Chinese classics


Koch Entertainment is releasing a number of DVDs of Chinese silents. This is excellent news. In 1995 the Pordenone Silent Film Festival put on a season of Chinese films from the 1920s and 1930s (silent cinema lasted for several years more than in the West) which were truly eye-opening. Here were dramas with the style, star quality and emotional power to match anything that Hollywood had produced at the peak of its silent production.

The titles announced are: Crossroads (1937) [sound]/Daybreak (1937) [silent], Street Angels (1937)/Twin Sisters (1934) , The Big Road (1934)/Queen of Sports (1934), and Romance of the Western Chamber (1927). The latter is released on 13 March; the others in May.

If you have to pick one title, go for Daybreak. This is one of the true classics of world cinema, let alone silent cinema. It’s a lush but moving melodrama in the Frank Borzage-style, poignant, lyrical, and starring the truly great Li Lili.

Details of all the DVDs (Region 1) can be found on DVD Planet. All have English titles.

Chaplin in Kyoto

2007 sees the thirtieth anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s death, and there are a number of events, publications and resources planned throughout the year. One such event is the 2nd Kyoto Chaplin Conference, held by the Chaplin Society of Japan. The Society’s site is rather confusingly advertising the conference as being in March 2006, but as the end date for the Call for Papers was 15 February 2007, presumably this is an error. The theme of the conference is Chaplin and War. The Kyoto Silent Film Festival takes place 24 March-1 April 2007 and includes a restored version of Shoulder Arms accompanied by the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, along with films about war by other artists, including King Vidor’s The Big Parade (restored version) and Japanese war documentaries. The programme will include a newly discovered fragment of film of the young Chaplin’s comic inspiration, the Spanish clown Marceline. The principal retrospectives are dedicated to D.W. Griffith, Sessue Hayakawa, and Japanese silent film comedians.

Other Chaplin events lined up around the world include a photographic exhibition, Chaplin in Pictures, which is touring Europe; and the completion by the Cineteca Bologna of its digitisation of the Charlie Chaplin Archive, which will go online in Summer 2007.

More information on Chaplin events can be found at