May 20, 2014

This is unconscionable! Or was...whatever, never mind...

One of my favorite books is a treasured 1996 reprint of Kevin Brownlow's 1968 history of the silent movie era, The Parade's Gone By...  Written when Brownlow was in his 20s, it is nevertheless of the highest quality, full of crisp, luminous black & white photos and interviews with some of the biggest stars of the era, from Gloria Swanson to Buster Keaton.  These people were still around in the 60s, and Brownlow tracked them down and got them to talk.  I was going to say it the book is a neglected masterpiece, but actually it's still in print, and in-stock at Amazon, so there you go. 

But, reading his bio a few years ago, I wondered why he had never received proper credit for this and his other great historical and preservationist achievements...wait, what?  Oh, this just in, in 2011,  Brownlow received an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement after being nominated by Martin Scorcese.  Oh!  Well done, excellent!  Carry on!

(Why does no one tell me these things?)

The Guardian provides additional information here.

But trust me on The Parade's Gone By... , it will make those first few months on the desert island fly by.


Blogger Laird of Madrona said...

I'm watching The Story of Film on Netflix, which I recommend. I realized that to be a true film snob, you must believe that everything went down hill when they introduced sound.

May 21, 2014 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger The Other Front said...

Yeah, I was into silent film before it was popular. Now, to be a true film snob, Brownlow makes the point early on that the early stuff is mostly inferior, and that "the golden era was the period between 1916 to 1928," a period where silent film technicians "in less than ten years, had developed a craft and perfected an art."

I would think the really tough hipster question is whether you should go with Brownlow, and snob up the golden age, or try and pretend the pre-1916 stuff is really good, if you're a true sophisticated connoisseur.

My own gambit, encouraged by Brownlow, is to prefer directors such as the great Edward Sloman, most of whose work has been destroyed. This is, I suppose, similar to my enthusiasm for Epictitus. Left with only fragments, we can fill in the blanks with our imaginations and become the auteur ourselves.

This stratagem also inoculates me from my usual shortcoming in criticism, which is that I usually have not seen the movie. With Sloman no one has seen the movie, making this problem much more manageable.

May 21, 2014 at 6:51 PM  
Blogger The Other Front said...

That was all ad-libbed, by the way.

May 21, 2014 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger Laird of Madrona said...

Well done!

May 21, 2014 at 8:26 PM  

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