Bioscope Newsreel no. 3

Silent films and bedroom painting
Such is the title of an unlikely combination of 1910s non-fiction films and an exhibition of recent abstract paintings. Together they make up an exhibition at the Lab at Belmar, in Lakewood, Colorado. Silent Films features a continuous programme of travelogue, scientific and industrial films on three side-by-side screens, placing them outside of their historical context and highlighting their beauty and mystery. Learn more

Between the Devil and the deep blue sea
On stage at the Studio, Sydney Opera House, 17-28 June is Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, a fusion of theatre and silent film by British theatre company 1927, who take their name from the year of The Jazz Singer. The show was a hit at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and comprises ten ‘fractured fairy tales’ by writer, director and performer Suzanne Andrade, with animated sequences by Paul Barritt. Learn more

And finally…
Canadian experimental filmmaker Deco Dawson is enjoying a retrospective of his work. Inspired by silent films like his fellow Canadian Guy Maddin, Deco says, “What I appreciated about those early silent films is they really didn’t know how to make movies yet …” The Bioscope despairs. Learn more (if you must)

‘Til next time!

9 responses

  1. What I meant is (compared to what we fully expect movies to be, 90 years later) they (relatively speaking) didn’t yet know (everything about filmmaking that we now know…) how to make movies yet.

    Of course having made so many silent films myself, you must truly understand my heartfelt love for silent cinema, and appreciation for the period, the techniques and advanced understanding of film art that was practiced during this time. I was using cinema in its infancy as a metaphor for my own cinematic period of infancy. Might I add that “not knowing how to do things” is not always a “bad” thing. Although there was much development to come, the silent period’s achievements stylistically, narratively, and poetically far surpassed almost anything that has been accomplished in the 90-100 resulting years.

    However, quotes are never taken out of context, are they? No, a one line extract is surely something to dump upon. For shame.

    Deco Dawson

  2. Apologies for the facetiousness of picking on that one line. I am delighted to come across anyone working with film who is inspired by silent cinema and can employ its easthetics for their own creative strategies. I’ve been taking a look at your website, and I really admire what you are doing – the right spirit and aesthetic, without a hint of mere pastiche.

    That said, I still feel the need to defend silent cinema from a too common assumption (which one could infer from the news piece) that it was an underdeveloped or inferior stage in the history of cinema. It was what it was; its own mode of expression, developed at a particular time, which was eventually supplanted by other modes. Those modes (more naturalistic colour, sound-on-film etc) changed the means of expression, but I would argue against any suggestion that they improved it. Of course there were those at the time who were striving to develop colour, sound, new film stocks, new stylistic techniques, but that does not mean it was a limited cinema or one that thought of itself as limited. Your work alone tends to demonstrate the point.

    On balance, I think we may be arguing for the same thing.


  3. Luke,

    I too cringed when I read the article, with the comment being taken out of context, as is so often done. You must admit however that films between 1900 and 1910 did not achieve nearly the exhilaration that films between 1925-1929 did. Again this 1900-1910 period of infancy does in fact appear to be rough when measured against films of the late 20’s. I too was (metaphorically) an early 1900’s “filmmaker”, but the more films I made, the more assured I became, resulting in a firmer understanding of the filmmaking process, resulting in more mature and formal films — just as silent cinema had evolved into the late 20’s.

    That being said, from 1895-1918 there were many growing pains, 1919-1929 had amazing, mature growth. You see even within the silent period itself (and not the forthcoming sound, colour and stylistic techniques) there was was what we could call a period of “learning how to make movies.” This occurred again with the coming of sound, again with Technicolor, and now again with video.

    You must simply understand that the quote was out of context and I agree poorly phrased. The Wpg Sun however is written using the language of 4th grade children, so there isn’t too much discourse on the history of cinema and one filmmaker’s relative claim.

    Thanks for your insight,

    Deco Dawson

  4. Ah ha!

    … and I believe 1924 was the greatest year of silent cinema! We find our differences. Though I also believe many other periods to equal this great year of 1924 too.

    Ps: do you have access to any Paul Fejos work? I have a video of Lonesome, and have seen Broadway and the French Fantomas — but do I understand correctly, has a copy of The Last Moment surfaced?


%d bloggers like this: