Bioscope Newsreel no. 35

Trailer for the other, not quite so heavily discussed 2011 silent feature film, Silent Life

Well, when we introduced the Bioscope’s Scoop It! news-gathering service for silent film-related subjects, I thought there wouldn’t be the need for our Friday newsreel any more. But such is the quantity of news stories that we are now scopping up, it seems all the more necessary to keep the newsreel going, to note the week’s leading stories, just for the record. So here they are.

The Artist, The Artist, The Artist…
The news-wires have been groaning all week with information on silent films, but it’s been almost all about the one film. The widely-acclaimed The Artist, which recreates the end of the silent filmmaking era as a silent film, has been released in the USA and is delighting critics and audiences alike. It’s even said to be a favourite for the Academy Award next year. Of the many reports on the film, we were especially intrigued by Tom Shone’s essay in Slate, which argues that The Artist, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin (eh?) are all part of a trend to bring back the purer values of silent cinema. Read more.

Valentino’s silent life
So are we going to start seeing more silent or pseudo-silent films produced? It doesn’t seem too likely, but the producers of Silent Life must be wondering whether The Artist‘s success is their lucky break or the worst thing that could have happened to them. For it too is a recreation of the silent film made as a silent film, this time telling the story of Rudolph Valentino. It’s a humbly-produced indie, though it does boast Isabella Rossellini in the cast, and there’s a website where you can find out more on its production (including the teaser trailer above). Read more.

And Hugo too
The Artist isn’t quite having things all its own way, news-wise, becuase Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, in part of homage to the early cinema period of Georges Méliès, is likewise enchanting all who see it. Among the many accounts of the film’s production, there’s a useful piece by Kristopher Tapley on HitFix which rounds up Scorsese’s film, the discovery of the colour version of Voyage dans la lune and its restoration, the music score by Air (due for release in extended form as an album), Méliès’s lasting influence, and the centenary of the first film made in Hollywood (which we all missed). Read more.

The art of the film improviser
Enough of all these 21st century attempts to remake the films of another era, let’s turn to 21st century attempts to provide the music for the films of that era. Moving Image Archive News has an interview with Neil (“doyen of silent film pianists”) Brand, which ranges eloquently and informatively over the many different aspects of Neil’s silent film career. As always with Neil, he makes sure you end up learning as much about the films and their contexts as you do about him. Read more.

Return to the Odessa Steps
Finally, courtesy of the tirelessly useful Silent London, we learn the intriguing news that Battleship Potemkin is to be given the flash mob treatment. Tomorrow, 26 November, the iconic Odessa Steps sequence will be recreated on the Duke of York steps next-door to the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. A mixture of actors and volunteers will take part in three recreations, which will be filmed on mobile phones (naturally) for the delectation of posterity. Troops with rifles, panicking people and a pram are all promised. Cinema will never look the same again. Read more.

All these stories and more on our new news service.

‘Til next time!

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