News from the Silent Movie Front: Rediscovered Hungarian Cinema, a Protest Documentary, New Blus, Carl Dreyer and Fandor at Amazon

So much news to share this time! I’m actually a little overwhelmed by it and it’s all good stuff. Let’s dive in.

Live Screening of Emigre Productions

Here’s an exciting bit of news: the Kennington Bioscope in London will be screening Tales of the 1001 Nights and L’Enfant du carnaval on February 8, 2017. These films are rarely shown to the general public and both were made by Russians fleeing the revolution. (They settled in Paris. Wouldn’t you?) 1001 Nights is a lavish fantasy with gorgeous location work while Enfant is a charming little comedy in a similar vein to The Kid and Three Men and a Baby. 1001 Nights will feature music by Meg Morley, Enfant will be accompanied by music from Lillian Henley. So you get to support #WomenInFilm too!

Ivan Mosjoukine (who also wrote and directed) and Bartkevitch find themselves in possession of a baby.

Both films are from the 9.5mm collection of Christopher Bird, who, if you will recall, has been quite generously sharing his treasures with us. He will be introducing the movies, so you’ll get a history lesson in the bargain.

While Mr. Bird has made both films available on his YouTube channel, this is your chance to see them on the big screen with live, professional musical accompaniment and an expert introduction. You can find information regarding tickets and location on the Kennington Bioscope website.

Lost Hungarian Film Rediscovered

The 1915 Hungarian feature A Munkászubbony (The Work Jacket) has been rediscovered by the EYE Film Institute in the Netherlands. The plan is to send the film to the Hungarian National Film Archives’ collection for repatriation This is wonderful news as Hungarian silent film is quite rare. Here’s hoping screenings and perhaps home media release will be forthcoming!

(H/T: Leticia Fairbanks)

Birth of a Movement to Air on PBS

One of the more infuriating things I keep hearing is that when silent films are problematic, we need to “look at context” and remember that “no one was offended back then.” Baloney!

Well, this new documentary should take some starch out of that particular myth. Birth of a Movement catalogs the protest movement against The Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith’s love letter to the KKK. It will be airing on February 6, 2017. Check your local PBS station for details. (If you’re not in the USA, PBS is American public television and they are usually quite good about releasing their content on home video.)

(H/T: Lilian)

Early Carl Dreyer films from Flicker Alley

Flicker Alley has released a DVD containing The Parson’s Widow (1920), as well as two short films, They Caught the Ferry (1948) and Thorvaldsen: Denmark’s Great Sculptor (1949). This is a chance to catch up on Dreyer before and after his two most famous films, The Passion of Joan of Arc and Vampyr.

(These films were previously released on DVD by Image but have fallen out of print.)

Miss Lulu Bett on Bluray

You know that Miss Lulu Bett is one of my favorite silent films and so I was tickled to learn that Grapevine has released it on DVD and Bluray. (The old image disc is, alas, out of print.)

Grapevine has also released The Cowboy and the Flapper, which I have never seen but must obtain for the title alone.

Fandor on Amazon

(This is old news but I keep forgetting to post it. Bad me!)

There are plenty of services that claim to be aimed at film geeks but Fandor is by far the best if you love weird, obscure and unknown. For silent fans, the service is particularly valuable because it gives access to high quality silent films from Flicker Alley, Kino Lorber and even exclusive titles from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Well, now Fandor is available as an Amazon channel, which makes it a very convenient option for movie geeks everywhere! There’s a 7-day free trial so you can give it a whirl risk-free. (Disclosure: Movies Silently is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I should also mention that I have been subscribed to the Amazon Fandor channel for a month at my own expense and have been quite happy with my experience.)

I will say that the search function on Amazon leaves much to be desired for silent film fans and the awesome browsing features of Fandor’s website have been sacrificed in the move. Amazon lumps all older films in the “pre-1960” category and does not offer a classic or silent category, let alone all the genres and sub-genres that Fandor’s page offers. (They even tell us if the film passes the Bechdel test!) However, the price on Amazon is currently $3.99 per month, which is quite savings over the $10 per month non-Amazon subscription. Plus, Amazon’s player is, in my experience, one of the best of all the streaming services and there is something to be said for this reliability. (By the way, I am unsure of international availability for this or any other channel. If you have questions, I recommend contacting Amazon directly.)

By the way, people have asked so I will share it here: FilmStruck. While it’s a nice idea, there is very little of interest to someone who has been watching silents for a while. We get most Chaplin, some famous German stuff, a tiny bit of Russian stuff, a few Japanese flicks and that’s it. It’s extremely high quality stuff from the Criterion Collection and other name brand outfits but nothing obscure (by silent fan standards) and no new discoveries to be made.

I’m sure there are plenty of goodies for non-silent fans but Fandor remains the service to beat when it comes to silent film selection and quality. Silent newbies can munch away at FilmStruck’s Chaplin and the few available dramas but there’s not much to offer the more advanced silent viewer. Definitely a talkie zone. If they included some of the vaulties that have only screened on TCM, then we’d be cooking with gas! (And, obviously, this opinion is subject to change as the selections on the service shift around.)

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6 Replies to “News from the Silent Movie Front: Rediscovered Hungarian Cinema, a Protest Documentary, New Blus, Carl Dreyer and Fandor at Amazon”

  1. I am an Amazon Prime member and subscribe to Fandor for $3 per month. Throwaway money, and you are correct in that they have a wonderful selection. I do much prefer the search function on Fandor. What I often do is go to the Fandor website itself and locate a movie they have. Then, I zip back to Amazon and search for the movie and then add it to the Watch queue. A two step process, but the Fandor search function, where you have a slide meter for years and length, is outstanding. I am thinking about Filmstruck. I was very disappointed in their silent film selection under the genre category. But, the silent films they have listed under that genre, are not all of the silents they have. I was disappointed when they did not have some Japanese silents from Criterion that I had wanted to see…Maruse, etc. I searched and found them under Japanese films. They are silent but not listed as such in the silent category.

    1. I do the same thing with Fandor. 🙂 Their site’s search function really is second to none.

      Yes, I think the poor cataloguing is a sign that Filmstruck isn’t taking silent film too seriously. It’s easy to look at a listing for a Japanese film from, say, 1934 and assume that it must be a talkie even though silent fans know the country was a late silent holdout. A real pity that a site billed as the ultimate film nerd resource would treat silent film as an afterthought. Sigh.

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