Friday, 6 March 2015

Pandora's Box preview

Pandora's Box
Pandora’s Box is a silent movie from 1929. It’s also a million words more than that. Stephen Horne, a musician based at the British Film Institute Southbank building, will provide piano accompaniment. It’s the story of ‘Lulu’, the most tragic woman in fiction, played by Louise Brooks, the most beautiful woman of modern times.

If I may ask you to permit me a preamble... In 1980, after 20 years of investigation and restoration by Kevin Brownlow, Abel Gance's epic, Napoléon (1927) was screened again. Gance died the following year. “En 1983, Kevin Brownlow projette au Palais des Congrès une copie restaurée du Napoléon d’Abel Gance” – and was awarded the Légion d’honneur by the French Government for this work. In restoring the film, Kevin had also restored the standing of Abel Gance, a visionary, and the reputation of the silent movie era.

Kevin Brownlow received an Academy Award in 2010; the first time an Academy Honorary Award had been given to a film preservationist. Kevin’s ‘Oscar’ acceptance speech began: "If you ever wondered what reflected glory looks like, this is it!" A few days after being honoured in Hollywood, Kevin Brownlow introduced his own film Winstanley (1975) and a selection from silent shorts at the Borderlines Film Festival in Hereford. [Douglas Fairbanks Senior was a riot in A Modern Musketeer directed  by Allan Dwan (1917). He takes on an entire tavern full in one fight scene: it is thrilling, silly, violent and the punchline (on ‘intertitle’) got a huge laugh.]

Kevin was a friend of Louise Brooks. The silent movie industry had been utterly neglected: its masterpieces lost, its stars forgotten. He spoke to her at length about her own work. When his first history, The Parade’s Gone By… (1968), was published Louise reprimanded him for not realising the importance of hugely popular actors of the time, such as Clara Bow. We would never have known.

I had a short chat with Kevin at Borderlines five years ago. That’s about the extent of it. I sent him an email last night and received a reply by breakfast.

Dear Robin:
I am having to deal with a TV crew, so forgive haste. How about this quote from my Parade's Gone By...?

"Of all the stars of that era, Louise Brooks has emerged most triumphantly. She has become the object of idolatry for thousands who are far too young to remember her in silents and who base their admiration on revivals at archives and film societies. They see in her an actress of brilliance, a luminescent personality and a beauty unparalleled in film history."

Louise Brooks

Very best of luck! Give Stephen my regards

Robin Clarke
Festival Volunteer

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