There’s more TCM Fest stuff to come, including a rundown of the Return of the Dream Machine program, which featured films from 1900-1913 projected with an original 1908 hand-cranked projector – it was a very special evening, and introduced me to one of the most amazing, incredible, and bizarre pieces of early cinema I’ve yet seen. It affected me so much that I feel the need to share it with everyone I know, in every outlet I have. Ladies and gentlemen, behold….The Dancing Pig.[The most amazing thing about this short is that apparently this vaudeville program was so popular at the time that there were numerous film versions made of it, by almost every studio. This one from Pathe seems to be the main one that’s survived to today.]
At the turn of the 20th century, with cinema still in its infancy, there blossomed a short lived form of film called ‘scènes de féeries’ or fairy films. Made famous by the groundbreaking French Pathé Frères company, these curiosities brought the lavish thrills of the theatre to the big screen. They utilised the painted backdrops, elaborate costumes and stage tricks that were popular at the time, while using the power of film to create some even more unbelievable magic to fresh faced viewers. To further add to the spectacle, the film makers also added colour to these films, utilising tinting and hand-stencilling to bring more life to their imagery.
The BFI have brought together an extensive collection of these films to release on DVD. With their reliance on spectacle over plot for the most part, plus the fact that a number of the films are missing segments, it’s an odd, rag-tag bunch of films that can often confuse and confound, so might not be to everybody’s tastes, but those that appreciate early cinema or the strange and surreal will find much to love. To bring things up to date, the BFI have also commissioned a series of brand new scores for the films, employing experimental artists from the Touch record label. Being experimental musicians, again these won’t be for everyone and in fact I struggled with a few of them, but it adds an extra element of surrealism to proceedings.
Head beneath the seats to see a breakdown of all the titles included, in chronological order: