With my band The Dodge Brothers I recently got to play along to a live screening of a silent movie. With us was Neil Brand, whose mellifluous skills as a silent movie accompanist have been widely celebrated by Paul Merton among others, and a jolly and rather revelatory time was had by all.

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  • Comment number 24. Posted by ann Clarke

    on 20 Jun 2009 10:37

    hi like this blog - Although the intro is a bit more Benny Hill than Charlie Chaplin...

    A few years ago my family, including various children of all ages accompanied my dad to a Buster Keaton showing, including music by an Austrailian band called 'Blue grassy Knoll'. We all felt we were going out of a duty to indulge 'grandad' a bit worried the children might find it boring....

    I have never before or after seen a group of children laugh so much at the cinema..Buster Keaton was unbelievably talented, and particularly in the use of facial expression. We have since see Paul Merton on his tour and been similarly enthralled...

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  • Comment number 23. Posted by crushedegg

    on 17 Jun 2009 16:07

    "We've lost the ability to tell stories through facial gestures, to tell stories through static camera shots that allow actors to emote in a way that is simply visual rather than verbal."

    Without wishing to seem overly curt, I think that's little more than lazy journalism...

    There was discussion end of July '07 - when Bergman & Antonioni died within the same week - arguing that a particular breed of cinema had expired & no film-maker would ever be afforded sufficient time, finances or creativity to make such films again. The tenor of most commentary was one of a lost age never to be recovered, a style of film-making consigned almost to archival existence, accessible only through DVD, BlueRay & the occasional independent retrospective. 'Twas the final confirmation of the dying throes of art-cinema, or so a number of talking heads would have us believe. To qualify as a talking head, it seemed, it was necessary to be in excess of 50 years of age, intrinsically involved with the history of cinema - whether that be creatively or purely academic - & to be male.

    Another criteria, or so it seemed, was to have little appreciation of how fresh auteurs & artists serve to organically progress cinema, borrowing & maniplulating & subverting everything the great masters provided but for a whole new age of cinephile. Which brings me neatly back to your somewhat glib comment...

    In the Mood for Love relays it's story almost entirely through gesture, stillness & music, & Tony Leung & Maggie Cheung's extraordinary struggles with repression. The Return succeeds as a film about absence & allusion purely because Andrei Zvyaginstev allows the bleakness of landscape, the brusque ambivalence of the father & the lingering vulnerability of the 2 sons to drive the rite-of-passage forward with a strange skewed logic all of it's own. Uzak is almost defiant in its languorous pace, playing out the constant physical presence of both cousins avoidance of one another as they shift about the darkened apartment, until the resultant thaw prods them toward some sort of mutual acceptance. La Vie Nouvelle, whilst perhaps not to everyone's taste, is excoriating in its depiction of how life can become so grim, so hopeless, so extreme & yet, conversely, peripheral that something as seemingly mundane as speech & communication are rendered obsolete as each character unravels to an almost feral state.

    Equally, as has already been alluded to in others' previous entries, films such as Wall-E, Hunger & The Man Who Wasn't There use dialogue either as a skeleton on which to hang or as a poetic accompaniment to the physical communion of the film's characters. All of these films mentioned, quite deliberately, are unashamedly international & inclusive in their production & themes, & all were released within the past 10 years, engaging a plethora of young, vibrant film goers with the very essence & core beauty of visual art. As the late great JG Ballard continually inferred, there is a great danger in dwelling too much in the past & indulging that most pernicious sickness nostalgia...

    crushedegg
    http://crushedegg.wordpress.com

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  • Comment number 22. Posted by zampano

    on 15 Jun 2009 12:50

    Wall -E tried to have its cake and eat it. Why spoil the film's brilliant first half with a descent into cliche and conventionality?

    Critics were quick to overlook the poor second half of that fim. The director's insistence also that film did not have an eco message did not ring true. Also there's the wider problem with regards to Pixar being part of of huge multinational, and the themes and meesages many of its films have.

    I feel critics have been very quick to give any Pixar film their utmost praise. Despite not having made a bad film yet, they've hardly produced one masterpiece after the next, as the media like to make out.

    The Toy Story films and the Incredibles are probably the most deserving of their plaudits, while the others, although very good, do not come nowhere near any of Walt Disney's classics.

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  • Comment number 21. Posted by Paul Hughes

    on 15 Jun 2009 11:17

    Dr K.

    Surely, honourable mentions must go to a couple of films last year that started (at least) in a wholly visual way? I refer, of course, to the opening sequences of Wall-E and There Will Be Blood, which both unfolded without dialogue. Both are tours-de-force of modern cinema.

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  • Comment number 20. Posted by Philm_E_stein

    on 15 Jun 2009 11:03

    Talking about summer blockbusters... So finally we get a solid (if not exceptional) mainstream movie, this summer.The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, a remake of the 70's classic starring Walther Matthau and Robert Shaw, opened in the US this weekend.There are enough differences from the original that you dont feel like you are watching a remake and know what's coming next. Tony scott keeps up the tension during the hostage negotiations and includes some impressive exterior action sequences. John Travolta and Denzel Washington, ably supported by John Turturro and James Gandolfini, are in good form with a good script that rattles along until it hits the buffers shortly before the end. Travolta's moustache twirling supplies the humour and Washington's character and personal story are more complex than Matthau's was. I can't help wondering if we are still being affected by the writer's strike of last year as the resolution is rather weak compared to the rest of the film. It doesn't compare to the original largely because of the lack of a third act but still worth the price of admission although the UK will have to wait until 24th July to see it.

    Now, what is all this nonsense about not liking films about Las vegas just becaue they are about Las Vegas? Apart from the exceptions you metioned, what about Casino or the Cooler? I also didnt mind Bugsy, Honeymoon in Las Vegas, Very Bad Things, Oceans Eleven (not 12 or 13), Midnight Run, Austin Powers(1), Rain Man and Diamonds are Forever. Good grief, man! You can watch the most sordid slasher movies but you balk at Sin City? What rot! Mumbai is not exactly a model city, is it?

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  • Comment number 19. Posted by zampano

    on 15 Jun 2009 10:41

    we've lost the melody in melodrama, nice line!

    summer usually meant three things: holidays, nice weather and fun summer blockbusters.

    unfortunately these three things are no longer guaranteed. it's been a couple of years now since we've last had a decent summer. holidays are confined to a couple of weeks rather than the glorious three month break. and summer blockbusters have turned into a cacophony of actions set pieces welded together with little care for story or character.

    ive decided to no longer subjest myself to the torrent of insipid blockbusters like once before.

    I've decided to become extremely selective in my choice of summer blockbuters. Instead I have compiled a list of films I've been meanign to see for a long time. So far I've seen some amazing films including
    Black Narcissus, The World of Apu, Best Shot, Hopscotch, Sullivan's Travels and All About Eve.

    It's a great way to counteract the bile in our cinemas this summer!


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  • Comment number 18. Posted by jnanagarbha

    on 14 Jun 2009 18:43

    On the subject of 'you were right and I was wrong'...

    A while back I was a bit sniffy about you calling Michael Bay the antichrist, arguing that it was puerile to blame one person for a trend in film making. However I had the misfortune to see the trailer for Transformers 2 recently, and so I bow to your perspicacity.

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  • Comment number 17. Posted by Nick Savvides

    on 13 Jun 2009 20:49

    Yes Dr K I mostly agree with you.

    But what was German Expressionism without the use of extremely highly stylised production design and extreme acting to signify something far deeper into the human psyche?

    Was that not the CGI of its day? The use if false perspectives and minatures employed by the great filmmakers of Murnau, the use of spectacle employed by Griffith, DeMille and the romanticised legends of the old west as told by Ford. Not that I am comparing these greats to someone like Michael Bay (that would be stupid and insane).

    Story telling has changed, maybe not for the better or for worse because we get great films like Let the Right One in and there are also directors such as Michael Haneke who make films such as the glorious Cache (Hidden).

    Films today I think just need to slow down, but you can't always blame the filmmakers or the studios. Were it not for the demand of the masses maybe we could have cinema that has slowed. But then you can't stop the progress of technology. Storytelling is changing. Let us hope that it is not for the worse.

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  • Comment number 16. Posted by anne m

    on 13 Jun 2009 18:45

    I know this is neiher here nor there, but I'm watching "changeling" and I was getting ready to resent angelina jolie but you were absolutely right. She's bloody brilliant! You were right and I was wrong.

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  • Comment number 15. Posted by nelsonvanheuvel

    on 13 Jun 2009 17:17

    good point - well made (to use the words of a reknown film critic)

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