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Film Editorial

silentfilm19.jpg They don’t make ‘em like they used to
 

The Gateshead Silent Film Festival is now a firmly established as a January cultural highlight, and this year they have horror and comedy to amaze and delight you.

Alfred Hitchcock considered silent films to be “pure cinema”, in that the best practitioners of the art could tell a story through the visual action alone without resorting to reams of exposition-laden dialogue.

And some of the best silent films ever made are being screened at this mini-festival which kicks off on a Friday night with one of the great horror films, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ (pictured - 1925). This stars The Man of a Thousand Faces, Lon Chaney, in one of his defining roles as the titular Phantom. It’s a terrific take on the famous tale, imbued with an unsettling and dense gothic atmosphere with Chaney turning in a truly haunting performance.

On Saturday the mood is lightened with the Family Films Funny Bones Hour, which will feature a mix of funnies from a bygone era. As the title of the event kind of hints at this will be suitable for all ages. Hopefully we’ll get to see a custard pie or two being hurled (on the screen).

And then we’re in for a real treat with a screening of ‘Girl Shy’ (1924) starring Harold Lloyd, one of the giants of silent comedy. He is the Poor Boy, a bashful tailor’s apprentice who longs to be a published author. Heading for the city to sell his romantic anthology, he encounters the Rich Girl (Jobyna Ralston) on a train and sees the chance of romance. However when his book gets rejected he loses heart and gives up on her, only to have the publisher change his mind. Fired up again he tries to rekindle the spark of romance. The film is one of Lloyd’s very best and jam-packed with wit, slapstick and oodles of sweetness.

Each film over the weekend will be accompanied by a live piano score and the bar will be open throughout and into the night with the chance to enjoy sounds from the 1920s-40s. Oh – and if you’re feeling peckish then Scream for Pizza will also be on hand serving up their good stuff. Is this the best weekend out in January? I’m calling it!

Phantom of the Opera, Friday 25 January, 8pm, £10; Family Funny Bones Hour, Saturday 26 January, 5pm, £5; Girl Shy, Saturday 26 January, 8pm, £10. St Mary’s Heritage Centre, Gateshead. To book: 0191 433 4699 or visit: gateshead.gov.uk/whatson