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Film Friday | Weekly Roundup

Pretty Clever Film Gal’s fingers were flying all week to bring  you the Toronto Silent Film Festival preview this week, resulting in what may be the first ever silent film induced case of carpal tunnel syndrome. But don’t fret my pets, this did not slow me down from my self-appointed rounds of idly surfing the interwebs. Neither did the uncommonly sunny and warm March weather or the sudden reappearance of Speedo Guy in the courtyard. It continues to be a fine time to be a silent film and classic movies fan (thanks Mr. Hazanavicius!), so there’s a lot stuff to idly surf. Follow along and enjoy, and then get yourself on a disco nap schedule for the festival! Happy reading and happy viewing! Read the rest of this entry

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TSFF Preview: Tabu – A Tale of the South Seas (1931)

tabu-f.w. murnau-toronto-silent-film-festival

This year the Toronto Silent Film Festival will present F.W. Murnau’s Tabu – A Take of the South Seas on March 30. All silent film fans know F.W. Murnau, master of German expressionism and power house of silent cinema. Wait a minute – did I just say German expressionism? That poster for Tabu doesn’t look very German expressionistic. It doesn’t look it, because it ain’t, as my grandma used to say.

Even hardcore silent aficionados and Murnau buffs might be unfamiliar with Tabu. Because Murnau died in a fiery crash shortly after making Tabu, before the film was even released, it reads like an oddity in his filmography. Had Murnau survived, maybe Tabu would be hailed as the turning point in his stylistic development.  But he didn’t and we’re left with Tabu – a footnote in a way (though it shouldn’t be) and a rarely screened silent classic.

Tabu is a departure for Murnau in setting and style, yet not so much in subject matter. Set in Bora Bora, Tabu relates a tragic tale of two young lovers. Reri, is an “untouchable,” forbidden fruit because she is pledged as thesuccessor to the island’s sacred virgin, and Mathai is the young fisherman who loves her anyway.  The two battle to escape the tabu that Reri represents with, well, I won’t say predictable, but not wholly unexpected consequences. It’s a familiar emotional terrain to viewers of Sunrise, but entirely different in rhythm.

Originally, Tabu was a joint effort between Murnau and Robert Flaherty, though Flaherty eventually dropped out. Tabu retains his documentary-like ethnographic approach, however, and Murnau committed to using locals as actors, to dazzling effect. Whatever the woes in production, Tabu is a fresher, more relaxed Murnau, drifting away from his (one might say) obsessive studio stylization to a free, easier style. There is a lot of speculation and postulation that Bora Bora offered Murnau the man a kind of spiritual alternative to heavy-handed European moralism that freed him. It’s difficult to nail that down, because as I noted, Murnau wasn’t long for this world.

Whatever the back story and external circumstances, Tabu is a treat. It is a haunting, lyrical, and beautiful  film from the man who most internalized the peculiar and strictly visual language of silent cinema. I have never seen this movie on a screen with an audience, and I am so pleased that Toronto Silent Film Festival is offering up the opportunity. Get your tickets now.

Screening Details

Tabu – A Tale of the South Seas

Music: Original 1931 release musical track

Friday March 30, 2012
7:30pm
The Carlton Cinema
20 Carlton Street Toronto
Tickets $10.00

Plus: “Animation from the Lawless Days” tba with Musical Interpretation by Bill Lasovich

The Toronto Silent Film Festival Program

March 29 – Our Dancing Daughters

March 31: Blood and Sand

April 1: 1000 LAFFS: Playmates

April 2: The Italian Straw Hat

April 3: Variety

Toronto Silent Film Festival Preview

We’re heading into the final countdown… only one week ’til the launch of the 2012 Toronto Silent Film Festival! Heck to the yeah.

At this point in a run-up to a film festival, reviewers would have screeners in their grubby little paws and would be anxiously rolling the dice about what to say about a film without benefit of knowing what everyone else would say. Talk about a critical nightmare!

Ah, but not so for a silent film festival or a silent film reviewer! We have history on our side and the chances that an angry director will turn up to quibble with us are nil. But how do you preview a silent film festival?

Just like this. Check out each listing for what I have to say about Toronto Silent Film Festival’s line up and screening times for each film.

See ya at the festival!

March 29 – Our Dancing Daughters

March 30 – Tabu: A Tale of the South Seas

March 31: Blood and Sand

April 1: 1000 LAFFS: Playmates

April 2: The Italian Straw Hat

April 3: Variety

TSFF Preview: Variety (1925)

variety-e.a. dupont-toronto silent film festival

Grab your socks ladies and gentlemen, because the 2012 Toronto Silent Film Festival closes with the box office smash of 1925, E.A. Dupont‘s Variety. A masterpiece of German expressionism starring Emil Jannings (because what masterpiece of German expressionism doesn’t star Emil Jannings?), Variety is famous for “the swinging camerman.” This is a rarely screened silent era gem, so be sure to catch it this go round.

As a matter of fact, Variety is so rarely screened that I’ve never seen it. I could recapitulate a synopsis but I won’t. Suffice it say, there’s acrobats, murder, sex, Emil Jannings, and a camera man on a trapeze. ‘Nuff said. This is the movie to come out for (though you should totally come out for all of them) and to miss it would be a tragedy.

Okay, okay… a little teaser. To wet your whistle, here’s a video essay on Variety with commentary by Kristin Thompson, author of The Frodo Franchise and co-author of Film Art: An Introduction and Film History: An Introduction.

Satisfied? Now go secure your tickets from Toronto Film Festival right now!

Screening Details:

Variety

Musical Interpretation: Laura Silberberg

Tuesday April 3, 2012
8pm (doors open 7:30pm)
Innis Town Hall
2 Sussex Ave Toronto
Tickets $15.00

Plus: “Animation from the Lawless Days” The Cameraman’s Revenge 1912 Ladislaw Starewicz

The Force That Through the Green Fire Fuels The Flower 2011 directed by Otto Kylmälä UK/Finland

The Toronto Silent Film Festival Program

March 29 – Our Dancing Daughters

March 30 – Tabu: A Tale of the South Seas

March 31: Blood and Sand

April 1: 1000 LAFFS: Playmates

April 2: The Italian Straw Hat

TSFF Preview: The Italian Straw Hat (1927)

On April 2, Toronto Silent Film Festival presents a comedy of a different stripe with Rene Clair‘s The Italian Straw Hat. A comedy of manners rather than a slapstick, this French farce features a bride, a groom, an ill-mannered horse, a pretty young lady of questionable morals, and an angry hussar. Oh, and there’s also a wedding with all the attendant demanding and misguided family you might expect. Long story short, the horse eats a hat and Fadinard (Albert Prejean) has to delay his wedding to search for a replacement.

As with most comedy of manners, The Italian Straw Hat is kind of hard to describe. Farce depends on minutia, one tiny detail stacking atop another, until you have a veritable leaning tower of absurdity. Very fine farce adds up to a you-had-to-be-there situation, and The Italian Staw Hat is a very fine farce. It’s a light, effervescent sort of comedy and serves as an interesting counterpoint in this festival to the all-out slapstick of the American shorts program and the German-Expressionism-meets-Hollywood of the next night’s programming.

The French contribution to the silent film era is sophisticated and whimsical, and The Italian Straw Hat is a high point of France’s silent era offerings. Think of it as a nice palette cleanser and get over to Toronto Silent Film Festival to buy your tickets.

Screening Details:

The Italian Straw Hat

A co presentation with the Toronto Theatre Organ Society
Featuring Clark Wilson on the “Might Wurlitzer” Canada’s largest theatre organ
Monday April 2. 2012
Casa Loma 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto
8pm (doors open at 7:30pm)
Tickets $20.00

 

The Toronto Silent Film Festival Program

March 29 – Our Dancing Daughters

March 30 – Tabu: A Tale of the South Seas

March 31: Blood and Sand

April 1: 1000 LAFFS: Playmates

April 3: Variety

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