Friday, September 5, 2008

The 2nd International Silent Film Festival: Cabiria (1914)

Italy concluded this year's International Silent Film Festival with last night's screening of Cabiria (Giovanni Pastrone, 1914), a truly gargantuan epic that is said to have inspired D.W. Griffith to turn Intolerance into the mammoth production that it is. Cabiria is the granddaddy of all those massive movies from the silent and sound eras, the Metropolises, the Ben-Hurs, the Cleopatras, the Titanics and the like. It is in this movie that the dolly was used for the first time in filmmaking. It has spectacular sets, great costumes, fantastic cinematography and special effects. (Read Roger Ebert's take on the movie HERE.)

It also has an almost inscrutable plot, tons of characters, and sometimes moves in a glacial place that this epic actually almost made me sleep (and to think a three-hour version is being primed for release in the near future). The acting is also as big as the sets, but of course a 94-year old movie should not be judged according to modern standards. For its significance alone in the history of cinema, Cabiria is a must-see for all film lovers.

As if to compensate for the challenging-to-watch movie, DJ Caliph8 did a very eclectic live score, like a cross between Wagner, Strauss, and U.N.K.L.E., with funk, jazz, big band, and sci fi thrown in.

The 2nd International Silent Film Festival was a mixed bag, with excellent films and one or two clunkers. But I think this is one very important film festival that many people should attend, simply because the silent era produced some of the best movies ever made, but most people do not know about them because they are largely unavailable anywhere. I'll be lining up for next year's edition. A good show is worth repeating.

No comments: