Upcoming Screenings: A Trip to the Moon in Color & The Extraordinary Voyage

During the next few months, A Trip to the Moon (dir. Georges Méliès) restored to its original 1902 colors and featuring a new soundtrack by the band AIR will be making on-screen appearances along with Lobster Films’ The Extraordinary Voyage (2011), the 65-minute documentary about the film’s original production and recent landmark restoration.

Upcoming dates:

August 26 – San Francisco, CA – Castro Theatre

August 29 – Cambridge, MA – Brattle Theatre

September 5 – Atlanta, GA – Emory University – Heilbrun Music and Media Library *A TRIP TO THE MOON only!

September 13 – Ithaca, NY – Cornell Cinema *A TRIP TO THE MOON only!

September 22 – Denver, CO – Denver Silent Film Festival

November 17 – Rochester, NY – George Eastman House

November 30 – Bloomington, IN – Indiana University Cinema *A TRIP TO THE MOON only!

Check back here for more updates!

Past screenings:

February 2-10;  February 17-19; February 24 – March 1; March 7-12; March 23-29 (Keeps coming back by popular demand!) – New York, NY – Elinor Bunin Monroe Theater at the Film Society Lincoln Center

February 10 & 12 – Portland, OR – Portland International Film Festival at Northwest Film Center

February 11 & 12 – Dallas, TX – Texas Theatre

February 18 – May 20 – Santa Fe, NM – SITE Santa Fe/Center for Contemporary Arts – (Will only show A TRIP TO THE MOON only in a continuous loop as part of the exhibition Time-Lapse)

February 20 – Ann Arbor, MI – Michigan Theater

February 25 – Santa Monica, CA – American Cinematheque/AERO Theatre

February 25 – San Francisco, CA – Noise Pop SF

February 25 – Topeka, KS – Kansas City Silent Film Festival

February 28 – Seattle, WA – Northwest Film Forum

February 29 – Bellingham, WA – Viking Union at Western Washington University – (Screening of A TRIP TO THE MOON only to be shown with HUGO)

March 1 – Oklahoma City, OK – Oklahoma City Museum of Art

March 2-4 – Grand Rapids, MI – Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

March 3 –  Ithaca, NY – Cornell Cinema

March 4 – Boise, ID – The Flicks

March 7 – Norfolk, VA – Naro Cinema

March 8 & 11 – Bridgeport, CT – Bijou Theatre

March 9-15 – Amherst, MA – Amherst Cinema Arts Center

March 9-15 – Brooklyn, NY – IndieScreen

March 10-11 – Lake Park, FL – Mos’Art Theatre

March 10, 13 and 16 – Peekskill, NY – Paramount Center for the Arts

March 16-17 & 23-25 – Detroit, MI – Detroit Institute of Arts – *A TRIP TO THE MOON only!

March  20, 23 & 25  – Montpelier, VT – Green Mountain Film Festival (3 different venues on 3 different days)

March 23-25 – Tallahassee, FL – Tallahassee Film Society

March 24-25 – Hunter, NY – Mountain Cinema at the Doctorow Center for the Arts

March 23-27 – Miami Beach, FL – Miami Beach Cinematheque

March 30-April 2 – Nashville, TN – Belcourt Theatre

April 3 – Modesto, CA – State Theatre of Modesto

April 6-12 – Chicago, IL – Gene Siskel Film Center

April 9 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Academy of Music – BAM Rose Cinemas – Special program “A Trip to the Moon and Other Travels” hosted by Serge Bromberg,  includes Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902), another film by  Méliès, After the Ball (1916), and other silent delights, A Trip Down Market Street (1906), San Francisco After the Catastrophe (1906), and a Buster Keaton short, The Love Nest (1923)

April 13 – Athens, OH – Athens Film Festival

April 13-14 – Washington DC – AFI

April 14 – Avondale Estates, GA – Academy Theatre – *A TRIP TO THE MOON only!

