Bioscope Newsreel no. 37

Trailer for Sailcloth

Here we are at the end of a blustery week, and once again we have for you the latest edition of the Bioscope’s infrequent, but never irrelevant, round-up of some of the recent happenings in our world of silent films.

Méliès on Blu-Ray
Georges Méliès’s Le voyage dans la lune / A Trip to the Moon (1902) is to get the Blu-Ray treatment. Lobster Films have just announced that their famous colour restoration of the film is to be the centrepiece of a Blu-Ray release to be issued (in France at least) on 26 April. There aren’t many details as yet, but the disc will include these other Méliès titles: Le Chevalier mystère / The Mysterious Knight (1899), L’antre des esprits / The House of Mystery (1901), Le royaume des fées / Fairyland: A Kingdom of Fairies (1903), Le tonnerre de Jupiter / Jupiter’s Thunderballs (1903), Les cartes vivantes / The Living Playing Cards (1904), and Le chaudron infernal / The Infernal Boiling Pot (1903). Read more.

Poland online
Poland’s minister of culture has announced that (apparently) the entirety of the country’s existing pre-war film archives are to be digitised and made available on the Internet via Europeana, the European Commission’s ambitious digital portal project, just as soon as the relevant copyrights have expired. When this all may be happening has not been said as yet. Read more.

Silents at the Oscars
It may not have escaped your attention that a silent film is being talked about as a favourite for a Academy Award, but what about the other silent film in contention? Sailcloth is a British short film starring John Hurt, made entirely without dialogue, which is in contention for the Oscar for live action short. Do we have a trend emerging here? Read more.

60 seconds of solitude
We could very well have a trend. 60 Seconds of Solitude in the Year Zero is the somewhat portentous title of a collaborative film made in Estonia employing 60 filmmakers from around the world who were each asked to shoot something of one-minute’s length on the theme of the death of cinema, choosing as a motif one of five elements: earth, wind, fire, water, spirit. While you ponder what cinema about the death of cinema actually means, there’s the information that all but two of the films are silent, and in performance the film has been shown with live musical accompaniment. Read more.

What the Dickens
Charles Dickens is enjoying his 200th anniversary, so to speak, and the Bioscope will be joining in with the festivities with a suitable post in due course. Meanwhile, the British Film Institute has kicked off a three-month season of adaptations of the man’s great works, including a number of silents: a programme of pre-1914 shorts, Jackie Coogan in Oliver Twist (1922), Cecil Hepworth’s charming David Copperfield (1913) and John Martin Harvey recreating his famous stage role in The Only Way (1926), an adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities. Read more.

Keep up with the news on silent films every day via our regular news service.

‘Til next time!

Bioscope Newsreel no. 36

Spot the difference

It is hard for any news provider to offer a full service at Christmas time, but even harder for the person trying to document silent films when there is only one story on everyone’s minds. The newsfeeds are choc-a-bloc with reviews of The Artist and thought pieces on what it all means when a silent film gets made in 2011. Part of the same silent mania is Martin Scorsese’s cine-nostalgic Hugo, and it only takes two films on a broadly similar theme for the world to discover a trend and seek to explain it. But we shall do our best to report what is worth reporting. And so we start with …

Silent films after The Artist and Hugo
Daniel Eagen at the Smithsonian’s rather fine Reel Culture blog takes a wry look at the impassioned debates both The Artist and Hugo have caused, viewing with amusement both those instant experts on silents who have hitched onto the bandwagon and the ‘film geeks’ who are agonising over the fine details. What is it that is so different about silent films? Eagen suggests that there probably isn’t anything different at all. Maybe they are just films, much like films of today. Read more.

Toronto Silent Film Festival
The schedule for the Toronto Silent Films Festival (one of the newer festivals out there) has been published. Lined up include Clara Bow in Our Dancing Daughters (1928), Murnau’s Tabu (1931), Rudoph Valentino in Blood and Sand (1922) and E.A. Dupont’s much-cited but not all that often seen Variety (1925). The festival runs 29 March-3 April 2012. Read more.

The birth of promotion
New York Public Library is currently hosting an exhibition on promotional and distibution materials from the silent era, entitled “The Birth of Promotion: Inventing Film Publicity in the Silent-Film Era”. The exhibition runs until January and has a cheerful promotional video. The New York Times has a fine survey of the exhibition and history its documents. Read more.

