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Who says silent films died in the thirties?

Well, production of silent films may have died then, but viewing silent films is still very much alive. At the Silent Film Festival held in Shangri-La, yesterday was the last day of screenings with live music, and we were very fortunate to have viewed Cabiria, which is actually an Italian classic and a masterpiece, notwithstanding the fact that it was shot in 1914.

A brief heads-up for those film lovers who know nothing about film history: in ye olden times, when films were still silent, live music was played along while the film itself was being projected onscreen. There could be a lone piano player pounding away on the keyboards, or there could also be a full orchestra. The music for yesterday's screening was done by DJ Caliph8, plus Matt Deegan on an electric upright bass and Malek Lopez on keyboards. I actually considered it a wonderful innovation to add a dash of electronica to the classical score (how else could you get a 21st century audience interested in a silent film, if not to tell it through their music?). Great job, by the way. The trio's performance was almost as good, if not as good, as the feature film itself.

Now on to the merits of the film. I don't think you can say anything bad about films of this magnitude, especially since this is like the granddaddy of the huge epics. The spectacular vistas and the costume designs were what probably inspired films like Spartacus, which in turn inspired Gladiator and Rome. And this was before computer-generated imagery, so when we speak of extras, we mean hundreds of extras. And those elephants in the scene where Hannibal crosses the alps---those were real elephants. Director Giovanni Pastrone does a great job behind the camera, as with even slight camera movements, this film pushes the envelope way ahead of its time.

Despite some people falling asleep during the two hour-run (my girlfriend included), it was a great show nonetheless, and you can catch more silent films until September 8.

Rating: Four stars.


Anonymous said...

i was tired! i fell asleep not because i didn't like the film. It was interesting and very well done. :)

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