April 15 – Los Angeles, CA – TCM Classic Film Festival – Special program “A Trip to the Moon and Other Travels” hosted by Serge Bromberg,  includes Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902), another film by  Méliès, After the Ball (1916), and other silent delights, A Trip Down Market Street (1906), San Francisco After the Catastrophe (1906), and a Buster Keaton short, The Love Nest (1923)

April 18 – Philadelphia, PA – International House

April 18 – Columbus, OH – Wexner Center for the Arts 

April 18 – Los Angeles, CA – COL-COA (“A Week of French Film Premieres in Hollywood”)

April 26 & 28 – Memphis, TN – Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

April 27 – Lincoln, NE – Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center, Hixson-Lied College of Fine & Performing Arts, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

April 28 – Fresno, CA – Fresno Filmworks/ Fresno Film Festival

May 17 – Tucson, AZ – The Loft Cinema

May 20 – Honolulu, HI – Honolulu Museum of Art – *A TRIP TO THE MOON only!

May 31 – Boulder, CO – Boulder Public Library

May 31 – June 1 – Wichita, KS – Murdock Theatre

June 3-4 – Schenectady, NY – Proctor’s Theatre

June 18-21 – Pittsburgh, PA – Pittsburgh Filmmakers

June 21 – Stamford, CT – Avon Theatre Film Center

June 22-23 – Lambertville, NJ – ACME Screening Room

June 26 – Cleveland, OH – Capitol Theatre

July 15 – San Francisco, CA – San Francisco Silent Film Festival – *35mm print of A TRIP TO THE MOON only! To be shown on Closing Night of the SFSFF with Buster Keaton’s THE CAMERAMAN

July 15 – Pleasantville, NY – Jacob Burns Film Center – *A TRIP TO THE MOON only!

July 20 – St. Louis, MO – Cinema St. Louis – Centene Center for Arts & Education *35mm print of A TRIP TO THE MOON only!

July 28 – Chicago, IL – Music Box Theatre

August 1 – Traverse City, MI – Traverse City Film Festival

August 3 – El Paso, TX – Plaza Classic Film Festival – *35mm print of A TRIP TO THE MOON only!

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Your Questions Answered – A Trip to the Moon in COLOR

Pssst!!!! Last week we announced the release of Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon in its original 1902 colors (and featuring a soundtrack by AIR) and Lobster Films‘ new feature length documentary The Extraordinary Voyage in a limited 2-Disc BD/DVD G2 SteelBook Edition. The restoration of A Trip to the Moon is a collaborative effort between Lobster Films, Paris, and two non-profit entities, Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema and Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage.  This landmark film restoration won a 2011 Film Heritage Award from National Society of Film Critics.

Georges Méliès, one of the celebrated heroes of Martin Scorsese’s new movie HUGO, was a master of cinematic invention and enchantment. Flicker Alley, of course, is no stranger to Méliès, having first released First Wizard of Cinema in 2008 and Georges Méliès Encore in 2010. We are a small company and each publication is a labor of love. So, we are thrilled that our love affair, so to speak, with the films of Méliès can continue with A Trip to the Moon. We’ve also been pleased about the enthusiasm from you all, and appreciate the questions that have been pouring in via email, Twitter, and Facebook. There have been some really wonderful questions about contents and technical specifications, which we think warrant some public display. Here they are, along with their respective answers….

Cover art for "A Trip to the Moon" in its 1902 colors

Q: What is the street date for this?

A: The day to circle in your calendars is TUESDAY, MARCH 27, 2012. We will ship out pre-orders on or slightly before this date.

Q: What size does the SteelBook Case come in? Is it DVD size (G1) or Blu-ray size (G2)?

A: It’s Blu-ray size, also known as G2. To clarify: both a Blu-ray and a DVD will be included inside of the Blu-ray sized SteelBook case.

Q: What’s the region-coding going to be on this?

A: Due  to the very specific parameters in which this product was licensed, it is being made available in a Region A edition (North America, South America, East Asia, and Southeast Asia). Although we wish we could do more, we have to abide by our licensing agreement and be fair to our other distribution partners.

Q: Can you tell me about The Extraordinary Voyage? What is the total running time for it?

A: Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange of Lobster Films in Paris directed this documentary about the life of Georges Méliès and his most famous film A Trip to the Moon. It’s a tale about film history and film preservation. The total running time is 78 minutes.

Q: How will the black and white version of A Trip to the Moon on this release differ from your previously published versions?

