Cinema Context

What is the finest film reference source on the Web, for all film let alone silent film? With all due respect to the Internet Movie Database, I think it is Cinema Context, a Dutch site created by Karel Dibbets and the University of Amsterdam. Describing itself as “an encylopedia of film culture”, the site documents film distribution and exhibition in the Netherlands in 1896. It does so through four data collections, on films, cinemas, people and companies, derived from painstakingly researched data on nearly all films exhibited in Dutch cinemas before 1960. The research team located film programmes from 1896 onwards in each of the major Dutch cities, entering all film titles, names, dates, cinemas etc, and then ingeniously matched this data to the records of these films on the IMDb.

The result is an incomparably rich resource for tracing films, the performers and the producers across time and territories, opening up whole new areas of analysis. Cinema Context also contains comprehensive data from the files of the Netherlands Board of Film Censors 1928-1960. As the site states: “Cinema Context is both an online encyclopaedia and a research tool for the history of Dutch film culture. Not only can you find information here about who, what, where and when: you can also analyse this information and study patterns and networks. Thanks to Cinema Context, we are now able to expose the DNA of Dutch film culture.” Naturally, it is available in both Dutch and English.

This is the new film research. Every nation should have the same.

The Bagman’s Bioscope

The word ‘bioscope’ next appears (see post on February 6th) in the title of William Bayley’s 1825 publication The Bagman’s Bioscope, an enertaining collection of anecdotes, stories, homilies and histories, described in the book’s subtitle as presenting Various Views of Man and Manners, Being the Points in Conversation in Commercial Room; Collected for the Use of Johnny Newcomes on the Road. A bagman was a travelling salesman. It was therefore presented as a handy collection of yarns for someone on the road to use. The use of the word ‘bioscope’ is not elaborated upon, so by this date it was presumably already understood to have a general sense of something that offered a view of life.

Where does the music come from?

Yet more from the indefatigable (if not indispensible) Neil Brand. He can be seen at the Barbican in London on Saturday 17 February, presenting a one-man show on the art of accompanying silent films with music, which is described as being “about music and film but also about storytelling, experience and laughter”. And then he turns up again on the Saturday playing piano to F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927). The weekend is part of the Barbican’s Silent Film and Live Music series, which runs until June this year.