Monday, 17 August 2015

Fairy Tales on Film

I've just spent a very enjoyable 2 and a half hours watching the BFI DVD, Fairy Tales: Early Colour Stencil films from Pathe, a compilation of 29 hand-colored silent shorts. Collected from the first decade of the 20th century, these fantasies are wonderfully enchanting curios, dazzling the eye with their otherworldly coloring (in some cases so extensive as to render them psychedelic extravaganzas) and still capable of astonishing the viewer a century later with trick photography, clever dissolves, jump cuts, and reverse shots. There's dancing devils, demons, magicians, charlatans, alchemists and ethereal nymphs and a one point some lavishly customized automobiles.

There's an unmistakable exuberance to these films, a delight in the medium and in some cases a desire to push the form ahead - some of the films utilize panning shots and rudimentary editing, cutting time and space, while other films move beyond the proscenium arch and feature outdoor photography, surely some of the earliest examples of location work in dramatic cinema. Kudos to the BFI for forgoing a conventional Silent score for an experimental flavoured soundtrack, with artists from the sound-art label Touch contributing the musical selections - although one Amazon reviewer was less than impressed with the "annoying noises". Should you feel likewise, a helping of Satie or Debussy would sound fine I think. The BFI DVD comes equipped with an excellent booklet containing context-setting essays and notes on the individual films which help with some of the more eccentric scenarios...

No comments:

Post a Comment