laughingrat: Keaton in front of a movie camera, giving us the high sign (High Sign/Movies)
[personal profile] laughingrat

If the first of the five films is any indication, Kino's complete set of the recently restored Fantomas films is a masterpiece of restoration. A previous experience with Image's edition of Les Vampires, from roughly the same time period, suffered from poor visual quality, making it difficult to watch. The same restoration crew that worked on Fantomas also worked on Kino's new edition of Les Vampires, and I'm eagerly awaiting my own copy to see just how improved their version will be.

As far as the films themselves go, Fantomas in the Shadow of the Guillotine (the only one I've seen yet) bears the usual marks of its time--stationary cameras, no close-ups, straightforward storytelling--but is nevertheless lively. It roughly adapts the first Fantomas novel, although it leaves out a great deal in the interest of time and pacing. For contemporary audiences, who would have been as familiar with Fantomas as modern audiences are with the Joker, there would have been little need to build up the character as a sinister, brilliant, omnipresent figure of menace. The film could skip that buildup and pare the original novel's sprawling plot into a series of brief episodes leading to the surprise finish.

Viewers unfamiliar with films of this period may be surprised, and hopefully delighted, by the range of features and body types present in the cast. None of the actors is particularly handsome or beautiful, and the actresses are all considerably larger and more solid-bodied than those we see in television and film today. Their features are expressive and distinctive, but not pretty, not even in the case of Lady Beltham (Renee Carl), mistress of Fantomas and "the most beautiful woman in Paris." In more ways than one, these films are a window onto a different world.
onyxlynx: BxW F. Lang & T. von Harbou each reading. (Fritz Lang Thea von Harbou)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
 The US National Film Preservation Foundation is streaming footage from The White Shadow (non-Ken Howard), for which Alfred Hitchcock wrote and edited, and was assistant director and art director.  The footage will be available for two months (approximately until January 16) at the link.  (Mentioned here last year.)

Via the CBC, which has a bit of information.
laughingrat: Damn the Man! (Babel)
[personal profile] laughingrat
Recovered 1927 Metropolis Film Program Goes Behind the Scenes of a Sci-Fi Masterpiece
Now, a remarkable 32-page theater program from Metropolis’ 1927 debut has surfaced at a well-known rare book shop in London, which scanned it and shared some pages with Wired. The program was created for the premiere of Metropolis at London’s Marble Arch Pavilion, and it’s packed with firsthand anecdotes from the making of the movie, and some stunning photographs. Only three surviving copies of this program are known to exist, according to the Peter Harrington rare book shop, which has its copy on sale for 2,750 pounds ($4,244).


Jan. 21st, 2012 08:43 am
onyxlynx: BxW F. Lang & T. von Harbou each reading. (Fritz Lang Thea von Harbou)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
Anne of Green Gables (the silent) recreated, sort of, by Canadian collectors (the video plays two [2] commercials before the story, which is annoying) from 21 stills and a score.
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?

Half Hitch

Aug. 3rd, 2011 11:39 pm
onyxlynx: The words "Onyx" and "Lynx" with x superimposed (Default)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
Three reels of a six-reel feature thought to be earliest Alfred Hitchcock movie have turned up in New Zealand.
onyxlynx: The words "Onyx" and "Lynx" with x superimposed (Default)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
 Or something.  One movie showing at the Paramount got rescheduled on account of the riot, and I've already seen From Here to Eternity (and played Spot the Homophobia).  I didn't write up the last flick I saw because I had to leave before the end.  

Anyway, this morning the NY Times ran this obituary for Baby Marie Osborne, who was in silents.  Very few of her movies survive, but one which did was Little Mary Sunshine.  She had interesting ups and downs, and maybe Nora Ephron could do something with her bio.
laughingrat: An animated gif of a gray and white kitten making flaily gestures. (SURPRISE)
[personal profile] laughingrat
For real this time.

Lost Charlie Chaplin film discovered in Michigan antique sale:
The 16mm print was found by historian and collector Paul Gierucki at an antiques show in Michigan. Thinking it was just another old Keystone comedy, he didn't look at it for a while. He finally got around to it in early March and quickly realized what he had.

"Is this who I think it is?" he asked fellow collector Richard Roberts, sending along a frame grab. "Probably," said Roberts, "but we need to see him move."

Once you've seen him move, there's no question who the actor is.

Mabel's Strange Predicament, the first film in which Chaplin appeared in his famous makeup, started shooting January 6th, 1914 - a day after production began on A Thief Catcher.

"It's either his second moustache picture or his first," says Richard Roberts. "It cements the concept that he had the character before he came to Keystone and didn't slap it together on the way to the shooting stage one day. Even when he's doing a minor part he's doing that character. It's a new brick in the Chaplin biography. And this opens up the door to other unknown Chaplin appearances at Keystone."
I'd always heard that one called Kid Auto Races at Venice was the absolute first Tramp movie, but apparently it's maybe #3, from what we now have still extant. The time difference between when these all started filming is literally a matter of a few days, though. They filmed quick back then.

Anyway, amazing news!
onyxlynx: BxW F. Lang & T. von Harbou each reading. (Fritz Lang Thea von Harbou)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
 A collection of silent films, long thought lost, has turned up in the New Zealand Film Archive; around 75 of them will be restored.
laughingrat: A detail of leaping rats from an original movie poster for the first film of Nosferatu (Lively Rats)
[personal profile] laughingrat
OK, this is kind of a weird question. At the end of "The Last Laugh," there's a title card that comes up saying, effectively, that Murnau was forced by convention to add a happy ending. (It's been a while since I saw the movie, so I remembered it as saying the studio forced him into it--but this review says otherwise.) The title card sounds really cynical, which would be understandable if Murnau really did feel forced to add a false ending, and Roger Ebert, in the link above, refers to the act as "dimwitted," as if it were a crummy artistic choice.

Did Murnau really feel this way, though? Can anyone who's a little more familiar with the guy himself, or with how he worked, tell me what they think? My personal response as a viewer was that the happy ending was a really masterful stroke, one that was a deliberate and cunning choice. The happy ending is so patently impossible that it makes the "real" ending, the one that would have occurred in real life, that much sadder. When I watched it, it was like there were two stories running in my head at the same time--one where the old man died alone and miserable, and one where he rather improbably ended up just fine. The difference between the two was staggering.

Anyway, I've been wondering about this one for a while and wanted to see if anyone had some info or just a point of view about the movie and its ending.


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