Archive for Hippodrome Silent Film Festival

Good Humor

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on July 15, 2017 by dcairns

I have an article in the new Sight & Sound — for the Primal Screen column on silent film, I’ve contributed a piece on the Marx Bros’ only silent, the long-lost HUMOR RISK. Since the film doesn’t exist and nobody alive has seen it, I was forced to use my imagination…

The piece came out of a conversation with Pamela Hutchinson of Silent London at the Boone’s Hippodrome Silent Film Festival, and from my Marxian researches for my twin video essays which can be seen on the Arrow Academy release of THE 4 MARX BROS AT PARAMOUNT.

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Bear Lady

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on March 30, 2017 by dcairns

This fortnight’s Forgotten visits a movie I revelled in at the Bo’ness Hippodrome, and now so can you do too, by the medium of word-writings! Nell Shipman stars, directs, produces, writes and wrangles THE GRUB-STAKE. Here.

It’s also on YouTube if you actually want to viscerally rather that vicariously experience it.

Hanging Tree

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Politics with tags , , , , , on March 29, 2017 by dcairns

There was a bit of a gold rush theme at Hippfest this year, with Nell Shipman’s THE GRUB STAKE and Lev Kuleshov’s BY THE LAW, both set in Alaska / Yukon respectively.

Kuleshov’s vaunted “effect” is in play, but he also has physiognomical miracles to work with in his actors, particularly Aleksandra Khokhlova (no sniggering), a kind of horsey skeleton, and vein-popping Vladimir Fogel (bit of a bulging blood-vessel theme too, since HANDS OF ORLAC was also screened). The screen is at all times full of either blasting weather conditions or straining thespians projecting their conniptions at us with every muscle. Marvelous.

The live music was by guitarist R.M. Hubbert, and was one of Hippfest’s few incomplete successes — it was very lovely and dreamy, but not very responsive to the film. While Kuleshov and his team wrestled with the elements to produce cabin fever, “Hubby” strummed lovingly as if set on soothing our nerves, making the experience considerably more restful than you would expect, given the film’s subject matter. it was a bold experiment, and it’s testimony to the music’s beauty that it didn’t induce a kind of cabin fever of its own, consisting as it did of the same bit played over and over for ninety minutes — I could have listened to it for ninety more, but it didn’t do much for the story.

That story derives from Jack London, a surprise choice for Soviet adaptation on the face of it (though he was an ardent socialist). Kuleshov’s visualisation of it is beyond reproach, but his few changes to the narrative are either propagandistic or just bizarre — so odd that I suspect a propaganda intent even if I can’t figure out what it was. We were all quite struck by the film’s ending, in which (spoiler!) a character returns from the dead. Is he a ghost, the manifestation of guilty consciences, or did he just not die properly in the first place? I turned to London’s source story, The Unexpected, for answers — and no such incident occurs.

Well, I can’t see the Soviets adding a ghost where none existed, the psychological approach seems at odds with the film’s very externalized approach (apoplectic actors, rainstorms and floods, stunningly rendered, which suggest real, life-threatening natural events rather than Lear-like symbols), and so we’re left with the executed man simply not being dead. I guess London’s downbeat, dying fall of an ending wouldn’t have played in the Urals. Ironically, though, the one thing that could have explained the bizarre surprise twist would have been retaining London’s original title. It certainly was unexpected.

Images via Brandon and thunderb.