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A weekend with Lois Weber: silent movies at the 2018 Cambridge Film Festival

Looks like I’m going to Cambridge late October! Love The Blot and Lois Weber! Plus, the chance to see John Sweeney accompany The Dumb Girl… not to be missed!

Silent London

Festival season is upon us. There’s Pordenone, of course, and London and also the Cambridge Film Festival all in October. A trip to the fenland city is very appealing at this time of year – and all the more so with a tempting selection of silent films.

The star of the slate is Lois Weber, one of the very best American silent film directors. And Cambridge will be showing four of her films over the weekend, all with live music. One of these in particular, The Blot, is rarely shown, but I think it’s very special indeed. Kevin Brownlow says that you won’t find a better film for showing you how life was really lived in the 1920s. That’s very probably true, but I think that inadvertently undersells it. There is a lot more to the film than its realism. It’s a real heartbreaker, and a nuanced drama…

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Il cinema ritrovato 2018 in review

An excellent summary of Bologna highlights, as you’d expect from S,P!

Silents, Please!

Me, my pal Matti, and Marcello

Six weeks after the fact, you say? From the Department of Better Late than Never comes my recap of Il cinema ritrovato 2018: a wonderful festival of archival film of all eras and countries. Spoiler alert: I had a blast!

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Pina Menichelli , ‘The apogee of the Diva film’.

Early & Silent Film

Two films starring Pina Menichelli were screened at the 2018 Il Cinema Ritrovato where we enjoyed this programme which included films and extracts also featuring Francesca Bertini and Lyda Borelli.

Pina Menichelli was born in Sicily into a theatrical family and started out in a stage career. She started in films in 1913 at the Roman studio of Società Italiana Cines. She achieved stardom in 1915 with the director Giovanni Pastrone in The Fire (1915, Il fuoco) for Itala. She became a popular actor both at home and abroad and her persona came embody the idea of the femme fatale. In 1919 she moved to Rinascimento Films and remained popular, despite the decline in the diva genre, until her retirement in 1924.

As is the case with other Italian films and other diva films, many are lost. We enjoyed two, an incomplete one-reel film and an incomplete feature, originally…

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Bologna tips: A beginner’s guide to Il Cinema Ritrovato

Cutting and keeping fro my first trip in just three weeks!!

Silent London

A few years back, when the world may not have been young but this blog certainly was, and I had begun to hit the silent film festival trail, I received some alarming advice from Neil Brand. “What you really want to do as well,” he said, “is to go to Bologna. The weather’s great, the food’s amazing – and there are even talkies, too.”

Well two out of three ain’t bad. By Bologna, Neil meant Il Cinema Ritrovato, a festival of archive cinema that takes place every summer. Ritrovato means something like rediscovered. So, fittingly this festival shows rediscovered films, but also rarely seen films, films on rare formats and vintage prints, and newly restored films too. Largely, anything more than thirty years old qualifies for the festival, which gives it a giant scope.

I knew lots of people who went to this festival, but as always with anything…

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Diva December: Helena Makowska in Caino (IT 1918)

Impeccable posting as usual from the great Silents Please!

Silents, Please!

Leopoldo Carlucci 1918 Helena Makowska (141) sml

The holy trinity of Lyda Borelli, Francesca Bertini, and Pina Menichelli are generally considered the crème de la crème of diva film actresses. Yet, of course, there were many others working in this loosely-defined genre: prominent names include Hesperia, Leda Gys, Italia Almirante Manzini, Soava Gallone, and Diana Karenne. Another such diva was the Polish actress Helena (Elena) Makowska, who acted in the Milan theatre before making the move to film. She built a successful career in the Italian film industry in the teens before working primarily in Germany in the 1920s.

Elena Makowska F40839-046 sml Elena Makowska F40839-019 sml
From the collection of the Museo Nazionale del Cinema (Torino). Refs F40839/046, F40839/019

Over a dozen of Makowska’s films survive, but they are little seen, and she is a relatively obscure figure. Of the films in which Makowska participated, probably the one most well-known today is Febo Mari’s astonishing Il fauno | The Faun of 1917, a wonderful piece of work that…

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New Monthly Silent Film Events in Bristol

Source: New Monthly Silent Film Events in Bristol

Betty Balfour: “Great Britain’s Queen of Happiness”

Looking forward to some Betty B in Leicester!

British Silent Film Festival

Betty Balfour in 1925 Betty Balfour

Betty Balfour could well be the mascot of the 19th British Silent Film Festival. You will see her in three different films across the weekend – two silents and a musical. In each film, you’ll get a glimpse of why she was once one of the most popular British film stars. In her heyday, she was occasionally compared to Hollywood’s Mary Pickford, but her appeal was not quite so girlish and innocent. Balfour was first and foremost a comedienne, with an earthy, active charm that she deployed to great effect playing the Cockney flowergirl ‘Squibs’ in a series of hit films. Later in her career, she played more sophisticated characters in more serious films, but the Balfour charm still shines through.

Balfour was not a Cockney herself, although she was raised in London. As a profile on Balfour in Picturegoer in 1924 wrote, “‘Squibs’ was a rough-cast…

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