March 21, 2017
On Sunday I had the pleasure of seeing Yasujirō Ozu's silent film, Passing Fancy, on the big screen at The Film Forum. That alone would have been enough to sell me on a day trip to NYC but it gets even better! This screening was accompanied by a live piano performance -- composed and performed by Makia Matsumura -- and a live benshi performance by Ichiro Kataoka.
From the beginning of the film era, way back in the late 1800's, benshi performers would narrate silents films in Japan. Initially they were there to explain western customs to Japanese audiences before imported films, but as the medium grew more complicated, so did the benshi's role. Eventually they took to narrating foreign films during the movie, and acting out Japanese silent films in a way that essentially served as live dubbing! The benshi's popularity was so great that it's partially responsible for Japan's reluctance to adopt sound pictures until the mid 1930's! Of course, when the sound era finally began, the role of the benshi faded away. But the art form has been passed down through the generations, and benshi still perform at repertory silent film screenings around the world to this day. It's a rare treat, though, so I was tickled pink to be able to attend this special screening! In introducing the program, Film Forum programmer Bruce Goldstein said that as soon as they heard that Kataoka was going to be in town they immediately bumped something else from their spring lineup in order to accommodate this screening. For something this unique, that is certainly understandable!
Ichiro Kataoka performed in Japanese, and despite my inability to understand the language, it was still an unbelievably moving experience. I could tell that a lot of his words were meant to be dialogue, matching the mouths of the actors perfectly. He adopted different voices for each of the characters, even convincingly voicing two different women and a child.
It was so moving to me, to think that I was experiencing this film exactly the way that Japanese audiences experienced it in 1933. When Ozu made this film, THIS is how he believed the public would see it. If you ever have the opportunity to see a silent film with live benshi, I highly recommend it. Experiences like this are the closest we have to time travel, I feel. It was just beautiful.
March 20, 2017
The 2017 TCM Film Festival schedule went live today!! Woo hoo! I'll have a whole post soon about which movies I'm most excited about (Barefoot in the Park!!!!!!!) but for now, I just wanted to share this printable schedule that I made. I always find that it's so much easier to plan out what movies I want to see if I'm able to physically circle things and mark up a calendar, but the festival website doesn't really let you print out the schedule.
If anyone else is having the same issue, hopefully this printable guide will come in handy! I only included movie names and start times (no special guests or release years) in order to save space and make sure I could whip this thing up as quickly as possible so everyone can start planning out their choices! I posted previews of the calendar below but for a full-scale printable PDF that you can download and print out, click here.
March 11, 2017
Did you know that French actress Michèle Morgan was not only an exceptional on-screen talent and world-class beauty, but a gifted artist as well? After having her portrait painted by Moïse Kisling in 1943, Morgan was inspired to take up painting herself and enrolled in art school in Los Angeles.
She apparently started off doing portraiture, but the only images I could find from this time are from the black and white photo featured below, on her easels and on the wall. They're absolutely stunning, and I wish I could find more of them!
Later on Morgan moved on to still life and abstract works, working on large canvases in bright, bold colors. In an interview with Paris Match in 2008 she said that she had sold at least 100 pieces but still thought of the craft as a hobby! Expressing modesty and calling herself an "amateur," Morgan definitely sold herself short -- her paintings are vibrant expressive pieces that could have easily been painted by a professional artist. As an artist myself, I admire her use of color and I envy her ability to form cohesive, striking abstract works using freeform shapes. Abstraction is harder than it looks and it takes a real talent to create pieces this beautiful.
January 28, 2017
Emmanuelle Riva passed away today at age 89. When I discovered her work a couple years ago she quickly became one of my favorite actresses. There are certain people who seem to have an uncanny depth of emotion that they can tap into for roles, something innate that comes gushing out whenever the camera starts rolling, and Riva was one of them. It seemed like she enjoyed her job more than anything else in the world. I just love when you can tell from someone's films that they live to act -- that playing a part is more important than being a star. And I love when that acting seems effortless, like the lines are thought and not memorized, when their eyes are so fully possessed by the emotions of their character that it's easy to forget that acting is even happening; it seems like you are just watching life.