A: The black and white version of Moon will actually be from a brand-new HD transfer that has not previously been available. The film materials utilized for this transfer come from a fine-grain master derived from a nitrate print made available by the Méliès family.

Q: Will your restored color version of A Trip to the Moon contain the audio narration written by Méliès?

A: The color version of A Trip To The Moon is a special case in that it will only be released with an original soundtrack by the French band, AIR. However, the black and white version that we described in the previous answer will have three separate audio tracks:

Audio Track  1: Robert Israel Orchestral Score track with an original spoken English narration written by Méliès,

Audio Track 2: A “troupe of actors” voicing the various characters as performed in the U.S. in 1903 with piano accompaniment by Frederick Hodges in the background.

Audio Track 3: piano accompaniment ONLY by Frederick Hodges (no voice actors).

Q: Can you describe the audio quality for the AIR soundtrack?

A:  Correction: We previously stated that the audio soundtrack by AIR will be released in DTS HD. Please note that we are preparing AIR’s soundtrack in DTS 5.1 for this release.

Q: What will the subtitling options be?

A:  The parts of the documentary and bonus features in French will contain English subtitles on the master. (The doc is half in French and half in English). As we mentioned earlier, because our legally licensed territory is USA, we do not have the authority or the rights to subtitle this in multiple language editions. There are financial considerations that we had to weigh carefully, as well, since this is such a limited release.

Q: Are you going to include some of Méliès’ other films?

A: Yes! Both the DVD and Blu-ray discs will feature other two lunar-themed films by Georges Méliès: 1. The Eclipse (1907), which was sourced from an original negative. 2. The Astronomer’s Dream (1898), which was sourced from the Lobster Films Collection. On the Blu-rary, these bonus features will be presented in HD.

Q: How will the SteelBook cases be protected and packaged to avoid damages during the shipping process?

A: We are taking the shipping and packaging of the SteelBook cases  very seriously and are making a concerted effort to take extra care in this matter.

Q: How many copies will make up this limited edition publication?

A: There will only be a few thousand Blu-ray G2 SteelBooks manufactured, and the film materials will not be printed again in the future this way.  We hope that the collector’s market embraces this, and will support our efforts to consider SteelBook cases for future Flicker Alley editions.

Q: Will there be an enclosed booklet in the SteelBook case?

A: Yes! As with all of our publications, this release will include a booklet with materials provided to us by the two Foundations working together to save this film heritage milestone. This is still a work in progress, but we can tell you that there will be an essay, which focuses on the original production of A Trip to the Moon and Méliès’ working methods.

Thanks again for your amazing support!  For more information on A Trip to the Moon & The Extraordinary Voyage, check out our website.

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Celebrating Georges Méliès

Méliès in "Untamable Whiskers" (1904)

Happy Birthday Georges Méliès! The great cinema magician was born in Paris on December 8, 1861. We are pleased that on this 150th anniversary, Méliès is garnering much attention and has been winning new fans following the release of Martin Scorcese’s new film HUGO.  Of course, Méliès has long been dear in our hearts, and in 2008 Flicker Alley published Georges Méliès First Wizard of Cinema, a five-disc set of 173 films. Following up in 2010, we released Georges Méliès: Encore (New Discoveries 1896-1911- 26 Rare and Wonderful Films by the First Wizard of Cinema). On November 28, 2011, the five-disc set went out of print. Today we are very pleased to announce the release of a republished edition!

An original production drawing by Méliès for "The Palace of the Arabian Nights" (1905)

Image from "The Kingdom of Fairies" (1903)

Méliès starring in "The Living Playing Cards" (1904)

May the magic and memory of Méliès and his films live on for another 150 years and beyond!

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Talking Film History with Bérénice Bejo

Last week, we had the pleasure of chatting with Bérénice Bejo, Argentinean/French actress who stars as Peppy Miller in the new Weinstein Company release The Artist. Since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, the film, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, has been busy garnering attention and acclaim. The Artist pays homage to a very specific era in film history-the transition in Hollywood to sound motion picture production that occurred in the late 1920s. The film is black and white and mostly a silent film.  The story begins in 1927 as Peppy begins her Hollywood career as an extra and dancer. She enchants George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin), a famous star, at the premiere of his latest film. The Artist presents the challenges that actors faced during the silent to sound transition in a charming and engaging way.

