Safety Last (Dir. Fred C Newmeyer, 1923) (Screening format – not known, 70mins). In Safety Last, Harold Lloyd heads to the big city to make his fortune. Although only a sales clerk he tells his girlfriend (Mildred Davis) he is the store manager. When she comes to visit, he needs to keep up the pretense, avoid the real store manager and escape the police by climbing up the outside of the building. A classic Lloyd comedy with hair-raising climax. Lloyd will forever be associated with Safety Last because of a single image. Even people who have never seen a Lloyd film are familiar with the iconography of a bespectacled man hanging off the hands of a collapsing clock on the side of a skyscraper high above teeming city streets. It is one of the most celebrated images in cinema (and one repeated again and again in homage, eg Jackie Chan in Project A (1983) or Christopher Lloyd in Back To The Future (1985)). Although Lloyd was a good athlete and regularly did many of his own stunts, there were limits. His insurance company did not allow him to do the entire sequence; an injury to the star could shut down the entire production and jeopardize the studio. Also, Lloyd had only one complete hand—the result of an accident in 1919 in which he lost his right thumb and forefinger. For parts of the climb, therefore, two stand-ins were used. In the long shots of Lloyd climbing the building it was Bill Strother (who played Lloyd’s pal ‘Limpy Bill’ in the film) while for the shot in which Lloyd hangs from the building edge as a result of a mouse crawling up the leg of his trousers, it was assistant director Robert A. Golden (who routinely doubled for Lloyd) standing in. Find out more at silentfilm.org. With live organ accompaniment by Vincent Byrne. St. Barnabas Church, Erdington. Link
The Gold Rush (Dir. Charles Chaplin, 1925) (Screening format – DCP, 86mins) Charlie Chaplin’s comedic masterwork – which charts a prospector’s search for fortune in the Klondike and his discovery of romance (with the beautiful Georgia Hale) – forever cemented the iconic status of Chaplin and his Little Tramp character. Shot partly on location in the Sierra Nevadas and featuring such timeless gags as the dance of the dinner rolls and the meal of boiled shoe leather, The Gold Rush is an indelible work of heartwarming hilarity. Find out more at silentfilm.org . With recorded score. The Electric Cinema, Birmingham Link
Battleship Potemkin (Dir. Sergei Eisenstein, 1925) (Screening format – DCP, 66mins) Declared the greatest film of all time at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, Battleship Potemkin has been widely censored, as much out of fear of the perceived influence of its ideas as for any contentious material on screen. In essence, it tells a five-part story of a naval mutiny leading to full-blown revolution, but while this material could be crudely propagandist in other hands, Eisenstein uses images of such dynamic compositional strength and editing of such frame-perfect precision that it’s hard not to be swept along, regardless of personal politics. And despite endless quotation and parody, the set-piece massacre on the Odessa Steps still packs a sledgehammer punch. Find out more at sensesofcinema.com . With recorded soundtrack. Electric Cinema, Birmingham Link
The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928) (Screening format – Blu-Ray, 82 mins) In 1926 Danish film director Dreyer was invited to make a film in France by the Société Générale des Films and chose to direct a picture about Joan of Arc due to her renewed popularity (having been canonised as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in 1920 and subsequently adopted as one of the patron saints of France). Apparently discarding a script provided by the Société, Dreyer spent over a year researching Joan of Arc including study of the actual transcripts of her trial before producing a script of his own. In the title role, Dreyer cast the little known stage actress Renee Jeanne Falconetti, who had previously acted in just two inconsequential films, both in 1917. The film focuses on the trial and eventual execution of Joan of Arc after she is captured by the English. Although not a popular success at the time, the film attracted immediate critical praise. The New York Times critic wrote “… … as a film work of art this takes precedence over anything that has so far been produced. It makes worthy pictures of the past look like tinsel shams. It fills one with such intense admiration that other pictures appear but trivial in comparison.” Falconetti’s performance has been widely lauded with critic Pauline Kael writing in 1982 that Falconetti’s portrayal “may be the finest performance ever recorded on film.” The film was subsequently re-edited against Dreyer’s wishes and his original version was long thought lost. But in 1981 a near perfect copy was found in the attic of a psychiatric hospital in Oslo. The Passion of Joan of Arc now regularly appears in ‘Top Ten’ lists not just of best silent films but best films of all time. Find out more at rogerebert.com With recorded soundtrack by Japanese silent film composer Mie Yanashita. Electric Cinema, Birmingham Link
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