laughingrat: Buster in a diving suit, from "The Navigator" (Goin to the Moon--Keaton)
[personal profile] laughingrat
I was really happy to see info in the new Criterion newsletter about this! Apparently they've restored the 1925 version, rather than the 1942 re-release that had an added narration track with several scenes cut. For a lot of folks, the narration track is like nails on a blackboard, and it definitely reduces the ambiguity that makes silent comedy so interesting and funny. This blurb talks a little about the restoration and has info about a NYC screening during the New York Film Festival.
glinda: I want everything I've ever seen in the movies (movies)
[personal profile] glinda
So during my hosting week back in August, I promised to do a couple of posts on silent film. And then had to run away to Wales for work stuff and never posted them...literally, I opened the file I was writing this one in and it cuts off half-way through a sentence. Who knows what the end of that sentence was originally going to be...

The film I’ve chosen to write about is The Great White Silence (1924), which is a documentary of the Scott Expedition to the South Pole. Recently restored by the BFI. The film’s director was the expedition’s photographer, so the film has more in common with what modern viewers would associate with the term ‘documentary’ than many other surviving films of the period.

The early passages of the film contain several typical staged for camera events, with the crew performing some dances and sea shanties, along with a boxing match, that would not have looked out in many other early non-fiction films. However, as the film develops, it becomes increasingly a document of the journey, as though the photographer has taken over from the film-maker and though there are certainly staged moments they are largely more of the ‘stand still while I take this photograph kind’ than anything else. In fact there is a large section in the middle of the film where it essentially becomes a nature documentary.

A lifetime of documentaries on penguins assures me that a great deal of his assumptions about gendered penguin behaviour is wrong, but nonetheless, it remains pretty pioneering nature documentary, especially with regard to the seals. In fact his references to techniques for filming them (pretty much setting up near a blow hole and waiting for something interesting to happen) would probably be quite recognisable to modern nature documentary makers.

There’s even a really surreal moment where a couple of the crew of the ship (clearly very bored by this point) are herding a group of penguins around on the ice. The behaviour veers from being like a couple of sheep dogs herding some sheep to that of a couple of small kids let loose amongst a flock of pigeons. Unfortunately for the penguins they cannot fly away.

Part of the restoration process has involved the recreation of the original tinting of sections of the film. Which is the main follow pretty simple conventions – sections in the warmth of New Zealand are yellow, those in the Antarctic are blue – but others are a little more artistic. For example at one point a title card appears with its text in vivid magenta, which seems unlikely until the shot resolves into the sun setting behind an icy mountain and we understand that the director was recreating the colour of the sunset and how that helps to ground the audience in the place. Giving a hint at the majesty and unreality of being in such a place.

I would like to be able to put this film in context with contemporaneous British documentaries, but unfortunately while there are lots of books on the documentary tradition in Britain; they all have a tendency to start with Grierson and co and work forward from there. Without really giving much attention to any documentary/proto-documentary makers who happened to make films prior to 1926. Though I did discover that, unlike in many other countries, fiction and factual film developed almost entirely separately in that period with little crossover between and entirely separate/different economic models.
glinda: I want everything I've ever seen in the movies (movies)
[personal profile] glinda
Hello! I'm [personal profile] glinda and I'll be your host this week. I'm planning on posting about silent cinema tomorrow so I thought I'd garner your thoughts on the subject.

How do you feel about cinemas doing live musical accompaniments to silent film showings? An essential part of the proceedings? Take it or leave it? Utterly pretentious and off-putting?

Also restoration of silent films, which films are you longing to see restored to their former glory and which should have been left to moulder? Should they try to restore the original colour choices (tinting and toning etc) or is early colour experimentation best forgotten in favour for a crisp black and white?

laughingrat: Buster in a diving suit, from "The Navigator" (Goin to the Moon--Keaton)
[personal profile] laughingrat
The Ohio Historical Society is currently displaying a panorama of art, photographs, and other items from William J. Knight's speaking tours, during which he told audiences about his more daring Civil War exploits. If the name doesn't ring a bell (it didn't for me), his story might: he was one of the Union soldiers who stole a Confederate locomotive called The General.


Classic Film: for the discussion of great cinema

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