The BFI’s fascinating collection of 60 short films all made before 1911 comes to DVD with the aim of giving wider access to some of the extraordinary film material held in the National Film and Television Archive, much of which has been restored. Although most films made at this time were actualities and newsreels, this collection contains mostly fiction films, ranging from the dramatic to the comic and the fantastical.
This double-disc set provides an entertaining look at how many film devices such as the close-up, the cut-away and editing, were first invented by film-makers before the turn of the century. Continue reading
Baron Brusenhielm at castle Tröstehult in Skåne dislikes how his young son Karl Oscar is playing “mother and father” with the tenant’s daughter Ann-Marie, as he anticipates the beginning of a future misalliance. Years pass, and Karl Oscar is about to graduate high school. He pretends to study church history but reads in fact “The Seducer’s Diary” and thinks of Ann-Marie, who is now grown up into a woman.
Young lovers Seyran and Susan meet a tragic fate because of patriarchal prejudices of their parents. Although arranged for marriage in early childhood, and despite youngsters’ love, Barkhudar marries his daughter Susan to another man, as a matter of honour. Continue reading
Lillian Gish’s reputation may have been established in several historic D.W. Griffith pictures, but she usually ended up playing a very talented second fiddle to Griffith’s legend as a film pioneer. Nevertheless, Gish’s genius is most readily apparent in Victor Seastrom’s The Wind (1928), a psychologically-charged character study that hinges on her arsenal of small, telling gestures. This is one of the classic performances of silent cinema, and it came at a time when talkies were on the verge of burying the silents forever.
One could argue that the true protagonist of The Wind is the wind itself, a mournful sandstorm that almost drives Gish’s character insane. She plays Letty Mason, a lonely Virginia woman who travels by train to the Texas ranch of her cousin, Cora (Dorothy Cumming.) While on the train, Letty strikes up a flirtation with Roddy (Montagu Love), a Fort Worth man who implies that he might want to marry her. Later, at the ranch, Cora grows jealous of Letty when she develops a friendship with her husband (Edward Earle.) She accuses Letty of trying to steal him away from her, and kicks her out of the house. Continue reading
In this fable-morality silent film masterpiece (which is subtitled “A Song of Two Humans”), an evil temptress (Margaret Livingston) bewitches a farmer (George O’Brien) and convinces him to murder his neglected wife (Janet Gaynor). After he comes to his senses – before he is about to kill his wife – the married couple renew their love in the city. Continue reading
Based on a play by Charles Méré, the 1926 French production Le Vertige was released in the U.S. two years later as “The Living Image”, or “The Lady of Petrograd”. The film opens with the overthrow of the Czar during the 1917 Russian revolution. The family of General Count Svirsky (Roger Karl) cower in their home, certain that the mobs of angry peasants will tear them apart. But even in this moment of crisis, Svirsky can find time to murder the young officer who has been having an affair with Countess Svirska (Emmy Lynn). The Countess knows what has happened, but she loyally remains with her husband as they escape to the safety of the French Riviera. It is here that the Countess meets Henri de Cassel (Jaque Catelain), the “living image” of her dead lover. Once again, the General prepares to shoot the Countess’ paramour in cold blood — but this time, the outcome is quite different.From Hal Erickson Continue reading
This astonishing, scintillating collection from the silent era, most of which are from the 1920s, are genuine, legitimate and by today’s hardcore standards, amazingly charming, pornographic short films that leave nothing to the imagination. From predictable fantasy scenarios – monk spies on, then joins naughty nuns; teacher must spank naughty schoolgirls – to more esoteric fare (homosexuality and animal ecstasy, to name just two), vintage porn has never been more accessible…or attainable. The shorts in The Good Old Naughty Days were primarily designed to be shown in the waiting rooms of brothels, amusing patrons – and no doubt giving them some ideas – as they awaited their girl. They also reveal production standards far in advance of comparable films being made elsewhere at the time, as well as an inventive and often humorous array of diverse couplings. These films were usually created in a haphazard fashion in an afternoon with friends and local prostitutes lending a hand for a few cents. All of them requested to remain anonymous, which makes it impossible to identify who really acted or directed them. For this reason, it is rather delightful to watch these “actors” often having to readjust their wigs and fake moustaches in the middle of their scenes so as not to be recognized unmasked. It is nevertheless touching to see how fresh and naïve these films look in comparison with today’s X-rated film productions. Considering the age of these films, it is miraculous that they have been rediscovered and restored. These films are a part of our heritage and certainly a part of the secret history of cinema. In their own amusing way, these images involve us in a very direct, physical and intimate relationship with the good old days. These films have been restored by the Archives of the Centre National de la Cinématographie in France. Continue reading