Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Week in Review

  • Das cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 1919, Robert Wiene, Germany, 1919)
  • Spione (1928, Fritz Lang, Germany, 1928)
Melbourne Cinémathèque was my only cinema attendance this week. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was accompanied by a newly commissioned live score by the Ang Fang Quartet, while Spione was screened from a brand new print - the film has recently been restored. I have often expressed a sense of inadequacy in critiquing older films, often because I don't have a strong sense of historical context. I enjoyed both these silent films, particularly Spione (in spite of its length), but I didn't feel a strong sense of engagement.


filmnut said...

Silent films can be especially difficult to appreciate and I find it difficult to get the most out of them even with great films like Sunrise. They are whole other art form to the normal sound films. I wouldn't call myself inadequate in not being able to enjoy them. They're just total different creatures and requires an acquired taste. I think one would need to see hundreds of silent films like they have with sound films to fully appreciate them and 'get' them rather than a dozen or so.

Paul Martin said...

Most of the silent films I have seen have been Keaton, Chaplin and the Keystone Kops. These are probably not representative of the silent era, but are simply the most canonised. Perhaps these are the most digestible by modern audiences. In David Bordwell's On the History of Film Style, he describes how when the talkies came into being, there was a sense that the new medium was not as pure an art form as the silents. There was quite some resistance by some to take to the new medium. Silent was all people were accustomed to up until that time. So yeah, it's an adjustment to get into these old films. I think that some of the visual cinematic devices are more obvious. It would be good to explore some more of the silents, and not just the more popular titles.

... said...

Hi Paul,

I love The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - it is amazing the way it uses sets and costumes. I am actually living in New York at the moment, in Brooklyn and working as a receptionist to fund various art ventures. Ive been getting ready to move for the last little while and my blog has suffered somewhat but i hope to keep it up now.
hope you are well and seeing lots of great movies.

Marina said...

A newly remastered version of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" has come into my possession (though I don't think it's the version you just saw) so at some point, I'll have to sit down with this (I'm thinking double feature with "Shadow of the Vampire").

Paul Martin said...

Hi Caitlin, lucky you! I spent a week in NYC (Greenwich Village) in 2003/04 and would love to work there for a year or more. I wondered what happened to your blog. I've been cutting back on the number of films I see, though I occasionally have a splurge. An ACMI Focus on Catherine Breillat is coming up, so there's about six of her films I want to see.

Marina, the print we saw was pretty good quality.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I went through a phase at the start of 2005, where I ended up seeing over 100 silent films in about 2 months and it was well worth it. I discovered many many (many many) gems and I started to adore cinema in a whole new way.

Paul Martin said...

Goran, that's an awesome way to get a feel for silent film - immersion. When I wrote my review for Almodovar's Volver, it got me thinking about various themes that provoked my watching (then purchasing) all his films (16 of them) on DVD/video. I also augmented that by reading various books on the director.

But that was something I was passionate about at that time. I think one day I'd like to do something similar with silent film, to try and get an historical perspective on cinema, because silent is where it all started. Watching these films at Melbourne Cinémathèque, one could see various common devices in use today that clearly have their genesis in silent film. One day... maybe when I retire.