So far in our end-of-the-year posts, we have looked at some of the leading books published in our field over the year, and some of the top DVD releases. We’ve also reviewed the year in general. Now let us turn to a selection of some of the best in silent-themed videos that have either appeared online this year, or which we have discovered for the first time this year in the course of writing the blog. It’s an entirely personal choice, and limited also to those titles that can be embedded here. But just enjoy.
Variation: The Sunbeam, David W. Griffith, 1912 (2011)
This inspired interpretation by Aitor Gametxo of D.W. Griffith’s The Sunbeam (1912) deconstructs and reconstructs the film according to its spatial logic by showing the different floors and rooms of the tenement in their respective areas of the screen. As my post on the video says, it’s an object lesson in seeing how silent films (or any other kind of film) works.
Raymond Rohauer presents The Sneeze (1970)
I learned about this comic gem through the Nitrateville site. It was made by David Shepard in 1970 and gleefully spoofs the over-presentation of silents from another age (thankfully), pointing the finger not only at notorious collector Raymond Rohauer (who reportedly found the film hilarious) but at the ponderous long introductory titles which some archives (notably MOMA) used to give to silents. The film being given the weighty introduction is Edison’s Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894), featuring Fred Ott.
The Force That Through The Green Fire Fuels The Flower (2011)
It’s only a 24-second trailer for what is an eight minute film, but this modern silent by Otto Kylmälä caused a sensation at Pordenone, as the audience saw just what a modern silent can be. Let’s hope it appears in its entirety for all to enjoy before too long.
The Evidence of the Film (1913)
One of the highlight online video collection of the year has been the Thanhouser Vimeo channel. Ned Thanhouser, who works tirelessly to promote the appreciation and preservation of the Thanhouser film company’s surviving work has made all of their surviving films to which he has access available online. Here’s a classic self-referential drama from 1913.
Clog Dancing for the Championship of England (1898)
This was my favourite discovery from the Huntley Film Archives’ YouTube Channel, a joyous 1898 Robert Paul film of the world clog dancing championships, won by James G. Burns, as we learned after family members got in touch. I can’t really say what it is about very early films that delights me so, except that this is the kind of film that delights me in particular. It’s just a happy film.
A welcome discovery this year was the Silent Stories channel which curates modern silent films of the non-pastiche kind, which is the kind we much prefer. Rêverie by Jaro Minne is a wistful, skilful example of how to tell stories through looks.
Percy Pilcher (1897)
I made my own contribution to YouTube this year, a re-animation of the seven frames that survive (reproduced in a newspaper) of the British aviator Percy Pilcher taking off on his glider for a few seconds on 20 June 1897, discussed in our post on early aviation films. Fleeting it might be, but even seven frames is enough to gain some sense of history brought back to life.
The Bicycle Animation (2011)
A favourite post this year was one on the Phonotrope animations inspired by the work of animator Jim Le Fevre, which re-imagine pre-cinema technologies such as the Zoetrope to create new forms of animation. The video above, by Katy Beveridge, is a title discovered since, which went viral after it was picked up on the Boing Boing site and has now had over a million views. It just goes to show how we all delight in visual illusion.
The Magician (2009)
And then there’s my favourite video discovery of the year. Warm applause to Richcard Hinchcliffe for a witty piece that takes less time to watch than it took to type this sentence. It’s only five seconds long, but has such underlying truth. Watch, sigh, then move on.