Saturday, December 24, 2011

The silent film revival reflected in Finland: the Kari Glödstaf phenomenon

The current silent film revival started with the FIAF 1978 Congress in Brighton, and this year it seems to have climaxed with high profile releases such as The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius, an Academy Award contender, and Hugo by Martin Scorsese, with Ben Kingsley playing Georges Méliès on the 150th anniversary of the first artist of the cinema. There have been several notable articles and essays on the silent film phenomenon in the world's media, including Financial Times, the weekend issue of which I always try to read in these times of financial turbulence. Last week there was a full page on the silents in it.

Also in Finland there is a specialized festival, The Forssa Silent Film Festival, since 2001. I have always wanted to visit it, but the timing, early September, is for me the worst possible, since it coincides with the launching of our autumn season (and actually with the launching of our whole programming year, which follows the school terms), the Helsinki Festival, and is too close to the Espoo Ciné festival. But the Forssa festival is successful, so no harm is done.

There is also a specialized Finnish silent film blog, Mykkäelokuvasivusto [Silent Movie Blog] hosted by Mr. Kari Glödstaf, since 2005. It is remarkable since Mr. Glödstaf lives in the city of Lappeenranta in South Karelia, where there are only two cinemas, Kino-Aula and Nuijamies, which probably focus on new releases solely. Kari Glödstaf is a Forssa Silent Film Festival regular, and he follows closely our programming at Cinema Orion in Helsinki. But most importantly he is well informed of the global silent film releases in home viewing formats: vhs, dvd, blu-ray, and the legally free online supply. This autumn, Mr. Glödstaf has also published a book:

Kari Glödstaf: Kirjoituksia mykkäelokuvasta [Writings on Silent Movies]. Lappeenranta: Kari Glödstaf (Lappeenrannan Kirjapaino), 2011.

There are twenty extended articles on the following movies: Terje Vigen, Tarzan of the Apes (1918), True Heart Susie, The Kid, Anna-Liisa, Robin Hood (1922), Tess of the Storm Country (1922), Gösta Berlings saga, The Iron Horse, Der letzte Mann, Greed, Du skal ære din Hustru, Mat (1926), The Kid Brother, The Cat and the Canary (1927), The Unknown, La petite marchande d'allumettes, Arsenal, and Lucky Star.

The criteria for the selection include the artistic quality of the movie, that it has something to say, and that it is available for the general viewer either in a home format or legally free online. There is a special section on each movie's availability for the general reader.

I read the book with great interest and learned something new about every film. (And there is a film there that I have not yet seen: the Elmo Lincoln version of Tarzan of the Apes). There is a consistent structure for each film, which would mean that this book is not far from qualifying as a textbook for teaching. The book has been written for the general audience, but it is also interesting for a specialized reader. Mr. Glödstaf has done his homework with the previous reseach but always adds insights and angles of his own. I'm looking forward for more from Kari Glödstaf.

P.S. Two of the movies discussed in Kari Glödstaf's book, The Kid and The Iron Horse, were added to the National Film Registry on 28 December, 2011.

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