The Phantom Carriage (Dir. Victor Sjostrom, Swe, 1921) (Screening format – Not known, 100 mins) The threads of silent cinema are tightly woven into some of the greatest cinema ever made, yet few yarns are quite as bold as Victor Sjöström’s Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen). Based on a novel by Nobel laureate Selma Lagerlöf, the tale tells of the last person to die on New Year’s Eve, who as per folklore is cursed to ride Death’s carriage, collecting souls for the year ahead. The image of Death walking amongst us recurs throughout the history of the visual arts, but Sjöström brought it to cinema, in a way that still reverberates to this day. Famously echoed by Ingmar Bergman in the Seventh Seal, the troubled Swede spoke at length how Sjöström’s film grabbed him and shook him as a 12 year old boy. But it is through Sjöström’s innovative use of flashback and ghostly superimposition that his mark can be seen all the way through to film history, right up to last year’s A Ghost Story. Not without its detractors, the critic André Bazin derided the film’s use of double exposure, 25 years after the it’s original release. The comments sparked debate in Cahiers Du Cinema, and caused a new wave of French critics and filmmakers to revisit the film. Find out more at filmcomment.com. Presented s part of Cinema Rediscovered festival. Introduced by Dr Peter Walsh. With live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne. Watershed Cinema, Bristol Link
The General (Dir. Buster Keaton/Clyde Bruckman, 1926) (Screening format – not known, 75mins) Widely considered one of the greatest films ever made and one of the most revered comedies of the silent era, Buster Keaton’s effortless masterpiece sees hapless Southern railroad engineer Johnny Gray (Keaton) facing off against Union soldiers during the American Civil War. When Johnny’s fiancée, Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack), is accidentally taken away while on a train stolen by Northern forces, Gray pursues the soldiers, using various modes of transportation in comic action scenes that highlight Keaton’s boundless, innovative wit and joyful, lighthearted dexterity, to reclaim the train and thereby save the South. Find out more at busterkeaton.com . With recorded score. Introduced by Peter Krämer, author of the BFI Film Classics volume on The General. Flavel Arts Centre, Dartmouth. Link
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