Friday, March 24, 2006

No speak?

I have 15 minutes to play before my dinner is ready, so this had better be quick.

No aural explosion as yet, thanks to those who asked. Meant I couldn't hear one of my bosses calling me today, though she was only a desk away.

Went last night to a discussion of British silent films at the NFT. M'colleague Matthew Sweet was on the panel, and there were clips of his forthcoming "Silent Britain", which looks just as whizzo as you'd expect. There was a proper preview after this debate, but being a clot I'd misunderstood you had to buy separate tickets. So we skulked off home early.

The panel were keen to enthuse that silent film deserves a larger audience, and much mention was made of the Good Stuff - the films, the actors, the direcors, what did cool films before people invented talking.

Having shamefully not yet read Matthew's book (it's only just come out in paperback, and I am still up to my elbows in Venice) we did feel a bit ignorant about who and what they were talking about, and it all felt a bit technical and for those-in-the-know. But that's rather to be expected given where it was, and the clips from the documentary itself were a bit damn good. Look out for that.

We also got seven whole minutes from "Piccadilly", with new music by Neil Brand (also sat on the panel). It showed the shocking goings on in a gin joint, with people asleep at their drinks, and ladies dancing in a manner most unladylike. Sex and booze and violence and race, and some rather nice camera tricks and set-ups. Star Anna-May Wong was also the sultry sidekick in Shanghai Express, of course (he says, having just read it here).

I was also thrilled by a projected still from an early sci-fi something, with the clocktower of the Palace of Westminster (yes, the one with Big Ben in it) dwarfed by the space-age skyscrapers either side. And the air full, of course, with new-fangled bi-planes.

And the programme notes the NFT does speak of a film in which we see
"the channel tunnel blown to smithereens by a terrorist bomb"
and from before 1929. You can't leave it there, you rotters! What, and when, and is yet on a DVD?

The big thing, though, was the problem of getting Joe Public interested in this stuff. One suggestion was that it needed a better name that "silent film", and something more snappy than "British film from earlier than 1929". "Live cinema" suggested Neil Brand, who had spoken of live scores and the sense of occasion you just don't get watching at home.

Having already mourned the loss of all the people who worked in the industry - there's only a handful of survivors still living for Sweet to interview, for example - that seemed rather good.


Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed your Benvenuti in Italia. The chunnel film you seek is probably High Treason, from 1929. MJ Simpson has much to say about it here (little of which is encouragaing, but tant pis, as they say in Boulogne).

0tralala said...

"Unfortunately, High Treason turns out, after all that, to be rubbish."

Ho hum. But cheers for the link anyway.