Keystone and Laila

More good news from the fine people at Flicker Alley. Firstly, they are issuing Chaplin at Keystone, a 4-DVD set of Charlie Chaplin’s work at his first film studio. With the support of the With the support of Association Chaplin (France), Flicker Alley have rounded up 35mm full aperture, early-generation materials (few original negatives survive) through a process of international collaboration, working with the BFI National Archive, L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive, with the results being digitally refurbished by Lobster Films in Paris. They then added muscial accompaniment by Eric Beheim, Neil Brand, Antonio Coppola, Frederick Hodges, Stephen Horne, Robert Israel, Rodney Sauer, The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Ethan Uslan, and Ken Winokur with Tillie’s Nightmare, all of which makes this sound the definitive package.

Completely definitive? They haven’t released a title list as yet, but presumably the set can’t include the recently-discovered A Thief Catcher, in which Chaplin makes a bit part appearance as a Keystone Kop. Film history just won’t stand still, not even silent film history.

Part of that not standing still is uncovering new classics so that we constantly refresh the canon and rediscover what is greatest about the silent film. And it is particularly pleasing to see that Flicker Alley have taken note of the great reception the Noregian silent Laila (1929) received at Pordenone a couple of years ago (see the Bioscope’s enthusiastic report on what it declared to be the film of the festival). It’s not given on the Flicker Alley site as yet, but a picture of a DVD cover has appeared on their Twitter page, just to whet our appetite. Laila is a thrillingly dramatic and romantic drama of tribal passions amid the Norwegian snows, and is the sort of film to which you might take a silent sceptic to see and then tell them – there, that’s what I mean, that’s why these films are so good, that’s why you don’t need dialogue and you don’t want a soundtrack. And they will be forced to agree with you. It’s a bold move by Flicker Alley to pick up on a film which doesn’t figure in any of the film histories outside the Scandanavian ones. Don’t miss it when it comes out.