Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Announcing Early Women Filmmakers Set on Blu-ray/DVD

Flicker Alley, LLC



Flicker Alley and Blackhawk Films® proudly present 25 newly restored films by early cinema's groundbreaking women filmmakers in a definitive

Blu-ray/DVD dual-format collection.

Release Date: May 9, 2017
Flicker Alley and Blackhawk Films® are proud to present Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology, a landmark Blu-ray/DVD collection of newly restored films by early cinema's groundbreaking women directors. This extensive set of 25 films from 14 international directors showcases the innovative technical and stylistic contributions of women, a vital missing piece in the canon of cinematic history.

Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology

Deluxe Blu-ray/DVD Dual-Format Edition

M.S.R.P. $69.95

Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology / 1902-1943 / 652 minutes
More women worked in film during its first two decades than at any time since. Unfortunately, many early women filmmakers have been largely written out of film history, their contributions undervalued. This necessary and timely collection highlights the work of 14 of early cinema's most innovative and influential women directors, re-writing and celebrating their rightful place in film history.

International in scope, this groundbreaking collection features over 10 hours of material, comprised of 25 films spanning 1902-1943, including many rare titles not widely available until now, from shorts to feature films, live-action to animation, commercial narratives to experimental works. Directors include Alice Guy Blaché, Lois Weber, Mabel Normand, Madeline Brandeis, Germaine Dulac, Olga Preobrazhenskaia, Marie-Louise Iribe, Lotte Reiniger, Claire Parker, Mrs. Wallace Reid (Dorothy Davenport), Leni Riefenstahl, Mary Ellen Bute, Dorothy Arzner, and Maya Deren.

These women were technically and stylistically innovative, pushing the boundaries of narrative, aesthetics, and genre. Going back to the beginning of cinema, this collection makes visible the tremendous directorial contributions women made all around the world. Beautifully restored in high definition, Early Women Filmmakers features new scores by Sergei Dreznin, Frederick Hodges, Tamar Muskal, Judith Rosenberg, and Rodney Sauer and the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

This anthology is dedicated to the memory of David Shepard (1940-2017), without whom these films - along with countless others - would simply not have been made available in such beautifully-restored editions. The collection represents one of David's final produced works, completed in collaboration with several film archives, including the French National Center for Cinematography and the Moving Image (CNC), the Film Studies Center at the University of Chicago, and the Library of Congress.
Bonus Materials Include:
  • Booklet Essay: By film historian and Women Film Pioneers Project Manager Kate Saccone.
  • Audio Commentary: For Lois Weber's The Blot by author, professor, and expert on women and early film culture Shelley Stamp, courtesy of Milestone Film and Video.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Louise Brooks on the cover of Amateur Photographer magazine

A Louise Brooks look-alike adorns the current issue of Amateur Photographer, a UK magazine.

The cover story focuses on recreating the iconic black-and-white Eugene Richee photograph of Brooks holding a long, single strand of pearls.

This single image is, without doubt, the best known image of the actress and in its own right, one of the most famous images of a silent film star.

Which ever amateur photographer took this picture, it looks like they did a pretty good job. More information at www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/

Amateur Photographer magazine is the world's best-selling, longest-running consumer weekly photographic magazine, first published in October 1884. Since then, AP (as it is affectionately known to its readers) has been the bible for both amateur and professional photo-enthusiasts around the world. It has helped generations of photographers to improve their skills. It's packed with News, Reviews, Techniques, Stunning Reader and Professional images, together with camera collector features and comments. Secondhand equipment is promoted in every issue - it's a photography magazine not to be missed! 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tomorrow: It's the Old Army Game with Louise Brooks shows in Kansas

The 2017 Kansas Silent Film Festival starts tomorrow! And among the special guests are Dr. Harriet Fields, who will be talking about her grandfather W. C. Fields, when the festival shows the 1926 W. C. Fields / Louise Brooks film, It's the Old Army Game. More information about the event can be found HERE.

