Lights and shades on the South Bank

The British Film Institute has rebranded its exhibition operations on London’s South Bank as BFI South Bank. The National Film Theatre is still there, in the guise of the three cinemas NFT 1, 2 and 3, but there is a new entrance adjacent to the National Theatre, and major new space occupying part of what was previously the Museum of the Moving Image. At the centre of this new space is the Mediatheque, and the March/April programme for BFI South Bank indicates some of the programming that will be available for free via its ‘viewing stations’.

The films, all from the BFI National Archive, include some eye-catching silent material. The full list of Mediatheque titles has yet to be published, but the programme promises us such gems as A Kiss in the Tunnel (1899), Bradford Coronation Procession (1902), Pimple’s Battle of Waterloo (1913) (a hilarious Pythonesque spoof of the British and Colonial film The Battle of the Waterloo) and Anna May Wong in E.A. Dupont’s marvellous Piccadilly (1929). But it is in the ‘Pandora’s Box’ section that the real gems may be found. Here are some of the hidden favourites of the Archive. They include the mindboggling Lights and Shades on the Bostock Circus Farm (1911), a conventional ‘interest’ film about a circus which suddenly veers into high drama when the circus’ favourite elephant dies, and The Scarlet Woman (1924), a lurid amateur-made satire of the Catholic church starring Evelyn Waugh and Elsa Lanchester, before either became famous. The programme gets published online on 14 March.