A welcome new addition to Bangkok's cavalcade of annual speciality movie extravaganzas, the Thai Film Archive's Silent Film Festival in Thailand is back at the Lido and Scala cinemas for a second year, with rare screenings of classics from the 1910s and '20s, among them the influential German horror The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Buster Keaton's stunt-filled Steamboat Bill Jr., more early Hitchcock and a newly rediscovered Sherlock Holmes, all accompanied live by experienced silent-film pianists.
Running from June 10 to 17, here is the line-up:
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Germany/1920/76 min.) – German Expressionist cinema reaches its most darkly twisted heights in director Robert Wiene's thriller, in which a hypnotist who runs a carnival sideshow keeps a sleepwalking man in a coffin, and can make the somnambulist do his bidding, including murder. Roger Ebert argued that it was "the first true horror film".
- Sherlock Holmes (US/1916/116 min.) – Thought to have been lost, this American film was discovered last year in mislabled cans in the Cinematheque Francaise's collection. It was screened in the recently wrapped-up San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which is supporting the Bangkok fest. Made by Chicago's Essanay Studios, it stars William Gillette, who was well-known for his stage portrayal of Holmes, and his largely credited for the popular image of the sleuth in his double-billed deerstalker cap.
- The Half-Breed and The Good Bad Man (US/1916/101 min) – Here's a double bill of rootin', tootin' westerns starring the great Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and directed by Hollywood pioneer Allen Dwan. The Good Bad Man is another find from the San Francisco silent fest, which last year presented a newly restored version of a 1923 re-release.
- Once Upon a Time (Denmark/1922/75 min.) – Danish film great Carl Theodor Dreyer directs this fairy tale about a wilful princess who is tricked by a prince posing as a pauper. About a third of the film has gone missing, but a recently reconstructed version fills in the blanks with still photos and explanatory intertitles.
- Blackmail (UK/1929/84 min.) – Last year's inaugural edition of the Silent Film Festival in Thailand offered the bulk of the surviving silent films of Alfred Hitchcock. Blackmail, a thriller about a Scotland Yard detective and his girlfriend mixed up in an extortion plot, was Hitch's first "talkie", however it was originally a silent film, and it's that version from the British Film Institute that's screening here.
- Man with a Movie Camera (Russia /1929/68 min.) – The alpha and omega of experimental film, Dziga Vertov's pioneering feature introduced dozens of techniques, such as double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, extreme close-ups and stop-motion animation, which are now part of everyday films, TV, music videos and commercials.
- Piccadilly (UK/1929/108 min.) – The heartstopping beauty Anna Mae Wong, Hollywood's first Chinese-American star, takes the lead in this drama, as a waitress-turned-dancer at at nightclub who becomes romantically entangled with the club owner and causes a rival dancer to be jealous.
- Steamboat Bill Jr. (US/1928/69 min.) – One of Buster Keaton's classic comedies, Steamboat Bill Jr. includes one of the deadpan star's most iconic stunts, in which the facade of a building falls down on him, but he escapes thanks to a window. Keaton portrays a young ukulele-strumming hipster who wants to prove himself as a worthy successor to his father, a big burly riverboat captain.
- The Epic of Everest (UK/1924/ 85 min.) – The official record of the ill-fated 1924 Everest expedition by British climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine was made in brutally harsh conditions with a hand-cranked camera. A recent restoration by the British Film Institute reintroduces original coloured tints and tones, including a dramatic blood red sunset over the Himalayas. This will be screened only once at the Scala in a charity gala event that will benefit earthquake relief in Nepal. Tickets are 200 baht.
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Accompanists will be Australia-based Italian classical pianist Mauro Colombis, who has played for the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, the world's biggest silent film fest, and Britain's Stephen Horne, who also has played for screenings in Pordenone as well as Telluride, San Francisco, Cannes, Bologna and Berlin.
They will be joined by noted Thai music lecturer and musical-theater director Dr. Anothai Nitibhon. She will conduct a masterclass for registered participants, who will accompany one round of Man with a Movie Camera.
All films will have English and Thai intertitles. Tickets are 120 baht and available now at the Lido box office. There is also a "Silent Combo" package that has vouchers for eight tickets (closing film excluded) and entitles you to a tote bag from the festival's information table.
For more details, check the festival's Facebook page.