FREE ADMISSION for all showings
Fri. Feb. 24, 2017, 7:30-10:00 p.m.
@ White Concert Hall, Washburn University
Overture and Opening Titles, music by Ben Model, guest performer
Welcome and Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian

The Noon Whistle
18 min.
with Stan Laurel
Music by Marvin Faulwell, organ, and Bob Keckeisen, percussion
Crazy Like a Fox
25 min.
with Charlie Chase, Oliver Hardy
Music by Jeff Rapsis on piano

Feature introduced by Denise Morrison with Dr. Harriet Fields
It's the Old Army Game
77 min.
with W.C. Fields / Louise Brooks
Music score by Ben Model, guest performer

Sat. Feb. 25, 2017, 9:00 a.m.-Noon
@ White Concert Hall, Washburn University
Overture & Short Opening Titles by Jeff Rapsis
and Intros by Denise Morrison
, Film Historian
Film Documentary
60 min.
A special presentation by KSFF
Koko's Cartoon Factory
8 min.
Animation by Max Fleischer
Music by
Marvin Faulwel
Adventures of Helen—
Episode 1: The Wild Engine
20 min.
with Helen Holmes
Music by
Marvin Faulwell

The Adventures of Prince Achmed
65 min.
Cartoon Feature tinted in Color
Music score by Jeff Rapsis

Lunch Break (on your own), resuming at 1:00 p.m.

Sat. Feb. 25, 2017, 1:30-5:15 p.m.
@ White Concert Hall, Washburn University
Overature & Short Opening Titles by Marvin Faulwell
Welcome and Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian

The Boat
21 min.
with Buster Keaton
Music by Marvin Faulwell
Barbed Wire
67 min.
with Pola NegriMusic by Marvin Faulwell

Short Overature by Jeff Rapsis
Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian

The Cardinal's Conspiracy
11 min.
directed by D.W. Griffith
Music by Jeff Rapsis
When Knighthood Was in Flower
120 min.
with Marion Davies*
Music by Ben Model, guest performer
(*not set yet. This will be a newly-available title and Ben Model is spearheading its restoration)


Special Dinner Event, Our Ninth Annual
Seating begins @ 5:15 p.m.
Dinner: 5:15-7:00 p.m.
Music by TBA

Speaker will be Dr. Harriet Fields, granddaughter of W.C. Fields
— This event is by reservation only. Dinner is $35. Contact us to reserve your space

Sat. Feb. 25, 2017, 7:30-10:00 p.m.
@ White Concert Hall, Washburn University

and Opening Titles by Marvin Faulwell, organ, and Bob Keckeisen, percussion

Welcome and Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian
Be Reasonable!
20 min.
with Mack Sennett / Billy Bevin
—Music by Jeff Rapsis
Maid in Morocco
20 min.
with Lupino Lane
—Music by Ben Model

Feature introduced by Dr. Harriet Fields
So's Your Old Man
67 min.
with W.C. Fields
Music by Marvin Faulwell, organ, and Bob Keckeisen, percussion

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

New opera with Louise Brooks inspired character debuts in Chicago

The Invention of Morel, a new 90 minute opera with a Louise Brooks inspired character, has received its world premiere at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago, Illinois under the auspices of the city's Chicago Opera Theater. Additional information on the production can be found here.

The Invention of Morel is a music theater adaptation of the 1940 novella by Adolfo Bioy Casares. The score is by Stewart Copeland (the co-founder and drummer for the Police), with stage direction by the English actor-writer Jonathan Moore. Copeland and Moore collaborated on the libretto. The opera was commissioned by the Long Beach Opera and Chicago Opera Theater. (Excerpts from The Invention of Morel were performed as part of the New Opera Showcase, presented by OPERA America and NOVUS NY orchestra on January 18, 2016, at Trinity Wall Street.)

