Friday, September 7, 2007

Day 1 - The 1st International Silent Film Festival (9/04/07)

If I'm not mistaken, this is already the third consecutive year that a silent film festival is being held in Manila. In the past two years, it was mounted by the Goethe Institut. Germany produced majority of the world's most well-known silent films this side of Chaplin, Keaton, and D.W. Griffith, especially works by Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau during the German expressionist era in the 1920s, including Metropolis, Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Sunrise, Nibelungen, and Dr. Mabuse, to name a few.

The film festival works like this: they show the movie, a live band provides the soundtrack. I have the fondest memories of the past film fests. During the first one, they showed Lang's Metropolis, soundtracked by a techno band called Rubber Inc. It was a very thrilling experience because the music and the futuristic images of the movie truly suited each other. I thought it was perfect. I almost forgot. Even before that first film fest, I attended a screening of Murnau's Faust at the CCP, with the live music provided by a youth orchestra. That, too, was perfect, even though there was a slight mix-up with the reels, the musicians lost their cues, and we could hear the technicians cursing at each other in the projection room.

The 2007 edition is being mounted at the Greenbelt 3 Cinema 2 not just by the Goethe Institut, but also by the Instituto Cervantes and the Japan Foundation, with one film each.

The film for the night was Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed (The Adventures of Prince Achmed), a 1926 animated (!) film created by Lotte Reiniger. The brochure read: "The entire film is animated using the silhouette technique, which employs movable cardboard and metal cutouts posed in front of illuminated sheets of glass. Lotte Reiniger's masterpiece took three years to make and is the oldest surviving feature-length animated film."

Wow. It was truly a great piece of work. 1926?! Which makes it a year older than Metropolis, but it has none of that film's creaky spots and sub-themes. The film looked fresh and utterly contemporary. The animation looks like the bastard child of Javanese shadow puppets and A Nightmare Before Christmas, but art deco. The images looked cool and the animation fluid (see stills below). And for the record, before Satan had sex with Saddam in South Park and before those marionettes fornicated in Team America:World Police, the Germans had cardboard cutouts do an orgy, as in the hilarious brothel scene in the movie. Further proof that the 20s were a lot wilder than, say, the 50's, or was it just because they're Germans? If I were an evil executive from Disney, I will reissue this film with cutesy dialogue and music from Phil Collins, and my God the merchandising opportunities. The characters would look good on a bag or shirt, or buttons, a la Emily the Strange.

Okay, about the music. It was provided by the band Drip. Hmm. I know you guys put a lot of effort into it, with the percs and those laptops and all, but I wish it was more exciting and fun, given the material. The vibe was more Passion of the Christ than The Thief of Baghdad. It was too muzak-y and new age-y in many parts, a la Deep Forest circa 1994. I nearly fell asleep.

The screening was packed. The cocktails area was full before the screening, but those people were not even half the people who showed up way past the scheduled screening time. Lots of familiar faces during the cocktails. Musicians, filmmakers, artists, and those that just happened to have a free Tuesday night stuffed their mouths with grub and wine from Gaudi.

The next scheduled screening is on Monday, September 10, with the Spanish film El sexto sentido, with music from Wahijuara, and on Thursday, September 13, with the Japanese film Orochi, with music from the Makiling Ensemble. If you're planning to go, I suggest you buy or reserve your tickets NOW. Last Monday when I went to the ticket booth, only three seats were left. Don't want that to happen to you.

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