The Cinematheque recently kicked off a two-month series devoted to the movies' first couple of decades — you know, before they learned how to talk. Artists of the Silent Screen features more than a dozen films from the early days, from foreign classics to popular favorites, all with title cards and pasty actors in heavy makeup.
Of course, the Cinematheque never needs a reason to show movies most multiplex audiences steer far, far away from. But this current series — whether they planned it that way or not — actually comes at a perfect time. With the new silent and black-and-white movie The Artist ending up on many year-end Top 10 lists and an Oscar hopeful, silent films are the new 3D. Or something like that.
Here are five other quiet movies you won't want to miss.
The Fall of the House of Usher
Master surrealist Luis Buñuel was an assistant on the moodiest version of Edgar Allan Poe's classic about a mysterious painting, a sick woman, and a ghostly house, which explains its dreamlike pull. It's preceded by The Three-Sided Mirror, another silent mindfuck by director Jean Epstein. (At 5 p.m. Saturday, February 4, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, February 5.)
(Ten Days That Shook the World)
Sergei Eisenstein followed up his masterpiece Battleship Potemkin with another look at Russian history, this time marking the 10th anniversary of 1917's revolution with this sprawling epic. It plays out like a documentary, rather than the usual theatrical storytelling of many films from the era. (At 8:35 p.m. February 12.)
One of the least-known movies showing in the series is a 1926 adaptation of a Gorky novel directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin (this is his first feature after a documentary and a short). Like Eisenstein's October, it deals with the Russian Revolution. This story is a more personal one, but no less effective. (At 6:45 p.m. February 16.)
F.W. Murnau's 1926 take on Goethe's classic tale of good vs. evil is a marvel of movie tricks. Murnau made one of the all-time horror greats, Nosferatu, four years before he hooked up with the devil here. It's filled with painterly imagery and literary haughtiness. It's also really good. (At 5:15 p.m. February 18 and 8:35 p.m. February 19.)
The Gold Rush
The best movie the Cinematheque is showing during its two-month celebration of silence also happens to be the most famous one on the schedule. In fact, it's one of the most famous silent movies ever made: Charlie Chaplin's 1925 Little Tramp adventure set in the Klondike. Yes indeed, it's the one where he eats his shoe. (At 5:15 p.m. February 25 and 2:50 p.m. February 26.)
Artists of the Silent Screen
Through February 26 at the Cinematheque
11141 East Blvd.
pullquote: The Cinematheque's current series – whether they planned it or not – comes at a perfect time.
caption: The Gold Rush's Charlie Chaplin gets ready to dig into some filet of sole.