Silents season

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The Independent Culture
Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail is sometimes seen as his first sound picture - indeed it was billed on its release as 'Britain's first Talkie - 100 per cent Talkie, 100 per cent entertainment.' In fact, it started life as a silent movie (Hitchcock was asked to add a soundtrack after completion) and is reborn next week in its original, non-talking (but still, no doubt, 100 per cent entertaining) version, with a newly composed soundtrack by Jonathan Lloyd. The film is noted for its murder scene and for a chase through the British Museum (created with some of Hitch's typically ingenious special effects).

And perhaps the silent version is the finer of the two: certainly, many years later, Hitchcock, who always loved to tell his stories primarily through imagery, told Francois Truffaut: 'Silent pictures were the purest form of cinema . . . there was no need to go to the other extreme and completely abandon the technique of the pure motion picture, the way they did when sound came in.'

Blackmail is the latest example of a small revival of interest in composing new soundtracks for silent cinema. Another instance is E A Dupont's Moulin Rouge (set in the Parisian night-club), which also plays next week with a new jazz score by Mike Westbrook. From Berlin to Harlem has a slightly looser film connection - it's a menu of cabaret songs by Friedrich Hollander (composer of the songs for The Blue Angel), Mischa Spoliansky and Wilhelm Grosz. Jazz and the Silver Screen features some rarely seen short films from the Twenties with their original music, by the likes of Satie and Saint-Saens.

(Photograph omitted)