Slapstick Festival 2021: A Pair of Silk Stockings (USA, 1918)

One of the only great things about the pandemic is that I can now digitally go to all the film festivals I can normally never go to, including the Slapstick Festival in the UK. A very accessible festival with a bunch of modern and non-silent stuff as well.

This movie took me completely by surprise. I picked it out of the schedule because of Constance Talmadge but it’s a good movie overall.

It’s a fun bedroom farce- or as Wikipedia primly puts it, “marital comedy”- with a bonus little kinky or transgender edge to it, which I truly was not expecting even though I know early film is like that.

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Le giornate del cinema muto 2020: Ballettens Datter (DK, 1913)

Ballettens Datter is a star vehicle for Rita Sacchetto, a very important avant garde ballet dancer of the early 20th century.

As far as movies go, this is silly but very watchable, especially for a 1913 feature, and worth it for the excellent cinematography and for Rita Sacchetto. I wouldn’t call her the greatest actress, but she has an extremely compelling and charismatic screen presence, and it’s easy to imagine her holding a whole theatre spellbound.

Spoilers for a 107 year old movie.

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Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2020: Where Lights Are Low (USA, 1921)

This year Le Giornate del Cinema Muto is entirely digital, which is great because it means I can actually go! It’s super cheap, too.

On top of that it has a special gift for us nerds in the form of a new Sessue Hayakawa film.

The National Film Archive of Japan has restored this from a print in Belgrade. I can’t compare prints (obviously), but the restoration looked great. It was wonderfully scored by Philip Carli.

This movie is very silly, but I loved it.

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Filibus The Mysterious Air Pirate (Italy, 1915)

I’d seen Filibus The Mysterious Air Pirate a number of times already, because it happens to be one of my favourite silent films, but this was special.

Firstly because it was the first time I’ve seen it with live music and on a big screen. Secondly, the screening I watched was of the new restoration of it, which will be released by Milestone later this year, so that seemed like a good reason to review it. This is why I used two pictures pilfered from the Wexner Center for the Arts, because they are from the restoration, and you will see how superior the image quality is.

Filibus The Mysterious Air Pirate is the sort of silent movie I wish would be used to introduce people to silent film instead of things from the misguided and arbitrary silent canon. It really challenges popular perceptions of early film and even of the Edwardian/WW1 period, because it has a really progressive and unusual story, it’s fast-paced and easy to follow, and it’s not too long.

Spoilers for a 104 year old movie! Also, read the awesome Silents, Please! review.

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L’ Uragano (IT, 1911)

When I get bored, I turn to the Desmet collection, and it never fails to give me something interesting.

L’Uragano is an early drama by Pasquali film, an important and influential early studio.

Gretha/Renata has to get a job after her parents die, but gets mixed up with human traffickers who force her to work in an upscale brothel, the “Salon”.

Rudolf/Andrea is a fuckboy who has been seeing Agatha/Clotilde, whom he does not love (why see her, then, Rudolf?). He sees Gretha and falls in love with her but loses track of her on the street; he ghosts Agatha to try to find her. Agatha finds out he’s ghosted her and vows revenge.

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Il Cinema Ritrovato: Lights of Old Broadway (USA, 1925)

Il Cinema Ritrovato had a focus on early colour film this year. Early colour film is one of my favourite things so I tried to watch as many as possible. Lights Of Old Broadway was part of this programme.

lights of old broadway

It starts with a set-up I know well from Bollywood movies: two twin girls, found orphaned on a ship sailing towards the US, are separated and given to two very different foster families. One (goody goody brunette Anne) goes with the rich New Yorkers the de Rhonde’s and one (messy blonde Fely) goes with the poor Irish immigrants the O’Tandy’s.

Turns out Anne’s family own the slum Fely’s messy and violent Irish family live in and want to turn them out. BUT at the same time Anne’s brother falls in love with Fely. Will everything work out?

Yes.

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Il Cinema Ritrovato: Shiraz (India, 1928)

This year I went to Il Cinema Ritrovato for the first time, along with silentsplease and some other friends. I had a really fantastic time; with my friends ❤ of course but I also loved the festival. The selections were so great I had trouble choosing and the way it’s set up makes it really easy to run into people as well as meet.

For more reviews (some of things I also watched) go visit silentsplease. I’ll post about some of the films I watched which I found significant, the first of which is the BFI restoration of Shiraz. Indian silent film, two of my greatest interest combined into something greater. The restoration was excellent, beautiful quality and a wonderful score by Anoushka Shankar.

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