Segundo de Chomón

I’ve just found about this rare screening of films by the Spanish director Segundo de Chomón, taking place at Tate Modern on Friday 6 July at 19.00pm. Segundo de Chomón is one of the masters of early fantasy film, overshadowed rather by Georges Méliès, but whose trick films are no less intoxicating or ingenious, filled as they are with sorcerers, mystics, devils and exotic dancers. The sixty-minute programme includes all these titles (several of which are coloured prints, heightening the exoticism of the scenes):

Poules aux Oeufs D’Or, 1905
Antre Infernal, 1905
Antre de la Sorcière, 1906
Spectre Rouge, 1907
Armures Mysterieux, 1907
Scarabée D’Or, 1907
Metempsycose, 1907
Excursion Incoherente, 1910
Legende du Fantôme, 1908

Stephen Horne is playing the piano, for what is an excellent programme of films little seen but once seen unlikely to be forgotten. Early cinema was a magical place. Further information from the Tate site. It’s part of the Dali & Film season, and Dali would have loved them.

Infax and Open Archive

Infax is the BBC’s own programme catalogue, and as many will know a public version of this has been made available on the web for a year or so now. A revamped version has just been published, with a touch more design and in a fetching shade of pink, and it’s more than worth noting here for the details it has of television and radio programmes on silent cinema.

Given that it has 900,000 records (maybe half of the entire BBC output, but it predominantly records programmes that survive in the BBC archives), it’s a bit disappointing to find just 63 listed under the category ‘silent films’, but what’s there is fascinating enough, especially the records of older programmes with interviewees no longer with us.

For example, there’s the 1969 Yesterday’s Witness programme interviewing the 93-year-old British film director George Pearson, who directed his first film in 1914.

Or Michael Bentine’s 1969-70 television series Golden Silents, from the days when you could get thirty-part series on the history of silent films.

Or diverting magazine entertainment, such as Bob Langley chating to silent film pianists Florence de Jong and Ena Baga (doyennes of the National Film Theatre) for Saturday Night at the Mill in 1979.

It’s also worth seaching under the names of individuals who may not have been indexed under ‘silent films’, e.g. Georges Melies being discussed in a Horizon programme on special effects in 1974.

It’s mostly recent programmes that are recorded, and then usually items in arts programmes. Of course, its just the catalogue and not the programmes themselves. Those remain in the vaults, though the BBC has ambitious plans for substantial amounts of archive content to be released online, what’s called its Open Archive project. Closed trials of this are underway, and version one of a full service (subject to Public Value tests) could come in Spring 2008.