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Film Comment (1996) - Another Hollywood Heard From




Cinema Europe, a six-part series on Turner Classic Movies.


Another Hollywood Heard From

These are pretty good times for silent film devotees. Although most of the movies of that fascinating era have disappeared due to time and neglect, the surviving footage is more accessible now than at any time since talkies came in. Silent films with live musical accompaniment are shown regularly to audiences all over the country. Distributors such as Kino on Video and Milestone Film and Video release spiffed-up versions of classics like EW. Murnau's Faust ('26) and Maurice Tourneur and Clarence Brown's Last of the Mohicans ('20), as well as multi-volume sets of the works of Buster Keaton and Douglas Fairbanks. Rarities continue to be discovered and made available, too, such as a ravishing French Cyrano de Bergerac ('26) in its original Pathe Color, a laborious stencil process. And Turner Classic Movies, for the happy few whose cable companies actually carry it, shows at least one or two silent features per week. Until recently, it was common to see silent films presented only in drab dupes, run at the wrong speed, and accompanied by inappropriate, ill-synched musical scores-- when music was used at all. Those substandard prints and cassettes are still out there, but today we stand a much better chance of encountering beautifully tinted and toned prints, projected or mastered at proper speeds, and supported by a specially written orchestral, organ, or piano score.

The more we see of silent films under "proper" conditions (let's pretend for the time being that video copies ca...

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