While Bérénice’s latest project is about filmmaking 90 years ago, we were excited to talk to her about her role in another film, which Flicker Alley distributes, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno. Inferno, a documentary, focuses on film history from a different decade-Clouzot’s ill-fated 1964 production of L’enfer. Directed by Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea, the film illustrates why L’enfer was never fully realized through interviews with crew members, original production footage and screen tests shot by Clouzot, and readings from Clouzot’s script with Bejo and Jacques Gamblin in the roles originally played by Romy Schneider and Serge Reggiani.

We talk to Bérénice about her roles in both Inferno and The Artist. 

Bejo with Jacques Gamblin in "Inferno"

Flicker Alley: Why do you think the original production of Inferno was a significant/unique project? What was your interest in working on it?

Bérénice Bejo: The story of the production of Clouzot’s L’enfer [Inferno] was fascinating to me. As someone who works in the entertainment business, it’s always interesting to see how films are made or how projects remain incomplete.

Serge Bromberg [the director] is an amazing person. I also could not pass up the opportunity to work with good quality directors and actors. I also very much admire Romy Schneider. I was interested in the project, especially after watching her screen tests. Romy is beautiful, touching, and strong. Young actresses in France still often look up to her. I would compare her to Gena Rowlands. Both have the same emotionally intense acting.

Poster art for "Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno"

Flicker Alley: Were you able to see the Clouzot’s footage before you shot your scenes?

Bérénice: Yes, I’ve seen so much of the original footage, including auditions with various costumes and many of test shoots by Clouzot. Clouzot did so many tests – he was so crazy!

A week before Serge [Bromberg] called me about the film, I was talking about Clouzot’s other lead, Serge Reggiani, at a party with some friends. We were discussing how in spite of his success as a musical artist, he was “the black cat of French cinema,” bringing bad luck to many of the productions he was involved with. So, it was fascinating to also watch his scenes.

Flicker Alley: What was the most surprising revelation upon seeing your scenes and the original footage combined?

Bérénice: It was difficult the first time to see the new scenes, which are so modern, combined with the beautiful, older ones, but the second time I watched the scenes, I was completely into it and accepted the idea. From the beginning, I said there is no way I can act the scenes in a way that would compare to Romy, so I always tightly clutched the scripts in the scenes, in a way to make it clear that I didn’t want the audience to compare my acting to hers. I think the audience does not judge, the new scenes allow them to understand and comprehend the story.

 Flicker Alley: Do you feel that your character Odette was an innocent, the victim of her husband Marcel’s demons of jealousy, or was she cheating on him?

Bérénice: I think she’s a victim. Her husband was totally crazy and jealous. He needs to see a doctor quickly! That is just my opinion, of course.

Flicker Alley: Inferno dealt with a project made 45 years ago, The Artist deals with an era of filmmaking 90 years ago.  Was there any kind of connection regarding your interest in the two projects?

Bérénice: No, connection. The project just came along. Michel [Hazanavicius] is my partner, and I inspired the character in a way. I am very lucky and received a great part!

Flicker Alley: How is acting for a silent film different from other films you’ve worked on?

Bérénice: The acting isn’t different. I didn’t focus on the fact that it was silent. Rather, I focused on the character herself – a woman who wants to work in the movie business and then becomes a big star. I tried to focus mostly on the character, portraying an American woman who becomes and actress.

In the 1930s, the way of acting for film was maybe more intense. The American way of acting is bigger than the French acting. I’m Argentinean; I love to act with my hands, so I tried to trust my body language to portray that “Golden Age of Hollywood-way of acting.”

Bejo as Peppy Miller in "The Artist"

Flicker Alley: Do you have a favorite silent film, genre, or director?

Bérénice: I love the late silent works of Murnau and Borzage. My favorite films are Sunrise (1927), City Girl (1930), and Seventh Heaven (1927).

Flicker Alley: Where there any silent film actors or works that you consulted in preparing for your role as Peppy Miller in The Artist? 

A young Joan Crawford

Bérénice: I really like Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor. I didn’t really look specifically at many silent film stars for this role. I focused more generally on stars and stories from the classic Hollywood era.

