Silent movies making a come back?

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    • #43793

      My local old-timey theatre just started running “The covered wagon” again, nearly a century after it first premiered. Here’s a link to the article in the paper, which includes video. Pretty cool to see the timelessness of a good film.

    • #183556

      The last film festival I entered was won by a guy who made black-and-white mostly silent movies(they had music and that was it. Thedialogue was put on the screen in between shots)They were really good! I was also working on a script for movie with no dialogue.

      Maybe they will make a comeback! Don’t have to worry about audio.

    • #183557
      Grinner Hester

      oh never do you have to count on audio more than a dialog-free film.

      Half the story will be told with sound effects, sweetening and awesome scoring.

    • #183558

      Guy Maddin, eat your heart out.

    • #183559

      Chuck Peters from Digital Juice did a great episode of “Field of View” on how we should let the images and music speak for us.

      Well worth the watch:

    • #183560

      grinner’s comment reminds me of at experience I had when I was a member of the Cornell Film Club. The film club existed to show the best quality copies of cinimatic art they could find. That year the main attraction was “Blowup” (1966) with the director, Michelangelo Antonioni, answereing questions live in the theater. Which was truly fabulous. But I was really looking forward to seeing a newly restored copy of “The Battleship Potemkin” (1925) by Eisenstein. I’d watched a pretty beat-up copy in my college class, “History of Film; Origins to the Advent of Sound.” My research paper (or term paper) was called “The Sound of Silents” and detailed the use of audio for silent films.

      So I knew for a fact that Eisenstein worked closely with a composer to create a symphony for a full orchestra to play during the film. There were conductor copies of the full work in Russian archives. And they had even written a score for chamber orchestras for smaller theaters. So I expected a newly restored copy would logically include at least the chamber orchestra version of the score. But the idiots at Cornell actually played the entire film without a sound. During the silent film era, there was no screening of a film that didn’t also include some sort of musical accompaniment, if nothing more than to drown out the racket of the projector. That was the entire point of my paper and I’d done a lot of research (and I aced the paper!) So I was absolutely floored the film committee didn’t know any better. Not to mention it was one of the most uncomfortable movie experience I’ve ever had. Everyone was afraid to even snicker or make any kind of sound during the entire two hours the film runs.

      So anyway, if you’re going to create a realistic silent A-movie, you have to create a top notch soundtrack. Every major release during the era had an original score written for it. And it was always part of the critic’s reviews. It was only when the film was screened in some tiny theater in Podun, Wherever that the sound dropped into the single piano we tend to think of as silent movie sound. But in reality it was so much more.

    • #183561

      During the silent film era, there was no screening of a film that didn’t also include some sort of musical accompaniment, if nothing more than to drown out the racket of the projector.

      True, not only the sound of the projector, but it was also to discourage audience members from talking through the movie. There’s a story about Chaplin watching one of his own films at a small town cinema, sans any kind of music accompaniment, and becoming completely horrified by the easily distracted crowd.

      Interestingly, the movie you mention (“Potemkin”) also originally had frames that were hand-colored by the director (ie, the battleship’s flag). Considering that and typically tinting methods we have to admit that silent films were neither silent, nor in black and white (they just didn’t have any synchronized sound, but if that’s a prerequisite than most of Chris Marker’s output is silent).

    • #183562

      I totally agree about the importance of music for silent films. (Some films even had foley artists adding sound effects during showings, at major theatres (like clacking wooden spoons, for horse steps, and such)).

      And never forget that cartoons (often the old silent ones contained themes/scenes that would get banned or “restricted” ratings today.) were originally produced to sell sheet music. We were into full color and sound, before cartoons specifically targeting children audiences, hit the theatres. Racism, drunkenness, smoking, sexual inuendo, and violence were popular with Walt, and Warner Bros., long before “Snow White” hit the theatres.

    • #183563

      you’re right. audio is important for silent films.

      i personally find that SFX and music are really easy for me (I love developing Sound Fields!) and dialogue is a major pain, so I might go the silent route after all.

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