Enjoying the silents: The Clicking Of Cuthbert and The Long Hole

Nosferatu and Metropolis aside I’ve never been particularly drawn to silent cinema but like everybody else I loved The Artist, so this year made an effort to turn up to a screening at The 15th British Silent Film Festival, an event that had previously passed me by entirely. I was glad I did. The festival’s comprised mainly of rarely seen films drawn from the archives of the British Film Institute and similar organisations and they’re being presented at The Arts Picturehouse in Cambridge and other appropriate venues with live musical accompaniment in a manner as close as possible to how they would have originally been screened. I bought a ticket to a pair of 1924 adaptations of P.G.Wodehouse’s golfing stories, The Clicking Of Cuthbert and The Long Hole, expecting them to be at best quaint museum pieces, and at worst hopelessly stilted and dated, and was delighted to be proved utterly wrong: both of these brisk half-hour comedies are engaging, witty and at times surprisingly incisive. The whole form makes sense when you’re seeing the films projected in a proper cinema with a live pianist in front of an appreciative audience in a way that it never could on television, and while the stories and characters may be lacking a bit in what would these days probably be called “development” there’s also a level of sophistication apparent that goes far beyond mere slapstick. Part of the art is in the casting – when you can’t hear the actors’ words it becomes even more important that the faces fit the parts, and in both of these pieces they generally get it spot-on, from the deliciously smug sneer of the unapologetically philistine Cuthbert and the hilariously over-intense Russian poet Brusiloff in the first film to the scheming Roger Bingham and starchy Arthur Jakes in the second, with the constantly put-upon and wonderfully expressive Harry Beasley cropping up in both films as a thankless golf caddie. It’s not just the visuals though: many of the inter-titles are laugh-out-loud funny and display the sort of self-referential wit I didn’t think was invented until Monty Python. Praise too for the way the films were set in context, with both an introduction and readings of sections from the Wodehouse stories adding to one’s appreciation. These films were a real tonic, and next year I’ll think about getting a pass for the full four days.

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One response to “Enjoying the silents: The Clicking Of Cuthbert and The Long Hole

  1. Pingback: Cambridge Film Festival 2012: Silent Hitchcocks – The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger, Blackmail | the tale of bengwy

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