British Silent Film Festival 2012
The silent moving image, whether you’re swooning over Swanson, chortling with Chaplin or weeping for Wall-E, offers a universal language that transcends the clumsiness of dialogue. With the dawn of the talkie, films lost a great deal of subtlety and physical theatre – no character could stray too far from the microphones.
This year’s British Silent Film Festival brings you Edwardian stop motion animation, a family feature on animal stars of the silent screen, and the chance to speak to experts from the BFI and BBFC. It also brings you sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Think silents are stuffy? Read on.
In 1915 Charlie Chaplin was the first to challenge the British Board of Film Censors with a brazen display of wanton transvestism in the two-reeler A WOMAN. A sub-plot centring on an adulterous love affair sealed the deal – “premeditated seduction of a girl” set off the censors’ alarm bells. WHAT THE SILENT CENSOR SAW, screening on 20th April at 17.30, features clips that caused similar controversy, as well as the Adrian Brunel spoof, CUT IT OUT: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A FILM CENSOR.
It’s common knowledge that cocaine and opium use was fashionable at the turn of the century. THE MYSTERY OF THE LEAPING FISH (1916) stars Doug Fairbanks Sr. as a dope-fiend detective, “Coke Ennyday”. Primarily a showcase for Fairbanks’ proto-Parkour skills, this goofy pro-drug laff-riot was written by D. W. Griffith and Tod Browning. The BSFF programme features Graham Cutts’ COCAINE (1922), a revenge thriller known as the most controversial British film of its time.
Silent films were never intended to be watched in silence. For many, silent film is associated with shoddy DVD transfers, generic stock music and even canned laughter. For a completely authentic experience, the British Silent Film Festival offers quality screenings with live musical accompaniment, ranging from the legendary Neil Brand’s improvised piano to rockabilly from Mark Kermode and the Dodge Brothers. You are invited to bring your own laughter, especially for the P.G. Wodehouse shorts.
True silent cinema is a combination of music, moving image and theatre; and as the accompanist and audience feed off one another’s shifting moods and building enthusiasm, this unique experience becomes greater than the sum of its parts – and anything but silent.
For more information and to book tickets and delegate passes, click here.
Read Issue One of the special BSFF edition TAKE ONE online or pick up a hard copy from APH from April 19th onwards.
- British Silents 2013 by Keith Braithwaite
- BSFF 2012 Closing Event: Highlights of the British Silent Film Fest by Mike Boyd (Editor-at-large)
- Sex+drugs+nitrate film by Amanda Randall