What’s that coming around the corner? Why it’s Bristol’s best celebration of screen comedy, the brilliant annual Slapstick Fest! At South West Silents we’re of course huge fans of the festival, and we support their work throughout the year as best we can. January is of course an exciting time, and this year’s programme is one of the best we’ve seen in its twelve year history. While we have already booked our time off work, and rushed to the box office to get our tickets, the more relaxed visitor might be struggling to weigh up what to see in this brilliant programme. The Friday night Gala screening is always a safe bet, and this year’s screening of Chaplin’s The Kid, with full orchestra, will not disappoint!
But what else to pick out from the programme? Having knocked heads at SWS towers we here present our five favourite shows to help you along the way. Get clicking on the links now, and get booking to avoid disappointment!
1) Rediscovered and Restored, with Serge Bromberg
This year’s festival starts with a bang, quite possibly a literal one, when eminent archivist, film restorer and champion Serge Bromberg returns to the Watershed. Those who have seen Serge before will not forget the charming and eloquent Frenchman’s knack for introducing and illuminating brilliant and hilarious films previously thought forgotten and destroyed. Having previously lit nitrate film on stage, to demonstrate its highly volatile nature, Serge’s show is always an explosive one, with or without pyrotechnics!
2) Silent Comedy Westerns, with Kevin Brownlow
In a brilliant programme compiled with the help of South West Silent’s own Rosie Taylor, this superb programme from the collections of film historian Kevin Brownlow is a really special and unique show. Comedy westerns needn’t be limited to Blazing Saddles, and this programme highlights work by John Ford, and a dazzlingly colourful early French western. Experts don’t come more eminent than Oscar winning Kevin Brownlow, making this an afternoon not to be missed!
3) Bed and Sofa / Tretya Meschanskaya (1927), with David Robinson
Soviet cinema is all too readily overshadowed by brilliant but somewhat po-faced films like Battleship Potemkin, which while superb in their own right might lead you to think our Russian comrades never went to the pictures for a chuckle. This was far from the case, and attendees at the Pordenone silent film festival in recent years have been fortunate enough to learn of the brilliant comedies and satires that came out of Russia and Ukraine in the 1920s. Bed and Sofa is a fine exemplar in this category, subversive and humorous, and wonderfully observed, and with accompaniment from the brilliant John Sweeney this is a performance not to be missed.
4) Anita Loos: Hollywood Pioneer, with Lucy Porter
While the immutable icons of the silent screen are indubitably the figures we see on-screen, some recognition has to go out to the brilliant talents who worked behind the screen. Anita Loos is double unique in this regard, as a scriptwriter who left an indelible mark on Hollywood in its earliest years, and worked with the biggest names of her time. Her story is a tumultuous one, but one that spanned the screen, the stage, and the page, and this session will show some of her notable early films, and give a vital insight into her far reaching career.
5) Why I Love Ben Turpin, with Ian Lavender
As the festival brochure states ‘Ben Turpin is one of our finest and most neglected performers’. It is more than likely you have seen a film with him in it, as his filmography clocked in over 230 titles that we know of. Besides that he is incredibly recognisable! Just look at the man! This introduction to Turpin is a must for any classic film comedy fan as it is more than likely this will open the door to more people re-examining the comedy actor in the future.