I was interested in Joan Crawford, in particular, when she was 25 and started as a flapper. I also read the biography of Gloria Swanson (who was amazing), which made me understand how a studio could take a little girl and make her into a star and how the studios created personas.

 Flicker Alley: What’s next for you?

Bérénice: I will be in two French movies. Since Cannes, I have been reading a lot of scripts, working, and raising a family.

Thanks again to Bérénice for graciously taking the time to speak with us! The Artist arrives in U.S. theaters on November 25.

For more information about Inferno, click here.

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Bringing 1911 to 2011! – The Films of A Century Ago

Since 2003, Randy Haberkamp, Director of Public Programming and Educational Outreach at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has annually been presenting a unique and fascinating survey of early cinema at the turn of the last century. This year’s program, “A Century Ago: The Films of 1911,” is subtitled “Heroes and Heroines,” and will be presented next week, Monday, November 7th, starting at 7:30 PM at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theatre in Hollywood.

This may be one of the only program of this kind in the world to be presented on a 1909 hand-cranked Power’s Model 6 Cameragraph motion picture machine (!), restored and cranked by historian Joe Rinaudo.   It will also feature live musical accompaniment by Michael Mortilla.  Lucky cinephiles in the Los Angeles area SHOULD NOT PASS UP this unique cinematic opportunity!

“A Century Ago” will also be presented at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, California on November 21st at 7 PM.

We recently had the chance to speak with Randy, as he was previewing the films, along with Academy Film Archivist Brandee Cox, in preparation of next week’s show.

Director of Public Programming, Randy Haberkamp, and Academy Film Archivist, Brandee Cox, preview the Films of 1911 Program

Flicker Alley: It could be said that each year during the first two decades of cinema had ground-breaking things happening during it.  What is momentous about the year 1911 as it relates to cinema history?  Is it the establishment of the star system or the strong move away from studio productions to having locations be more integral to the plot?

Randy: Yes, both the establishment of the star system and shooting on location were momentous shifts in 1911. The star system really did explode in 1911. The studios embraced the concept of marketing popular personalities and pushing their names. There was also an explosion of people moving out to various locations for filming, partially to have distinctive settings but also for privacy and to protect the evade the corporate patent entanglements of the motion picture trust.

The other aspect of cinema history that is really notable from 1911 is the larger embrace of fan culture. Before this year, there were trade magazines, but in 1911, magazines directly produced for the fan, specifically covering motion picture stories and accentuating the star culture of popular players.

Flicker Alley: What’s one aspect about the emergence of the ‘star system’ that might be most surprising to audiences today?  (Follow up: Regarding this new phenomenon in 1911, what has changed and has anything about it stayed the same to this day?)

Filmmaker Francis Boggs

Randy: What stayed the same between 1911 and 2011 is that audiences and producers  are very fickle. There were some popular film players in 1911 that were forgotten within a couple of years. Some filmmakers were able to make an impression and many others fell by the wayside.

It is surprising that the star system has largely remained the same. The scandal and salary demands of today were already happening then. Florence Lawrence was already on her third studio deal, going for bigger dollars. The first big scandal hit in 1911 when filmmaker Francis Boggs was shot and killed in the Selig Studio.  And there were lots of sequels, remakes and producers copying previous hits.   The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Flicker Alley: Today major studios tend to market much of their studio products to an age 18-35 demographic.  What was the movie-going audience like in 1911 demographically?  Who was predominantly watching these films?  (Follow up:  How were films marketed and promoted in 1911?)

Randy: In 1911, the studios were basically marketing to everyone, but they also knew that many in the audience were new to the country.  Many movies were aimed to lower middle-class immigrants. It was very inexpensive entertainment that changed regularly–mass entertainment which really had not existed before. Studios also made a conscious effort to bring women into the audience with heroines played by Mary Pickford and Blanche Sweet, for example. These were very different heroines. They didn’t always need to be rescued and were very much in the center of their own stories. A lot of the women were expected to go out on location and do their own stunts. It was really quite an adventure.

Flicker Alley: Who’s a “star” from 1911 that you personally are most fascinated by?

Randy: Kathlyn Williams, one of Selig’s first big stars. She was a popular actress and heroine and later appeared in some of the earliest serialized stories. She was also a real trooper, heading out West. We are showing a film fragment that shows a film crew driving in a truck and heading to a location to shoot. They are shooting with only a camera. That’s it, just a camera. You can see this “Let’s make a movie spirit” at the time, and you think to yourself “Wow, these people really had guts.” The actors weren’t thinking “Where’s my stuntman?” They were ready to jump into danger. During the shooting of Lost in the Jungle, which will be screened next Monday, Kathlyn was actually attacked by a leopard.  But secretly I must say that Jean the Vitagraph dog is my favorite 1911 film star.  She opened the door for all the canine stars.

Kathlyn Williams, one of Selig's first big stars

Flicker Alley: This is the ninth year that the Academy has been presenting the “A Century Ago” program. Looking forward, how do you see the series expanding and changing as you begin to deal with long form, narrative and/or “feature length” cinema?

Randy: Yes, it is the ninth year. I am dealing with the program on a year to year basis. I literally spend an entire year on it and get input from colleagues and others. I see what stories and information I can gather. I also develop the shows based on what films survive and what condition they have survived in since only about 10% of the films from this period still exist.  It’s heartbreaking reading some of the magazines and realizing that the majority of the films are lost.

Flicker Alley: The Academy’s program is unique among archival institutions in the way they are presented on an original hand-cranked project equipment from the era.   What’s the most striking feedback that you receive from audiences that have seen the films presented this way?

Randy: The hand-cranked projector is an antique for my generation. What is fascinating about if for me is to see how even more foreign it is to some people in their 20s and 30s that have no relation to the projector as a cinematic device because they are so used to DVDs and online videos.

Seeing this hand cranked projector up close, the most primitive projection apparatus in its rawest form, is fascinating. And the audience loves seeing how the projectionist can control the speed of film. It is like seeing what is behind the magician’s tricks.

Joe Rinaudo with his hand-crank projector

Flicker Alley: What do you think is the value of looking at films from a century ago?

Randy: What is relevant is that on the one hand these films from a century seem completely foreign. You really need to know what you are looking at…it’s like a film in a different language. When you study these films a little bit, you realize that what we think about in 2011 as filmmakers and filmgoers is the same. It is valuable to see film stripped down to its most naked essentials…to see what makes film fun and to see what makes film work.

Thanks to Randy Haberkamp and Brandee Cox for letting us get a sneak peak at Monday night’s program.

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Those Awful Hats!

Flicker Alley is pleased to welcome our first guest blog post from Doug Hanvey, a writer and casual moviegoer. 

For filmgoers who dig horror, sci-fi, cult, animated, or just plain weird films, watching Flicker Alley’s new WILD AND WEIRD set is de rigueur. Yeah, that’s French, but so are three of the set’s films. In fact, the weirdest films on the set are the French ones, which I think says quite a bit about French cinema. Oh wait, I like French cinema!

WILD AND WEIRD boasts 14 films – 13 of them from the silent era – directed by luminaries such as Buster Keaton and D.W. Griffith. For you non-cinephiles (of which I am one), D.W. Griffith is no relation to Andy Griffith, though once you see his pic in the WILD AND WEIRD booklet, you can imagine him as an old fart on the streets of Mayberry.

So where was I going? Oh yeah, cellphones. Cellphones! You know, every time you’re in a theater nowadays you’re admonished to turn off your phone…like it or not. (It does piss some people off.)

They didn’t have that particular problem in 1909. They had an even bigger problem (literally): ladies’ hats! Imagine you’re chilling in your seat with your Milk Duds, and this broad (that’s also French) takes the seat right in front of you.

She looks like this:

Or, even worse, this:

Now that’s a hat; a hat with the power to obliterate the movie-going experience of an entire row.

That’s what audiences were up against in 1909. Fortunately, show houses soon learned to project an informational slide (much like our cell phone admonishments) before the film: “Ladies, please remove your hats.”

In fact, the ladies’ hat dilemma was the inspiration for D.W. Griffith’s shortest film. In the comic Those Awful Hats (1909), which leads off the WILD AND WEIRD collection, women with enormous hats take the remaining seats in a packed theater. But not to fear! From the heavens swoops a massive “hat scooper” that is more than a match for the hats. In fact, it not only removes the hats, it removes a lady too. The lesson here? Remove your hat – or else.