Life in the air
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley are putting on a series of silent films devoted to aviation in its broadest sense. “Dizzy Heights: Silent Cinema and Life in the Air” takes place 23-26 February 2012 and has been imaginatively curated by Patrick Ellis, with such titles as High Treason (UK 1929), A Trip to Mars (Denmark 1918) and rarity The Mystery of the Eiffel Tower (France 1927). Read more.

Keaton in colour
Kino has been doing a great job releasing Buster Keaton’s work on Blu-Ray. Their latest release is Seven Chances (1925), with its Brewster’s Millions-style plot (Buster must marry before 7pm to inherit $7M) and the famous scene when Buster is pursued downhill by an absurd number of boulders. This ‘ultimate edition’ is of especial interest for including the film’s two-colour Technicolor opening sequence. It also comes with the classic shorts Neighbors (1920) and The Balloonatic (1923). Read more.

Now where have I seen that before?
A sixth item for once, and it’s another Kino release, this time a boxed set of some of its silent classics cheekily packaged to look like the poster for for a certain Oscar favourite and entitled The Artists. Full marks to somebody in their marketing team for the sheer nerve of it. Read more.

All these stories and more on our daily news service.

‘Til next time!

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!


The Bioscope’s ceaseless quest to inform you of all that matters in the world of early and silent cinema takes a significant step foward – hopefully. We have added a new feature using the ingenious news-gathering tool, Scoop It! This allows you, when you come across a web page, video, image or whatever of interest, to select an image and headline text from the web address and post it in what is effectively your own curated resource. Each new discovery, or scoop, appears at the head of your Scoop It! site. This can then be picked up by those also interested in your subject, either by visiting the site, or following it on Twitter, or by getting an email alert if they so choose.

So we have created The Bioscope on Scoop It! and we will use the service to note each piece of silent film-related news that we come across, plus sites, resources and videos of interest, some of which may then get turned into fully-fldged Bioscope posts in the usual way. So it will be an archive of things Bioscopical – effectively replacing the long list of bookmarks that I currently have on my browser as prompts for future Bioscope posts. As said, you can follow this by visiting the website, also linked on the right-hand column of this site (under Other Bioscope Sites), where each ‘scoop’ gives you the headlines and links to its source; or by following the Bioscope on Twitter where each ‘scoop’ will appear; or by signing up to an email alert (one a day). You can even suggest web pages which the curator (i.e. me) might want to add to the service.

Puzzled? Well, take a quick look at the Bioscope’s Scoop It! site and you’ll get the idea. It looks stylish, it could prove useful, and I think it’s now going to replace the Bioscope Newsreels which have been appearing on Fridays (usually). Or I may still use the Newsreel for news highlights taken from Scoop It! We’ll see. Anyway, do take a peek.

Bioscope Newsreel no. 34

The Bioscope’s occasional news service returns with the usual varied mix of silent films happening here and there which don’t otherwise feature on this blog.

Remembering the Somme
On today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year, let us draw your attention to the most notable film of the First World War, The Battle of the Somme (1916). As recently reported, the film is about to go on tour in the UK with orchestral accompaniment, the score written by Laura Rossi. Not many silents get to be toured with an orchestra, and though the orchestras invovled are amateurs, the costs are inevitably high, and should you wish to help support such a bold venure financially then you can do so by visting the ‘crowfunding website WeDidThis. The tour opens in Leicester tomorrow. Read more.

3D Charlie
We reported last year on the plans of an Indian TV company to produce an animated 3D Charlie Chaplin series, but there is news of plans by a Turkish company to attempt 3D conversions of some of Chaplin’s original films to form a 90-minute film entitled Chaplin 3D – The Little Tramp’s Adventure. One’s first reaction is to throw up one’s hands in horror; the next reaction is to hope to have a chance to see just what it might look like. Intriguingly, they have gone to the best sources for their footage: Serge Bromberg and David Shepherd, with Robert Israel signed up to provide the music. The results are reported to be impressive. Hmm, we shall have to see. Read more.

Remembering Kristallnacht
Sunday 13 November will see an unusual example of silent film presentation at Belsize Square Synagogue in London. The Zemel Choir (“The UK’s leading mixed voice Jewish choir”), in commeroation of Kristallnacht, will be presenting a 1936 silent film, Hatikvah, shot by a German-Jewish filmmaker, showing pioneering Jewish settlers in Palestine. Intriguingly, the choral and orchestral accompaniment will in part derive from some of the generic silent film music scores recently unearthed at Birmingham Central Library. It’s an unexpected outcome of that exciting discovery, and one wonders to what other ends those scores might be used in time. Read more.