The opera features "wonderfully alluring" Valerie Vinzant as Faustine, and Andrew Wilkowske as the Fugitive. Baritone Lee Gregory is the Narrator (the id of the Fugitive), and tenor Nathan Granner is Morel. Kimberly E. Jones played Dora, Barbara Landis is the Duchess, Scott Brunscheen is Alec/Ombrellieri, and David Govertsen is Stoever. The set designer is Alan Muraoka, lighting designer is David Martin Jacques, the video designer is Adam Flemming, and Jenny Mannis is costume designer.

courtesy of Chicago Opera Theater

The full opera debuted in Chicago on February 18th. In it's reviews, the Chicago Sun-Times described the work as "the alternately unnerving nightmare and beautiful fever dream of a man on the run who sees no hope for his future until he conjures a relationship with an enigmatic woman," adding  "Invention of Morel deftly balances period charm with a contemporary sense of artificial reality." The Chicago Tribune said it was "a brilliant piece of musical surrealism, 4 stars."

Casares' La invención de Morel is widely considered the first literary work of magical realism (predating the kindred fiction of Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and others). It features a character named Faustine who was inspired by the author's affection for Louise Brooks. Casares said as much in interviews in later years. Those facts are seemingly not lost on the designers of the opera, who have modeled their Faustine characters after Brooks' appearance, especially her signature bob.

courtesy of Chicago Opera Theater

Though not as well known as it should be, The Invention of Morel has had a unique, lingering resonance. throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Casares’ book was made into a French movie called L’invention de Morel (1967), and an Italian movie called L’invenzione di Morel (1974). It is also believed to have inspired the Alain Resnais’ film Last Year At Marienbad (1961), which was adopted for the screen by the French novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet. Brooks herself ended up on the cover of a recent edition of Casares’ book, which in turn was given a shout-out on television series Lost (2004 – 2010).

Notably, this is not the first time a contemporary opera singer has been modeled after Brooks, (a one-time Chicago resident). Witness William Kentridge's recent staging of Alban Berg's opera, Lulu, where the appearance of the Lulu character was meant to evoke the actress. The source material for both operas, of course, bear a relationship to Brooks as well, as Brooks starred as Lulu in a 1929 film adaption of Frank Wedekind’s earlier play, Pandora's Box. [The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra staging of William Kentridge’s production of Lulu was recently released on DVD / Blu-ray on the Nonesuch label.]

The Chicago Tribune noted: “As the Fugitive (forcefully sung and acted by baritone Andrew Wilkowske) falls desperately in love with a mysterious beauty who's one of Morel's guests, the symbolically named Faustine (a character inspired by the 1920s film star Louise Brooks), we see the Narrator (the excellent baritone Lee Gregory) pouring his confusion and fears into a diary. He tries to catch her attention and persuade her to return his longing, but she remains as remote as the rest.”

courtesy of Chicago Opera Theater
About the opera, the Chicago Opera Theater wrote, "This world premiere opera is based on "La invención de Morel," a 1940 novel by the influential Argentine author, Adolfo Bioy Casares. The story for this opera does not live within the classic constructs of time and space, but instead explores powerful driving forces of human emotion: love, desire, and sacrifice. . . .  An escaped fugitive arrives on an isolated, strange island. While exploring his surroundings, he observes a group of tourists and quickly realizes something is not quite right in this paradise. Intrigued yet wary of these eccentric visitors, he begins to fall in love with one--a strikingly beautiful woman. He discovers these visitors are here at the invitation of Morel, a mad scientific genius, for the unveiling of his latest mysterious invention. When his heart pulls him helplessly toward this beautiful woman he must ask himself how much he is willing to sacrifice to be with her."

Chicago Opera Theater's world-premiere production of Stewart Copeland's "The Invention of Morel," conducted by Andreas Mitisek, continues through February 26 at the Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Ave., in Chicago, Illinois. Tickets are $39-$125; more information at 312-704-8414 and www.cot.org. Here is a short animated piece summarizing the story.

a variant on this piece was published in the Huffington Post

Monday, February 20, 2017

Film critic Richard Schickel dies at age 84

The film critic Richard Schickel has passed away at the age of 84. I met him once, when I hosted an event with him, some five years ago. He was the film critic for LIFE and TIME magazines, and was the prolific author of some 37 books on the movies and movie stars. I have autographed copies of about a dozen of them. I especially enjoyed his biography of D.W. Griffith, which won the British Film Institute Book Prize.

