Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Excerpt from Japanese Live-action Metropolis

...no, not really. But that was Roger Ebert's joke when he first tweeted this today. And that's all the excuse I need to post something this cool.

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Potemkin trailer released

2010: the Year of the Silent.

2011's looking good too.

This new 35-mm print of The Battleship Potemkin is cleaner and crisper than any I've seen. And I don't remember colour, either.

Here's my post on the film: http://silent-volume.blogspot.com/2010/11/battleship-potemkin-1925.html

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Carol (1910)

Fixed-camera silents are the most maligned, least appreciated form of film. Made from the 1890s to about 1916, they pre-date the mastery of pans, zooms, close-ups and other techniques we now consider basic to filmmaking. They’re blatantly theatrical in style and staging. They receive little attention, even from lovers of silent film, and when they are discussed, it’s usually in terms of what they lack. They’re treated as artifacts, not art.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tramp @ TIFF...

...at TIFF's Bell Lightbox, specifically. For those of you in need of a yuletide break in the action (my hand is slowly rising from the keyboard as I type this), the Toronto International Film Festival is screening some of Charlie Chaplin's finest films. Up first is a double bill: Pay Day (1922) followed by Modern Times (1936); playing today and again on the 25th. Pay Day is one of Chaplin's very best shorts--my personal favourite, though I have yet to see his recently restored Keystone work, so I can't say, definitively, that it's his greatest. Modern Times is a classic of world cinema. Both films have been featured here on Silent Volume, so please give these posts a read before heading over to watch them again:

For more on TIFF's Chaplin lineup, which also includes some of his sound features, click here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Some Assembly Required (2010)

Playing a film backwards may be the oldest camera trick there is. At least as old as 1896, when distributors of the Lumière short Démolition d'un mur (Demolition of a Wall) ran their film through projectors in reverse. The rubble rose from the ground, reconstituting itself before the workers like a stone golem, and the tent-going audience, I imagine, thought the world of it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Line-up Announced for Toronto Silent Film Festival

As lover of silent film--and a Torontonian--I'm pleased as punch to post this. The Toronto Silent Film Festival, running March 30th to April 7th, 2011, will offer a banquet of brilliant crowd-pleasers, along with some rarities you've likely never seen, nor even heard of. And as one of the Festival's programmers, I can personally vouch for the professionalism and commitment of all those involved. The TSFF full programme is HERE.

"See you in the Spring!"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Re-Post: Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean (1992)

Christmas is a time of family get-togethers, long car rides and gratitude for gifts received. So more often than not, the less said during Christmas time, the better. With this platitude in mind, let’s turn our attention to Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean, a 26-minute short starring an actor who says almost nothing at all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Holiday Pageant at Home (1901)

“A few days before Christmas…”
…five childrens’ furrowed faces break to grins.
They set aside their books and magazines
And greet the man of means who sired them;
The man whose wealth of festive cheer inspires them
To learn the lines of pageant script their mother’s writ.

“Christmas Eve—The Prologue…”
…in which, in matching white, the girls duet.
At left their parents primly sit, and
gently praise each poorly practiced pageant step,
each ode half-hearted—oh, they would so envy me,
These parents—forced to hear what I but see.

“The Play…”
…is mostly pantomimed domestic fray:
A son and daughter, accoutered like their
Mother and father, dress down their sister.
Tapping fingers in her face in mock debase
‘til littlest brother drives them off with knife
And gun—I’m guessing each a phoney one.
It’s hard to tell the difference, from this distance,
‘tween a toy gun and a real one, and
I can’t afford a closer look at either.

“The Author’s Reward…”
…the performance ended, the children bedded,
Father takes his author bride in-hand; with
Victorian decorum, grants her kiss;
Spawns her grin, a touch of cheeks; a blushing.
They murmur, tenderly.
Though like the childs’
tuneless renderings it is, to me, Inaudible.
Mute as an empty box or a cold bed;
As soundless as the Ghost of Poverty,
Who, through this froze and gilded window, peers.
Apprehending richness nestled near:
The spoils of another’s fortunate year.

Where to find A Holiday Pageant at Home:
This five-minute short is the first selection on Kino Video’s A Christmas Past, a DVD that also includes films by D.W. Griffith and Edwin S. Porter.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Silent Volume: Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu plays tonight and tomorrow evening at Toronto's Bell Lightbox. Here's my original post on that film, which reconsidered its humour in light of a new score... approved by the director himself:

Silent Volume: Nosferatu (1922): "What’s left to say about Nosferatu? It’s among the most visible of silent films today; perhaps only Metropolis (1927) has been seen by more..."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Repost: The Lost World (1925)

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is screening The Lost World today at the Bell Lightbox. Here's my post on that memorable film, from way back in Fall '09:

Silent Volume: The Lost World (1925): "Evolve or perish. It’s a maxim in the movies as it is in nature. Willis O’Brien took these words to heart; we’re fortunate he did so. Like..."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Daily Violence (2010)

I’m not that busy.

Yeah, I’ve got a lot going on, this blog included. I have my obligations, and oh, they do seem to press. But I also have everything I need to meet them. I have food, shelter and ready cash. I have a phone and a computer. I live in one of the world’s safest, most efficient cities. I’m supported by an infrastructure so well-maintained that I cease to think about it at all, except in the rare cases when it fails. And when that happens—when, for example, Toronto’s subway trains halt in their tunnels, I can measure that failure in minutes lost. Not lives lost. In convenience—not quality of life—compromised.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hungry? Feed.

I've had several requests to provide a feed for Silent Volume.... so bon appetit, faithful readers. A link should appear on the right. If this does not work, please inform me right away. Service is everything.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)

Louise Brooks and director G.W. Pabst collaborated on two films in 1929. The first, Pandora’s Box, centres on an enigmatic prostitute who’s both predator and prey to the misogynistic males around her. The second is Diary of a Lost Girl.

You’ll see the same Louise Brooks in both films—the same iconic body and face, given the same emphasis by Pabst’s dreamy lens. But while Pandora is a philosophical film, asking complex questions about culpability and lust, Diary is merely decorative. Where Pandora uses style to make a point, Diary is satisfied with style itself.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Higher Scores

I’m not a musician, so I can’t fully appreciate the challenges of composing a silent film score. But as someone who watches a lot of silent films, I’m pretty sure those challenges begin well before the first notes are arranged. They begin with a choice of which master to serve.