On Irish screens
There seems to be quite a bit of publishing activity on the Irish silent cinema (and pre-cinema) front at the moment. Hot on the heels of Gary Rhodes’ Emerald Illusions: The Irish in Early American Cinema comes two new books by Kevin Rockett and Emer Rockett, shortly to be published by Fourt Courts Press. Magic lantern, panorama and moving picture shows in Ireland, 1786-1909 covers the history of proto-cinematic experiences in Ireland up to the first film shows, while Film exhibition and distribution in Ireland, 1909-2010, “traces in forensic detail the social, cultural and business practices that comprise the Irish cinema phenomenon”. Read more.

Remembering Barbara Kent
The Bioscope neglected to note the passing last month of Barbara Kent, at the age of 103. Kent was perhaps the last of the headline silent film stars, having played leading roles alongside Garbo and Gilbert in Flesh and the Devil, in William Wyler’s terrific The Shakedown, and in Paul Fejos classic late silent Lonesome. Among the many obituaries, Ronald Bergan’s in The Guardian has perhaps the most detail. Read more.

(And just a little extra item – those of you in the UK, should you by some strange chance finding yourself watching The One Show on Tuesday evening, you will see yours truly talking about film star competition winner and Buster Keaton co-star Margaret Leahy, with the redoubtable Gyles Brandreth.)

‘Til next time!

Bioscope Newsreel no. 33

While we continue to compile the Pordenone diaries (which is no light task), here’s the latest edition of our regular newsreel, which today has a special publications theme this time around, noting some of the new books on silent film published recently.

Early cinema today
Early Cinema Today: The Art of Programming and Live Performance, edited by Martin Loiperdinger, published by John Libbeyis the first in a series of studies in early cinema issued by KINtop. KINtop’s publications to date have been predominantly in German, so this marks an interesting and welcome depature. The volume reviews recent work in programming early cinema, from the Crazy Cinématographe shows to Mariann Lewinsky’s A Hundred Years Ago programmes at Bologna. Read more.

But let’s not overlook German language works. Claus Tieber’s Stummfilmdramaturgie: Erzählweisen des amerikanischen Feature Films 1917-1927, published by LIt Verlag, is a study of modes of narration in American silent cinema 1917-1927, and sets out to challenge accepted notions of classical Hollywood cinema. Read more.

Emerald illusions
Gary D. Rhodes’s Emerald Illusions: The Irish in Early American Cinema, published by Irish Academic Press, is based on his doctoral thesis and provides what he calls the first history of pre-cinema and the Irish in America. So its subject is not Irish film as commonly studied but rather the rich theme of the portrayal of the Irish in American film and pre-film stagings, as he looks back to the magic lantern and the variety stage, and covers non-fiction films as well as fiction. Read more.

Cinema audiences and modernity
Cinema Audiences and Modernity: An Introduction is edited by Daniel Biltereyst, Richard Maltby and Philippe Meers, and published by Routledge. It brings together papers on cinema-going in Europe first given at the 2007 ‘Glow in their Eyes‘ conference. This is the second volume of papers to be published from the conference, the first (by the same editors), Explorations in New Cinema History: Approaches and Case Studies having been published earlier this year. Read more.

‘Til next time!

Bioscope Newsreel no. 32

Carla Laemmle and Gary Busey, from Hollywood Reporter

Here in the scriptorium at New Bioscope Towers we’re setting the staff to transcribing our scarcely decipherable notes made in the dark (of course) at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, in readiness for the first of our diary reports – we hope not to keep you waiting too long. Meanwhile, other events have been taking place in the world of silent film. These are five of them.

Carla’s second century
Carla Laemmle, niece of Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle, has will be 102 on October 20th, and is not just one of the few silent film performers still alive, but very probably the only one still acting. She appeared as a prima ballerina in The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and plays alongsde Gary Busey in the forthcoming feature Mansion of Blood. Read more.

A dog’s life
The silent star of the moment, however, has four legs. Susan Orlean’s cultural history Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend has gained much acclaim and aroused new interest in silent cinema’s leading canine star. The book tells a “powerfully moving story of Rin Tin Tin’s journey from orphaned puppy to movie star and international icon”, telling a history that is as much about American entertainment and society as it is about the dog. Read more.

