↳ Silent (2/50)
So I just got back from seeing this (the restored version with new score) on the Big Screen and - wow - it was fabulous. I’ve never seen it, so it was a joy to watch a big screen (silent) film without knowing what’s going to happen.
If I didn’t already know that Asquith directed it I would never have guessed. I only really know Asquith as a filmer of plays; Rattigan (The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, The Way To The Stars) and of course The Importance of Being Earnest. And while they are mainly good-to-very-good, they feel a world away from this inventive, engaging and intriguing delight of a film. It sits (chronologically) neatly alongside Hitchcock’s The Lodger and Blackmail, and it’s not out of place or inferior to them. Imagine going to the flicks in ‘29 and seeing this and Blackmail! You’d be forgiven for thinking there was some kind of English film movement.
It’s a lovely mix of near-documentary footage, splashes of lyrical whimsy, expressionistic lighting/acting, down to earth humour and inventive cinematography. All the tube scenes are brilliant (this is the main reason I was so eager to see it, really - it’s the first time I’ve had to keep the noises inside because of trains/lights/escalators rather than actors), as well as the thrill of seeing ‘ordinary’ ’20s Londoners going about their business. These are working class folk for once not being stereotyped or sidelined. But it’s a taut little story with great performances from the four leads (Elissa Landi as Nell is particularly delightful) as well as the bit players, especially in the pub scenes. It feels very modern.
The picture quality on the restoration is really good (especially on the close ups, something of particular interest to folk *cough* Franka and Jenny *cough*) and the score is so good I can’t imagine any other, which is always a good sign. It’s out on bluray/dvd in the UK in June; I’ve already ordered my copy.