The world lost a beautiful, kind, intelligent, talented soul today, but I hope that the recognition she's receiving right now will hopefully expose more people to her work. If you're looking for more films of hers to watch, I highly recommend Thérèse Desqueyroux, Kapo, Léon Morin, Priest, and Adua and Her Friends. I also really enjoyed Risky Business and The Hours of Love, but they're a little harder to track down.
Riva is perhaps best known for Hiroshima mon amour, Alain Resnais' film about a French actress who strikes up a short romance with a man while shooting on location in Hiroshima, Japan. She took a series of photos during filming which formed the basis of a photography book released in 2008, titled Tu n'as rien vu à Hiroshima.
Although Riva claims in the book that she isn't a real photographer, her snapshots capturing daily life in postwar Hiroshima are beautiful, poignant, and playful. She said that she took more photos of children because they were attracted by someone taking photos, "I never went to them to have them pose, I only photographed what was. I didn't arrange it. I'm not a photographer, it would hurt me to arrange something. I took what I saw, and I liked it very much."
Here are some of my favorite photos from her collection:
Photos scanned by me. Quotes were translated by me from original French.
December 31, 2016
I'm so pleased to look over at my archives and see that 2016 was the most I blogged on Silents and Talkies since 2010. I was incredibly close to averaging at least one post per week (hello 2017 goal!) I was going to add one more post to the 2016 total, rounding up my favorite new-to-me movies of the year, recapping the TCMFF, and some of the other fun movie-related events I got to attend, but the clock's a ticking, the window for squeezing in a comprehensive year-end round up is narrowing by the second, and I think it's just going to have to wait until next year (like, two days from now. "Next year" jokes never get old.)
So for now, I just want to wish you a Happy New Year and remind anyone who hasn't seen it yet that I made a video for NYE last year and it's my favorite thing I've ever done in my whole entire life and I swear on Dirk Bogarde's giant champagne glass that it will make you smile.
Happy New Year!
December 19, 2016
I saw this on Hamlette and Deb's blogs and decided to join in! I didn't include Two English Girls in any of my answers, but as a consolation prize I made it the header image for the post. It was definitely a contender for favorite period dresses. Muriel probably has my favorite period "look" with her steampunk sunglasses, which honestly deserve their own post...
1. What's your favorite Period Drama movie?
Jules et Jim (with an honorable mention for Doctor Zhivago)
2. What's your favorite Period Drama series?
Foyle’s War. Michael Kitchen owns my heart.
3. Which Period Drama do you dislike the most?
I’m going to go with Gone with the Wind. I don’t necessarily dislike it, I just think it’s kind of overrated and I have no desire to re-watch it. (Although I have to admit these sleeves are TO DIE FOR.)
4. Anne of Green Gables or Little Dorrit?
I haven’t seen either, eek! I’ll go with Little Dorrit though because Dickens is my mom’s favorite author and Tom Courtenay is in it.
5. Your favorite Period Drama dresses?
Olivia de Havilland’s dresses in The Adventures of Robin Hood. I’m patiently waiting for a Medieval style comeback... *fingers crossed*
6. Who's your favorite Period Drama character?
Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities.
7. If you could join a royal ball, which dress would you wear? (Pick a Period Drama dress)
I know there’s a specific dress that I’m forgetting (and I’m 99% sure it involves giant bell sleeves) but after spending WAY too much time trying to remember my mystery dress, I finally settled on Drew Barrymore’s angel dress from Ever After.
I really shouldn't say "settled" though because this dress is pure magic.
8. What's your favorite Jane Austen movie?
I’d normally answer Clueless, but since this is a period drama tag that probably doesn’t apply here. So my runner-up would be Emma.
9. Downton Abbey or Call the Midwife?
Downton Abbey, but only up until they kill off Sybil because I couldn't keep watching afterwards. (but Chummy on Call the Midwife is one of my favorite tv characters. I adore Miranda Hart.)
10. Sybil Crawley, Jenny Lee, Emma Woodhouse or Marian of Knighton?
11. Which couples of a Period Drama do you like the most? (Pick at least four)
Henriette and the Duc de Praslin in All This and Heaven Too
Phryne Fisher and Jack in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
Becket & King Henry’s bromance in Becket
Lara and Yuri Zhivago in Doctor Zhivago
12. And last, which Period Drama villain do you like the most?
Death in The Seventh Seal!