As Those Awful Hats reveals, filmmakers of this era were already pushing the bounds of this new and astonishing medium. Not only does Griffith use early trick photography to superimpose the “hat scooper,” he creates a “film within a film” which is achieved by somehow inserting a moving image into the area formed by the movie screen (which the very informative DVD booklet tells me was accomplished via an early form of “matte printing”). I found myself amazed at Griffith’s ingenuity – hadn’t they just invented the “moving picture” a few years earlier?

If you rarely watch films from the silent era, perhaps you owe it to yourself to broaden your horizons. In fact, WILD AND WEIRD may be the perfect initiation for you. And remember, if you watch with others, please remove your hat.

Stay tuned to the Flicker Alley blog for more guest posts, interviews, news, highlights from our collection, and new releases.

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Flicker Alley is proud to present Soviet “Landmarks”

Landmarks of Early Soviet Film box set contents

Flicker Alley is proud to announce the release of a essential collection of eight landmark Soviet silent films all new to DVD in North America. The term “Soviet montage” is widely used in film circles, but understanding of Soviet silent film remains monolithic, based in large part on jut a few archetypal sequences. Presenting four documentaries and four fiction films made between 1924-1930, our newest box set LANDMARKS OF EARLY SOVIET FILM chronicles the development of Soviet Montage and showcases the many ways of approaching that mysterious moment between two shots.

Porfiriy Podobed as Mr. West in The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924)

The 595 minute box set includes beautiful new HD transfers of both Sergei Eisenstein’s last major silent work OLD AND NEW (1924) (and the film that most clearly exemplified Eisenstein’s cinematic theories), as well as completely unpublished feature by celebrated cinema theorist Dziga Vertov, STRIDE, SOVIET! (1926). Additional to these familiar classics, the collection contains six other lesser-known Soviet post-WWI cinematic treasures (running the gamut of genres and montage styles), such as Boris Barnet’s effective propaganda masquerading as charming comedy THE HOUSE ON TRUBNAYA (1928), and Lev Kuleshov’s stunt-filled comedy that pokes fun of American culture, THE  EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF MR. WEST IN THE LAND OF THE BOLSHEVIKS (1924).

LANDMARKS OF EARLY SOVIET FILM is a continuation of a partnership with the Harvard Film Archive, Blackhawk Films Collection, and Lobster Films that began with our 2009 release MISS MEND, a Russian action-packed adventure serial by Boris Barnet and Fedor Ozep. The phenomenal score for MISS MEND was composed by frequent collaborator Robert Israel, who’s full-orchestral traditional scores are also found on this collection for  TRUBNAYA, OLD AND NEW, and MR. WEST.

What makes this collection exceptional is that it contains slices of Soviet cinema, which may be new to many. Though early Soviet film can be united by the belief in the power of fragmentation, recombination, and juxtaposition, we hope that the films in this collection expand and widen conceptions of this important historical cinema movement.

All the films have original Russian intertitles with English subtitles, except TURKSIB (1929) and THE FALL OF THE ROMANOV DYNASTY (1928), which have full-screen English intertitles. All films have original musical scores new for these DVD editions by Israel, as well as Eric Beheim, Alexander Rannie and Zoran Borisavljevic.

Disc 1 & 2 – Fiction Films:
THE OLD AND THE NEW (1929 Drama): 120 mins
THE HOUSE ON TRUBNAYA (1927 Comedy): 75 mins
BY THE LAW (1928 Drama): 80 mins

Disc 3 & 4 – Documentary Films:
STRIDE SOVIET (1926 Documentary): 59 mins
THE FALL OF THE ROMANOV DYNASTY (1928 Documentary): 87 mins
TURKSIB (1929 Documentary): 57 mins
SALT FOR SVANETIA, STRIDE (1930 Documentary): 53 mins

Special thanks to Soviet cultural specialists Maxim Pozdorovkin and Ana Olenina for their brilliant catalog essay entitled “Montage Uprising: A Collection of Soviet Silents” which is included with the box set.

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