Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

I’ve seen The Passion of Joan of Arc five times—the first time on a VHS tape I bought new, based on recommendations alone. I never do that.

I watched the tape a second time at home, with a friend. We watched it in silence. When it ended, she stayed perched at one end of my couch-bed, turning only her head to give me her verdict. “Joan’s in pain the whole time,” she moaned. Not a criticism, exactly.

Third time was just me again. Fourth time was at Jackman Hall, in Toronto, with another friend. She said nothing when it was over; we left the theatre, ordered some takeout and trod through the slush to the car. “So…?” I prodded. She patted her sandwich, still wrapped. “So,” she said, “that was really high art.” That was all. What she’d felt, watching this film—this thing—was not quite entertainment. Nor was it was appreciation; it was almost concession. She felt confident enough to praise The Passion of Joan of Arc, but unqualified to appraise it—though in so many ways it was still a tiny, simple film.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Recommended Link, Facebook Ephemera

The guy at This Guy Over Here has reposted all my articles on Chaplin films as part of a blog-a-thon he's running. Merci, Guy (which rhymes, depending on where you are).

Speaking of links, this is a great time to remind you that Silent Volume has a Facebook page (see badge at right.) This page is growing fast (like my ego--look at me!) and is updated with little pieces and silent news more frequently than the blog. If you're on Facebook, and seriously, of course you are, please check out the page. I hope you like it, and then 'Like' it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Smile (2008)

As noted in my last post, the Toronto Urban Film Festival (TUFF) has announced its list of award-winning, minute-long, and 100-percent silent films for 2010. TUFF films, produced by new and established artists around the world, run in loops on the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC’s) platform-level information boards, operated by OneStop Media. The boards have no speakers, proving that silent film will—by god—live on. Sometimes we have no other choice.

With the recent winners on my mind, I decided I’d revisit a TUFF standout from the past. Smile, conceived and directed by Toronto-based photographer and blogger, Christos Tsirbas, won 1st place in TUFF’s 2008 competition. Now I have a few things to say about Smile, but first, have a look at this short interview I did with Christos earlier in the month. It’s always a treat to have my questions answered by the artist… hell, for me, it’s a treat when there’s somebody alive to ask.

Monday, September 20, 2010

2010 TUFF Winners Announced

I was pleased to be in attendance last night as the Toronto Urban Film Festival's 2010 category winners were honoured at The Drake, here in windy T.O. TUFF filmmakers face the unique challenge of producing a one-minute silent film--a truly silent film, since they run not in theatres, but on the speakerless transit-information boards that dot Toronto's subway platforms. As always, the creativity of artists within and this city and beyond it is inspirational.

All these films are worth watching (they're barely even a time commitment--so get cracking). I particularly recommend Paper Games and Scenes from a Separated Life.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Sitting Bull at the Spirit Lake Massacre (1927)

Chief Yowlachie was a powerful, resolute-looking man; handsome with high cheekbones and copper complexion; firm of frame and tall-seeming, if not actually tall. With presence alone he invested his eponymous character in Sitting Bull at the Spirit Lake Massacre with the gravity needed to be a believable spiritual and political leader in a time of war. And with his acting, he made Sitting Bull a crook. That he could be both, and still a bit sympathetic, makes Spirit Lake Massacre a more interesting film than it’s actually trying to be.