Silents old and new


Neil Gaiman directing Statuesque, from

Keep the eyes peeled for two different approaches to the silent film on British television in the next couple or months or so. Firstly, comedian Paul Merton is continuing his mission to educate his great following in the art of silent cinema. Following on from his Silent Clowns series and Paul Merton looks at Hitchcock (not to mention his guide to early British comedy on the BFI’s Screenonline site), late 2009 or early 2010 will see Lost Silence (working title), a one-off documentary exploring early European cinema, with a 3x60mins series The Birth Of Hollywood scheduled for 2011 to coincide with what the BBC claims will be the 100th anniversary of the Hollywood film industry. Assuming the programme’s slot has not been decided as yet, they might like to take note of the generally accepted fact that the first film made in Hollywood was D.W. Griffith’s In Old California (shot in February 1910). Anyway, they say the series will “focus on the influence of early US cinema on today’s films“.

And there’s silent film today. Over Christmas Sky 1 will be screening 12 Days of Christmas, a 12-part series of specially-commissioned silent films, each of which will have a different writer and director. They include cult author Neil Gaiman, who has written and directed Statuesque, starring Amanda Palmer and Bill Nighy. Gaiman has blogged about the eight-minute film’s production on his website. Other films in the series (produced by Hilary Bevan Jones for Endor Productions) will include Three Kings, a new take on the Biblical tale written by novelist William Boyd and directed by Richard Eyre, and playwright Jez Butterworth collaborating with director Ian Rickson. Tony Grisoni, Terry Gilliam’s regular screenwriter, is another scheduled contributor. So we must wait and see (or for those like the Bioscope who don’t subscribe to Sky, not see at all, at least until the DVD gets released).