French : ICI en FRANCAIS
I will start with the story of my life; I promise, there is a reason. A few years ago, when I was publishing assistant in France, I was given the heavy burden of typing a book about silent cinema… The writer, Mr. Pierre Allard, has written it entirely by hand! I have to confess that I would never have read a book about silent movie without this job… Silent for me was outmoded and outdated…. But…
Pierre Allard made me discover another world. It was a huge pleasure to read his book, even if I didn’t lose my head (like Méliès, you will understand later) about this lost cinematographic genre… Because we are in a talkative century (I am a proof of it). I saw the Artist, like everybody, I know Chaplin, and thanks to that copyist work, I have a few rudiments, but no more than that.
However, Chapter Art Centre has proposed this week a program I could not resist to : Early Horror Shorts. Nothing to do with Hammer, we talk about movies filmed between 1898 and 1927… and all silent. A silent broken by a scores composed and performed live by Paul Shallcross, who has been also a gifted speaker to introduced the audience to the movies.
How wonderful it was to discovered Georges Méliès juggling (literally speaking!) with his own heas in Un Homme de Têtes (1898). This sketch, where the director remove his head from his own shoulder four times in order to have a choir while he plays guitar is full of smartness and brightness. Méliès is a fantastic magician who created wonderful effect with nearly nothing at the dawn of cinema. Computer has simplified the work of filmmaker, but taken away a lot of magic.
In Une Excursion Incohérente by Segundo de Chomon (1908), a couple goes for a trip, but the picnic is disturbed by mice in the eggs and maggots in the cake… not really tasty. Then, while they reached their country house, it’s full of fairy, ghosts and even a crocodile on the roof. the actors are great, acrobats I think by their jumping performance. I really liked the crocodile… and some effects remained me of Wallace & Gromit… yes, plasticine is not that new!
Prelude by Castleton Knight (1927) is a reflexion on the fear of being buried alive. The director took his inspiration in a pice by Rachmaninov (prelude in C sharp minor). It’s more dreamlike and sinister than the previous, while The Thieving Hand by Stuart Blackton (1908) is fast and funny. In this short movie, a harm which has lost his owner does everything it could to find him… An ancestor or the Thing in the Addams Family, surely.
At last, the projection ended with The Haunted House by Buster Keaton (1921). This haunted house is a real gift of humour, energy, inventiveness. For me, Keaton already direct modern cinema. His comic effects haven’t age the slightest, his eye for details is amazing. You just forget it’s a silent movie because you are taken by the adventure of this poor bank employee, wrongly accused of forgery who takes refuge in a house which ghosts are not honest spooks…
I put at the end of the article some link, Méliès and Keation, unfortunately without the wonderful music of Tuesday afternoon… I really hope there will be more silent movies at Chapter.