Archive for category: Silent Cinema

Blu-ray: Lon Chaney’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’

6 April, 2014 (07:38) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Lon Chaney was the most unlikely of Hollywood superstar actors. Talented and ambitious, he fearlessly took on roles of tortured victims, twisted villains, and misshapen outcasts, parts that he brought to life with a mix of elaborate make-up, physically demanding incarnations, and emotionally intense performances. In some ways, you could see him as the De […]

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Louis Feuillade: An Introduction

5 November, 2013 (10:13) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

In the rapid evolution of film style in the first twenty years of cinema, from the earliest shorts by the Lumieres, the Edison Studio and Méliès to the narrative storytelling of D.W. Griffith, editing is king. It is, we are told, the foundation of film grammar. It gives the filmmaker a tool to direct our attention, […]

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SFSFF 2013 Spotlights: The ‘Beauté’ of Louise, the ‘Safety’ of Lloyd, and those ‘Joyless’ Germans

19 August, 2013 (09:11) | by Sean Axmaker, Film Festivals, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

G.W. Pabst’s The Joyless Street (1925), the Centerpiece screening on Saturday night, is a landmark drama of social commentary, a savage portrait of Germany after World War II, when rampant inflation and record unemployment plunged an entire class into poverty and widened the gulf between rich and poor into a veritable ocean. Decadence and desperation […]

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SFSFF 2013 Premieres: ‘The Half-Breed’ and ‘The Last Edition’

12 August, 2013 (05:25) | by Sean Axmaker, Film Festivals, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

I surveyed the 2013 San Francisco Silent Film Festival for Fandor a few weeks ago, covering the highlights and landmarks in brief. But it was always my intention to explore the films, and my experience with them, in a little more detail, time permitting. As it turns out, time has not permitted much opportunity, so […]

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San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2013 Wrap

31 July, 2013 (08:50) | by Sean Axmaker, Film Festivals, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

I knew that San Francisco Silent Film Festival is the premiere silent fest in America, but I was elated to learn from Céline Ruivo, curator of the film collection at the Cinématèque Française and a special guest at this year’s festival, that in Europe, SFSFF has a reputation as one of the premiere silent film […]

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Blu-ray / DVD: ‘Safety Last’

25 June, 2013 (06:33) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

The image of Harold Lloyd hanging from the hands of a clock high above the Los Angeles city streets may be the single most iconic shot that says “silent movies” and “slapstick comedy” to the general public without further explanation. It is of course one of the great set pieces in Safety Last! (1923), the […]

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Videodrone: ‘French Masterworks: Russian Émigrés in Paris 1923-1928′

18 May, 2013 (15:44) | by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

French Masterworks: Russian Émigrés in Paris 1923-1928 (Flicker Alley) presents of the stateside DVD debut of five silent classics from Film Albatros, a French studio founded by Russian artists: The Burning Crucible, Kean, The Late Mathias Pascal, Gribiche, and The New Gentlemen. Three of the films star Ivan Mosjoukine, the great Russian actor who fled […]

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DVD: ‘The Circle’

17 April, 2013 (23:00) | by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

“Man may select a wife – but he should be careful whose wife he selects.” The Circle, based on the 1921 play by W. Somerset Maugham and directed by Frank Borzage in 1925, is a fascinating and ultimately moving film that defies expectations. It slips between high melodrama and drawing room comedy, with jabs of […]

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‘Blancanieves’: A Retro Retelling of Snow White

11 April, 2013 (08:48) | by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

The obvious comparison to Pablo Berger’s inventive retelling of Snow White as a silent-movie melodrama, set in the 1920s bullfighting scene of Seville, is The Artist. Both channel the international language of silents for modern viewers, and both have been embraced by audiences and lavished with awards. Blancanieves comes stateside with 10 Goya Awards, Spain’s […]

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Blu-ray: ‘The Late Mathias Pascal’

10 March, 2013 (07:08) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Even the most famous of silent movies are a specialized interest when it comes to home video. Apart from the comedies of Chaplin and Keaton or a few acknowledged landmarks of silent cinema (think Sunrise or Metropolis or Nosferatu), many movie fans view silent films as primitive or dull. Nothing could be farther from the […]

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Blu-ray / DVD: Fritz Lang’s ‘Die Nibelungen’

8 November, 2012 (10:27) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Die Nibelungen (Kino) is the original fantasy epic, a magnificent silent spectacle based on the same German myth that inspired Wagner’s “Ring” cycle and the wellspring that nurtured “Excalibur,” “Lord of the Rings,” and “Game of Thrones” (not mention “Metropolis”). This blood and thunder myth of warriors and dragons and brotherhood and betrayal, is awesome […]

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Blu-ray/DVD: Paul Fejos’ ‘Lonesome’

16 September, 2012 (15:37) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Paul Fejos’ Lonesome is both one of the great films of the late silent movie era and one of the oddities of the transition to the talkies. It was released as a hybrid silent film that (like The Jazz Singer) features a few sound sequences with synchronized dialogue scattered through the film. While they stick […]

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Out of the Past: Hearts of the World

19 August, 2012 (12:14) | by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Richard T. Jameson

[Originally published in Movietone News 48, February 1976] Let’s face it. No matter how much homage we pay (and rightly) to D.W. Griffith as the father of narrative cinema, no matter how many ‘sublime’s and ‘magnificent’s we garnish our appreciations with, The Master made his share of films that, as watched movies, are bummers. The […]

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SFSFF 2012: ‘The Mark of Zorro’ and the Birth of the Swashbuckler

19 July, 2012 (08:40) | by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

One of the beauties of the SFSFF program is its balance of rarities and classics. I cherish the discoveries (or rediscoveries) that every festival brings, but just as valuable is the opportunity to revisit a well-known classic for a fresh experience under the most ideal conditions: big screen, live music, excellent print, and appreciative audience. […]

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Closing Night at San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2012

17 July, 2012 (08:53) | by Sean Axmaker, Film Festivals, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

In a twist of fate that Buster Keaton would have appreciated, the closing night audience at The Cameraman was stone-faced.

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