Monday, 16 January 2017

Silent movie nights in January 2017

The theme this month is the representation of the American South in silent cinema. The subject itself is very complex, and while there is a tonne of literature on the ways in which Hollywood helped construct various stereotypical images of the "South" (see here for a very brief intro), silent movies are often overlooked. Southern themes were actually quite prominent in the early days of cinema as well, way before Gone With the Wind cemented the Southern imagery for generations to come.

We'll be certainly watching more movies set in the South during 2017, but here's a selection made for this month:

6th January
Our Hospitality (1923)
Starring Buster Keaton and Natalie Talmadge, Our Hospitality is silent comedy about a family feud, but it's more than just typical slapstick. Keaton was praised for the way in which he was able to incorporate gags into a dramatic storyline, also for great camera work. It was a big hit at the time, in both U.S. and Europe, and is considered until today one of Keaton's best works.


13th January
Sparrows (1926)
Sparrows is a drama produced by Mary Pickford, one of the most important names of the silent era. She also starred in the role of Molly, a young woman who, under very dramatic circumstances, rescues a number of orphans from the cruel Mr Grimes - owner of a "baby farm". The film received mixed reviews: while some praised Pickford's performance, others objected to too much melodrama. Historically, the movie's theme reflects the period media obsession with child abductions, culminating with the infamous 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping.


20th and 27th January
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
I was in two minds about whether to feature this film at Odie Cinema, given its controversial nature. And yet, as politically charged as it was and remains, I decided we couldn't miss it. Originally titled The Clansman, and directed by D. W. Griffith, this three-hour silent epic deals with the subject of Reconstruction, dramatizing the foundation of the Ku Klux Klan. Back in the 1910s, it was strongly protested against by black activists and, on the other hand, used as a propaganda and recruitment tool for the KKK (notably, its "second era" began the same year the movie was released, which was probably not a coincidence).


Political, ideological, and racial matters aside, the film is considered Griffith's masterpiece and a landmark in movie history. It was the first film to be screened in the White House (under Woodrow Wilson), and in 1992 it was added to National Film Registry as "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".

Given its duration, we'll be watching it on two consecutive Fridays (each sitting about 90 minutes long).


As a reminder, silent movie nights at Odie Cinema in Second Life take place Fridays from 1pm SLT at this inworld location.