Toronto Silent Film Festival

Acknowledgments to the ever-useful The Silent Treatment (the online PDF silent film newspaper) for news of the Toronto Silent Film Festival, which had previously escaped the Bioscope’s radar. This is a new festival, running 6-15 April 2010, so congratulations to all involved on having set it up. Here’s the programme, taken from the festival’s website:

Opening Night:
Tuesday April 6 Casa Loma
Toronto Theatre Organ Society presents:
Seven Chances 1925 USA
Director: Buster Keaton
Buster Keaton, Snitz Edwards, T. Roy Barnes
56 min
b/w with 2-strip Technicolor sequence

Musical Interpretation: Clark Wilson on the Wurlitzer Theatre Organ

Buster thinks his luck has turned a corner when he’s left $7 million in a will. The hitch-he must marry by 7pm on his 27th birthday and guess which day it is. So after completely offending his girlfriend, he sets out to find a willing bride only to strike out all 7 times. His friends do him a favour and place an advert for a bride willing to marry for money. The first 45 minutes is a great comedy film, the last 15 sends it into the stratosphere of insanity with the greatest chase scene in film history.

Preceded by Big Business with Laurel & Hardy

Thursday April 8 Fox Theatre
The Black Pirate 1926
Director: Albert Parker
Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Billie Dove
2-Strip Technicolor
Musical Interpretation: Laura Silberberg
Film introduced by Taylor Whitney, Archivist, Preservation Specialist of “Preserving the Past”, Rochester NY

“One of the silent era’s most spectacular blockbusters.
Fairbanks’s astonishing acrobatics remain as dazzling and as fresh today.”
The world’s greatest swashbuckler, Douglas Fairbanks, takes to the sea with cutlass in hand for the first great pirate movie and a gorgeous example of early Technicolor.

Sunday April 11 Revue Cinema
The Forgotten Clowns of Silent Comedy

Films introduced by programmer Chris Seguin, writer
Six Short Comedies featuring;

Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle started out as one of Mack Sennett’s Keystone Kops, and quickly became Charlie Chaplin’s one serious rival. Nobody combined subtle charm with rowdy slapstick so artfully, and the innocent joy of 1919’s Love demonstrates precisely why he was so popular. Arbuckle’s career would be destroyed (unfairly) by scandal a few years later, but he would enjoy a comeback after a decade’s banishment from movie screens, just before his premature death at age 46 in 1933.

Lloyd Hamilton was, according to Charlie Chaplin, “the one actor of whom I am jealous.” His prissy, disapproving demeanour elevates the any-cliché-for-a-laugh approach of Breezing Along, where banana peels, exploding cigars and bum-pinching crabs are all par for the course. Consider yourself lucky that Breezing Along is still around to enjoy today – while Hamilton made more than 250 films in 20-year comedy career, most were destroyed in a studio fire in the 1930s.

Charley Chase’s sophisticated slapsticks of the 1920s seemed determined to prove one thing: folks back then sure liked sex. Men were wolfs, women were Hottentots, and Charley was generally caught in the middle. The split-second two-timing of Too Many Mammas was directed by Leo McCarey (The Bells of St. Mary, Duck Soup) while Charley’s starring series for Hal Roach Studios would last well into the ‘talkie’ era.

Snub Pollard started his film career as comedy sidekick to Harold Lloyd; when Lloyd moved on to bigger and better things, Pollard got his own starring series. His personality didn’t extend far beyond his hangdog moustache, but Snub could deliver a gag like nobody’s business – Looking For Trouble is the proof in the pudding. And we can guarantee you’ve seen this forgotten clown before – he’s the rain-soaked gent to whom Gene Kelly hands his umbrella at the end of Kelly’s classic Singin’ in the Rain number.

If Stan Laurel is remembered today, it’s as the wispy half of the comedy team of Laurel & Hardy. But the whimpering, slow-witted sidekick of pompous Oliver Hardy is nowhere to be seen in his solo work, where he’s usually a jackrabbit go-getter with more energy than brains. The Pest is a perfect example of Laurel’s fast & furious pre-Hardy style, and a great argument for having a giant catskin rug in the house at all times.

Goon-faced Larry Semon (a kind of a silent comedy precursor to Big Bird) had a simple philosophy: bigger is better. His films had the biggest pratfalls, the fattest fat men, and gooiest giant jars of jams and the most frantic finales. The Show doesn’t miss a trick, and includes the kind of budget-busting climax that made Semon a serious rival to Chaplin in the 1920s. (PC Warning: Black people will get white flour on their faces, white people will get black coal dust on their faces.)

Musical Interpretation: Andrei Streliaev

Tuesday April 13 Innis Town Hall

Man with a Movie Camera Soviet Union 1929
Director: Dziga Vertov

Musical Interpretation: Richard Underhill and Astrogroove

This exhilarating experimentation of filming and editing knocks the audience for a loop with its playful and provocative style. Its expression of ideas without words turns it from a documentary of the day of the life of a Soviet city to an escalating feast for the eyes. Climb into the time machine and try to figure out who is watching whom.

Closing Night:
Thursday April 15 Innis Town Hall


Spotlight on Germany Double Feature

Films introduced by Angelica Fenner, Associate Professor of German & Cinema Studies, U of T

Adventures of Prince Achmed Germany 1926
Director: Lotte Reiniger
Musical Interpretation: William O’Meara

The film print of Adventures Of Prince Achmed was made possible through the generous support of Liz Bartliff of the Sutton Group-Security Real Estate

German artist Lotte Reiniger took years to complete The Adventures of Prince Achmed, now the world’s oldest surviving animated feature. This is your chance to see her take on the Arabian Nights, in a fully restored print with vibrant tinting. Each of Reiniger’s all-black, jointed silhouettes moves fluidly against backgrounds recalling the ornate architectures of Ancient China and Persia. Beautiful or grotesque, locked in combat or touching their hands and lips to one another, her figures remain elegant, erotic and utterly human.

followed by…

Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt
Berlin, Symphony of a Great City Germany 1927
62 min
Director: Walter Ruttmann
Musical Interpretation: William O’Meara

The essence of the city and the intimacies of its people are captured in this fluid cinematic tone poem. The filmic composition creates a romanticized, abstract view. From the arrival in pre-dawn of a locomotive to the gritty realities and unsettling scenes that follow throughout the day and into the night, Berlin and its people never gives up on its sheer joy of life.

A fine introduction to silent film for anyone, and I like the phrase ‘musical interpretation’. Check the festival website for venue and tickets information, and useful information on the (mostly local) musicians involved.