetime of scavenger hunts, rewarding fresh gems.

By the way, I had the pleasure this week of attending a screening of Dreamland: A History of Early Canadian Movies—a 1974 documentary produced by Canada’s National Film Board (NFB). Fascinating stuff, as the history of Canadian-produced cinema pre-1939 is an unrivalled tale of corporate ass-kissing and U.S.-directed genuflection, amounting to nearly zip. It was enough to make you pull your Maple Leaf to half-mast... but on the other hand, there were many Canadians who did all they could to force a national cinema into existence, and their efforts led to some great things, even back then. Too bad the big boys lacked the will, or maybe the balls, to help them.

Oh, and many thanks to Toronto's Revue Cinema for providing the doc (and the Fleischer Superman short that preceded it!) I love those cartoons.

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