His books on Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd, James Cagney, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Alfred Hitchcock and Elia Kazan are well worth checking out, as are his various documentaries.

Schickel wrote and/or directed more than 30 documentaries, mostly for television. Schickel started his movie making career in 1971 by writing the BBC documentary The Movie Crazy Years. Soon thereafter,  he wrote and directed a series of PBS documentaries under the title The Men Who Made Movies -- individual installements were on Golden Age directors William Wellman, Vincente  Minnelli, Raoul Walsh, King Vidor, Howard Hawks, George Cukor, Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock. The series became a book, which I also have. Schickel also edited 2006’s The Essential Chaplin: Perspectives on the Life and Art of the Great Comedian, which I have and would recommend.

On his Facebook wall, film historian Frank Thompson wrote a moving tribute to Schickel and the debt he and everyone who loves film and film history has to the late critic.

Schickel both wrote and directed his documentaries, mostly. They include The World of Willa Cather, a documentary about the Nebraska novelist, in 1977; the Walter Matthau-hosted CBS piece Funny Business, highlighting the best in movie comedy, in 1978; The Horror Show, a history of horror movies hosted by Anthony Perkins (1979, CBS); James Cagney: That Yankee Doodle Dandy (1982, PBS); 1987’s Minnelli on Minnelli: Liza Remembers Vincente; Cary Grant: A Celebration (1988, ABC); Gary Cooper: American Life, American Legend (1989, TNT);  Myrna Loy: So Nice to Come Home To (1990, TNT); the Sally Field-hosted Barbara Stanwyck: Fire and Desire (1991); Hollywood on Hollywood (1993, AMC); the Emmy-nominated Elia Kazan: A Director’s Journey (1994, AMC); The Harryhausen Chronicles (1998, AMC); the Emmy-nominated Shooting War: World War II Combat Cameramen (2000, ABC);  Woody Allen: A Life in Film (2002, TCM); Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin (2003); Scorsese on Scorsese (2004, TCM); Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us (2005, TCM); and the three-part series You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story, which aired in 2008 as part of PBS’ American Masters.

Schickel received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1964. He received the National Board of Review’s William K. Everson Film History Award in 2004, and the Maurice Bessy Award for film criticism in 2001. He was also honored by the  Los Angles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics.

When I met him, I asked Schickel about Louise Brooks. He told me that he liked her, thought her tough, and similarly admired William Wellman, Brooks' director in Beggars of Life.

Richard Schickel has died. His film history remains: his love of the movies is still alive.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Just Found Footage of Louise Brooks Favorite Author Marcel Proust

It's well known that the French writer Marcel Proust (who authored Remembrances of Things Past, or In Search of Lost Time) was Louise Brooks favorite. In 1982, in an article in the New York Times Book Review titled “Books that gave me pleasure,” the actress is quoted: “I have been reading Proust all my life, and I’m still reading him.”

In the screen capture pictured below, the elusive author can be seen wearing a grey coat and a dark bowler hat.

Now comes word that a Canadian professor claims to have found the only existing moving picture of the French writer. According to various news sources including the Guardian (UK), "The black-and-white footage of a wedding cortege filmed in 1904 shows a brief glimpse of a man in his 30s with a neat moustache, wearing a bowler hat and pearl-grey formal suit, descending a flight of stairs on his own. Most of the other guests are in couples."

To watch the entire clip, visit this link. Though just a fragment, this is very exciting news. Who knows what other lost fragmentary footage might be found? (A Louise Brooks fan can hope, can't they?)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Closing Time: Paintings by Max Ferguson with Louise Brooks

Check out this nifty video tribute to the paintings of Max Ferguson (a fan of Louise Brooks). The actress is featured early on; and she is not the only movie legend spotted in this tribute. Can you spot the other. (Clue: he included an image of Brooks in one of his recent films.) Bonus points to those who can name the musical accompanist depicted in the painting which includes LB. And by-the-way, the music accompanying the video is "Closing Time" by Tom Waits.