London Film Festival

Blind Husbands

Blind Husbands, from

The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival (to give it its name in all its full glory) runs 17 October-1 November, and the programme is now out. As usual there’s the ‘Treasures from the Achives’ section, and in keeping with the LFF’s ethos as a festival of festivals, the section presents the best of the archive restorations that have appeared over the past year. The silent selections (made by Clyde Jeavons) are:

Blind Husbands (US 1919). Erich von Stroheim’s first film has been unavailable in its original version since twenty minutes were cut for an American re-release in 1924. This restored version by the Austrian Filmmuseum from a tinted Austrian release version may be the nearest yet to a complete work, bringing back as it does eight minutes to this drama about a callous seducer (von Stroheim, naturally) in the South Tyrol. (90mins. Tue 23 Oct 18:15, NFT1)

The Barker (US 1928). Directed by George Fitzmaurice, this was a silent completed in 1928 which subsequently had Vitaphone talking sequences added to make it a part-talkie. It stars Milton Sills as a carnival barker, Betty Compson as his mistress, with cinematography by Lee Garmes. The print is from the UCLA Film and Television Archive, whose Bob Gitt is the acknowledged master of early sound (especially Vitaphone) restorations. (87mins. Fri 26 Oct 18:15, NFT3)

Everybody’s Business (UK 1917) and The Woman’s Portion (UK 1918). These are two British propaganda films from the First World War, presented by the Imperial War Museum Film & Video Archive. The first is about not wasting the food. The second, extraordinarily, shows (according to the programme) “a woman receiving a telegram saying her husband is ‘missing believed killed’, which turns out to be a government deception to mislead the enemy”. It would be interesting to learn at whom the message was directed. Two other shorts, an animation film The U-Tube (1917 – now there’s a familiar-sounding title) and The Secret (1918) are also featured. (Sun 21 Oct 13:30, NFT3)

Also part of the festival is a screening in Trafalgar Square on 18 October of the silent version of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Blackmail (192), accompanied by Ivor Montagu’s delightful comic short, Blue Bottles (1928), starring Elsa Lanchester. Neil Brand provides the live piano score. The following day John Sweeney is the pianist in Trafalgar Square for Capital Tales, a selection of 100 years of London on film, with many silents. Both screenings begin at 18.30.

Look out also for a present-day quasi-silent, Guy Maddin’s Brand upon the Brain! (2006), enticingly described as a combination of “teen detective serials and expressionist horror … repression, revelation, sexual neuroses, family conflicts and bad science…” (95mins Sat 20 Oct 18:30, NFT1 / Wed 24 Oct 13:30, Odeon West End)

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