Do you know what? There’s quite a lot being said about the modern silent film at the moment. Some film called The Artist, an affectionate pastiche of the silent era in a silent film style has set the film world’s hearts a-flutter. There’s even talk of it being favourite for the Academy Awards this year. Well, well.
It’s a phenomenon we ought to comment on, perhaps when we’ve had a chance to see the film. But here at the Bioscope we’ve been championing the modern silent film for quite a while now, and what interests us is not so much films that ape the styles of the past but rather those films which think in a silent way about the world today. And there are a great many of these films, not much in the cinemas, but usually turning up in short film festivals and now most likely to be found online. The considerable creativity they often display in by-passing dialogue needs championing, because increasingly they represent a genre all of their own.
One such champion is Lemo (aka Guihelm), filmmaker and creator of Silent Stories, a channel on Vimeo which curates examples of short modern films made wordlessly which are to be found on the Vimeo site. A couple have featured on the Bioscope already, but most are new to me, and each has been selected with care. They are not simply films made without speech as a trick but rather each demonstrates how the discipline of telling a story through images alone sharpens the observation and wit of the best filmmakers.
There are around thirty to view so far, such as the expertly handled Common Practice (shown above), by Marcus Efron, in which a Mexican-American boy’s talent brings together a disparate Latino community in Los Angeles. See how character and situation are subtly delineated through what we are allowed to see – though music plays a key part in the film. This is where the enduring art of silent film lies.
Or try out Jason Wingrove’s Moving Day, only just posted on Vimeo, which comes garlanded with awards from various short film festivals. Be warned, it starts out ever so sweet, but things don’t quite turn out that way.
Michel Hazanavicius, do take note.