Sunday, 2 September 2007


With this summer's re-release of Eisenstein classics on DVD box sets (see Jim Steel's reviews for VideoVista), I'm reminded of how difficult it can be sometimes to review silent films, when everything that can be said about them has already been repeated more often than necessary.

While trying to avoid simplistic regurgitation of wholly familiar comments, it seems to me that the only sensible option that online critics have left is re-viewing the meagre range of silent classics available on disc from our media-addled 21st century perspectives, and figuring out exactly what these important historic/ cultural touchstones mean to us, personally, nowadays. Other reviewers have told me that it's almost impossible to be even slightly objective when reviewing silent films... we have all grown up with sound and colour at the cinema, so these films, whether they're foreign or not, just seem so... 'alien' to our expectations, despite their all-too-human messages.

Recently, I watched Matthew Sweet's documentary Silent Britain on rented DVD, but have to admit that my special interest wasn't actually for its cultural aspects, I merely wanted to catch a glimpse of the clips from Maurice Elvey's High Treason (which remains, tragically, unavailable from anywhere!), partly because it's early SF, partly because I'd read it features helicopters flying over London, and I hoped to get screen-shots for my Rotary Action website.

Still, I really enjoyed the programme's informed commentary, and have to agree with Sweet's view that, even if only half of this material is safely archived, then UK silents are being neglected. So, why can't BFI honchos get more of this stuff put onto DVD? It makes no sense that Eisenstein is re-released every few years - while other interesting and home-grown pictures are unfairly ignored.

No comments: