Posts Tagged ‘silent film’

Mike Zahs


90 minutes | No MPAA rating

By most calculations,  rural Iowan Mike Zahs is a hoarder — which is to say he suffers from a disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

The retired teacher — who sports a beard worthy of an Old Testament prophet — has a house (two of them actually) packed floor to ceiling with items that might be precious or worthless. Apparently he has his own mental filing system that allows him to locate certain items in all the confusion. His wife can only roll her eyes.

Thing is, Zahs is terrifically articulate, which helps ease our concerns that he may just be another wack job.

And it turns out that Zahs’ towering mountain of junk contains some real treasures. Nearly 30 years ago Zahs took responsibility for the long-abandoned home of fellow townsman William Franklin Brinton, who in the early years of the 20th century traveled the Midwest putting on magic lantern shows and projecting early motion pictures to audiences of farmers and small towners.

Amidst this collection of yellowing posters, ancient projectors and other paraphernalia of old-timey entertainment,  Zahs has discovered a reel of nitrate film, a hand-colored short by the great French cinema pioneer Georges Melies.  It is, in fact, the only known copy of this particular film.  (Melies’ life and art was was the inspiration for Martin Scorsese’s 2011  “Hugo” in which Ben Kingsley portrayed the great magician of early film.)


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“THE ARTIST” My rating: B (Opening Dec. 23 at the Glenwood Arts and AMC Town Center)

100 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

When everyone from the coastal heavy hitters to the Joe Blow bloggers declare a movie a masterpiece, you’re probably smart to take it with a grain of salt.

So it is with “The Artist.”

French filmmaker Michael Hazanavicius’ daring update on silent movies is wildly creative, often quite funny, extremely well acted and peppered with philosophical implications.

It’s also a bit too familiar, being basically yet one more variation on “A Star Is Born.”

Here silent film matinee idol George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) sees his career hit the skids even as vivacious newcomer Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo, the director’s wife) becomes a new audience favorite thanks to her embrace of the newfangled sound technology. (more…)

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One of the long-standing traditions of the Kansas International Film Festival continues this year with a live appearance by Boston’s Alloy Orchestra, a three-man ensemble (Terry Donahue, Roger Miller, Ken Winokur) specializing in original scores for silent films.

"Dream of a Rarebit Fiend" (1906)

This year’s Alloy offering (scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2) features the boys’ new project,  “Wild and Weird,” a collection of classic silent shorts.

The 10 films on the program include such noteworthy titles as “Dream of a Rarebit Fiend” (1906),  “Red Spectre” (1907), “The Acrobatic Fly” (1908), “Princess Nicotine, or the Smoke Fairy” (1909), “Artheme Swallows His Clarinet” (1912) and “The Life and Death of 9413, A Hollywood Extra” (1927).

These titles come from the U.S., France, Great Britain, Switzerland and Russia and lean toward the fanciful and surreal.

Interspersed with the films is a collection of vintage slides used during the silent era to advise and admonish audiences, promote coming attractions and advertise local merchants.

| Robert W. Butler

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