Silent cinema and the secrets of London
The Daily Telegraph site has a thoughtful article by Neil Brand on his experience of London through the medium of silent film and his music accompaniments, from Siege of Sidney Street newsreels, to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger, to his own orchestral score for Anthony Asquith’s Underground (premiered on October 5th at the Barbican). Read more.

Louis Louis
Louis, Dan Pritzker’s modern silent film on the childhood of Louis Armstrong, with Wynton Marsalis’ jazz score, has its European debut on 13 November, as part of the London Jazz Festival, at the Barbican (again). Marsalis himself won’t be there, but the eight-piece group, led by trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, includes saxophonist Wes Anderson, and drummer Herlin Riley. Tickets are now on sale. Read more.

La Parade est passée
One of the quite essential silent film books, Kevin Brownlow’s 1968 The Parade’s Gone By, is to be published in French for the first time. Its translator is Christine Leteux, the knowledgeable soul behind the highly commendable Ann Harding’s Treasures blog. It is to be published by Acte Sud/Institut Lumière on 19 October (according to Brownlow himself is a guest of honour at the Lumière 2011 film festival in Lyon this week, marking the publication of his book. Read more.

‘Til next time!

Bioscope Newsreel no. 31

Hello folks- we’re back with the newsreel, mopping some of the latest happenings in silent films for your delectation. And it’s a varied five stories we have for you this time around. Starting off with…

Cohen buys Rohauer
The big story of the week has been the purchase of the Raymond Rohauer Film Collection by the Cohen Media Group. Legendary collector Rohauer, best known for the role he played in reviving Buster Keaton’s reputation, built up a collection of some 700 titles, many of them silents (The Birth of a Nation, Orphans of the Storm, Son of the Sheik etc). The collection has been up for sale for two or three years and much of the online debate has been about just what Cohen think they are getting for the money, when so much of it must be in the public domain and not really a financial goldmine in any case. Read more.

Yet more Photoplay
As regular readers will know, we’ve been documenting the regular onrush of digitised silent film journals that have been appearing online over the past year or so. One of the leading providers has been Bruce Long, who runs the Taylorology site (as in William Desmond Taylor, silent film director and murder victim). He has just added nine further issues of Photoplay for 1915-16 to the Internet Archive. By my calculation that makes 2 monthly issues from 1914, 15 monthly issues from 1915-16, and 8 volumes, each covering six months of the journal 1925-30 that are freely available to all online. Read more.

Who’s looking at you?
Cultures of Surveillance is an interdisplinary conference covering all aspects of surveillance, from today’s CCTV to the ways surveillance practices intersect with visual technologies and histories of culture. Waving the flag for silent film will be keynote speaker Tom Gunning, who paper is entitled “Screening out the Visible: Identity and Representation in the Early 20th-Century Detective Genre”. The conference takes place 29 September-1 October at University College London. Read more.

Film museum for India
The Indian government has announced that, to mark the centenary of Indian film, it plans to open the country`s first film musuem by 2013. 1913 saw the release of India’s first feature film Raja Harishchandra, directed by Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, whose story we have covered before now. The museum is being built in Mumbai, and, as one press report pertinently puts it, “the museum will be a window to India`s ever-expanding soft power, cinema”. Read more.

Madonna in lousy silent film spoof shock
Do you need to know this? Apparently while a small part of the world has been concerned by news of Libya, financial crisis and rogue traders, the greater part has been agog at the news that Madonna does not like hydrangeas. I don’t know how or why, I’m not interested to know how or why, but such was the world’s rage at this instance of selective anthophobia that it led to Madonna producing a mock apology in the form of a silent film. As one would expect from such a rubbish film director it’s a rubbish silent film. She doesn’t even know how intertitles work. But it exists. Read more.

‘Til next time!

Bioscope Newsreel no. 30

Mural of Lillian Gish on the wall of a pump station at Massillon, Ohio, from

Hi folks, and welcome to the latest issue of the Bioscope’s erratically published but lovingly composed newsreel, mopping up for you some of the more diverting news stories of the week on silent film.

More on Brides of Sulu
A few weeks we published a post on Brides of Sulu, a supposedly American film from the mid-1930s which probably took footage from an Philippine silent fiction film (possibly two) and added an American commentary. All Philippine silent film production was believed to be lost, so this is an exciting discovery, and it was naturally a highlight at Manila’s recent International Silent Film Festival. If you read comments to the original Bioscope post you can find extra information from the grandson of the film’s lead actor, ‘Eduardo de Castro’ (real name Marvin Gardner). Or there’s an informative piece in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the research involved – though I think the director was not the Philippine José Nepomuceno but rather American silent film veteran Jack Nelson. But the journalist has read the Bioscope, which is grand. Read more.

The day the laughter stopped
A feature film adaptation of David Yallop’s account of the Fatty Arbuckle case, The Day the Laughter Stopped, is in development. The film is scheduled to star Eric Stonestreet and will be a telefilm made for HBO. Will silent cinema’s pre-eminent tragic tale make a successful transference to the screen? With Barry Levinson as director, we must hope at least for a thoughtful interpretation. Read more.

Lillian at the pump station
Massillon, Ohio artist Scot Phillips has created a mural featuring Lillian Gish at the junction between Lillian Gish Boulevard and Route 21, unromantically painted on a west-facing wall of a pump station next to the Tuscarawas River. The silent film star grew up in Massillon, hence the mural and the road. It took him all summer. Read more.

Telluride coup
What are the two most discussed silent films of 2011? They must be Michel Hazanavicius’ modern silent The Artist, and the colour restoration of George Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon. So hats off to the Telluride Film Festival for bringing the two together in one of the more imaginative programming coups of the year. And they are playing at the Abel Gance Open Air Cinema … Read more.

The story of film
Mark Cousins’ book The Story of Film (2006) is a pretty good and impressively wide-ranging generally history of the medium. It’s now been turned into a 15-part television series showing in the UK on Channel 4’s offshoot channel More4 from tomorrow. Expect to see silent films given their fair due (says the press release of episode one, “Filmed in the buildings where the first movies were made, it shows that ideas and passion have always driven film, more than money and marketing”). What you don’t expect to see is a UK television channel go so far as to show a silent film itself, but – incredible to relate – Film4 is showing Orphans of the Storm on 6 September to accompany the Cousins series. Read more.

‘Til next time!

Bioscope Newsreel no. 29

Part of DVD cover for Metropolis, from Ain’t it Cool News

We’re publishing a little infrequently at present, both the regular posts and the newsreel, but the main thing is that we’re still publishing. Here’s a round-up of some of the recent silent news and events coming up.

Morodor’s Metropolis
The silent film version that many love to hate, while for others it is the version that was a welcome introduction to silents, is to come out on Blu-Ray. Electro-disco composer Giorgio Moroder’s score for Metropolis came out in 1984, and was controversial both for presenting a cut-down version (80mins) and for throwing pop songs on top of it (Freddy Mercury sings “Love Kills”, Pat Benatar sings “Here’s my Heart” – yep, it’s the 1980s). It’s become something of a cult favourite and now Kino are bringing it out theatrically in October and on Blu-Ray late 2011 or early 2012. Read more.

One-minute wonders
The Toronto Urban Film Festival (known as TUFF) brings new one-minute silent films, entered in competition, to be seen by 1.3 million daily commuters on the ONESTOP TTC subway platform screens. This year the guest judge for the festival is Atom Egoyan. It runs 9-18 September, and there are examples of some of the truly ingenious and creative videos submitted on the festival site. Read more.

Silents in New Zealand
A silent film festival offering more traditional fare is New Zealnd’s annual Opitiki Silent Film Festival, which this year takes place 2-4 September. The emphasis is on comedy and rugby, and there haven’t been too many silent rugby film programmes, to my recollection. The festival features Lloyf, Langdon, Keaton, Pollard and more, plus a one-hour silent film compilation All Blacks which features “footage of the 1905 Originals NZ touring team plus the 1924/1925 Invincibles”. Read more.

Où est Max?
Once again the Cine-Tourist website beats all competition in the cine-blogosphere with an engrossing (if very long) post, handsomely illustrated, on Max Linder, the films he shot in the streets of Vincennes, and what the locality says about him. None of these films can ever be called accidental in their choice of geography, because everything that we see makes the film that plays before us. Read more.

More journals online
More and more silent film journals are appearing on the Internet Archive, courtesy of Bruce Long of the Taylorology site and David Pierce of the Media History Digital Library. Long has added nine issues of Picture-Play for 1922-23 and one of Screenland for 1923; Pierce has added extra volumes of Moving Picture World for 1913, all of 1914, most of 1915, and three months each of 1916 and 1918. Copious thanks to both. Another Pierce upload is going to be the subject of a special post. Read more (Pierce) and more (Long)

‘Til next time!