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On Location in Silent Cinema

February 2, 2013 - February 22, 2013


In recent years, studio sets have given way to green screens and new forms of digital manipulation have transformed iconic landmarks. But when, and how, did “location” emerge as a lure for audiences, as either a guarantee of realism or a site of artifice and fantasy? The films in this series, shown in conjunction with the Second International Berkeley Conference on Silent Cinema, address the establishment of location as a cinematic concept by considering the various ways that it functions in silent cinema. In Les Halles centrales (1927) and Études sur Paris (1928), Paris is represented in a style that is both documentary and poetic. Two films by Victor Sjöström, Terje Vigen (1917) and The Wind (1928), show a continuity of location practices across cultures and studio systems. Between the crushing poverty and social alienation of Love and Duty (1931) and the experimental and fantastic prison of The Ghost that Does Not Return (1929), we begin to trace the social and political implications of film location. Finally, monumental locations underscore the equally insurmountable internal conflicts of the film’s “good” bad man in The Bargain (1914).

Linda Witkowski

Saturday, February 2, 2013
6:00 p.m. Études sur Paris
André Sauvage (France, 1928) Imported Print! Introduced by Patrick Ellis. Judith Rosenberg on piano. Part inventory, part cartography, Études sur Paris is a city-symphonic Baedeker of Paris, as interested in the monumental as the derelict. With Boris Kaufman’s short, Les Halles centrales. (105 mins)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
7:00 p.m. Terje Vigen
Victor Sjöström (Sweden, 1917) Imported Print! Introduced by Mark Sandberg. Live music by The Town Quartet. Bruce Loeb on piano. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, this adaptation of Ibsen's nationalistic poem is distinguished by stunning land- and seascape photography. With the director’s Hollywood epic The Wind, wherein naïve Virginia belle Lillian Gish relocates to windswept Texas. (136 mins)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
7:00 p.m. Chang
Merian C. Cooper, Ernest Schoedsack (U.S., 1927). Introduced by Linda Williams. A family struggles to farm—and to live—at the edge of the Siam jungle in this pioneering travelogue/documentary/crowd-pleaser. With Buñuel’s Surrealist documentary classic, Land Without Bread. (120 mins)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
7:00 p.m. Love and Duty
Bu Wancang (Richard Poh) (China, 1931). Imported Print! Introduced by Weihong Bao. Judith Rosenberg on piano. This rarely screened tragicomedy from the Chinese silent era depicts a woman’s sacrifice and the price she pays for abandoning an arranged marriage. Starring the legendary Ruan Lingyu. (152 mins)

Thursday, February 21, 2013
7:00 p.m. The Bargain
Reginald Barker (U.S., 1914). Restored 35mm print! Introduced by Scott Simmon. Frederick Hodges on piano. Join us for the West Coast premiere of the Library of Congress’s 35mm restoration of this deeply unconventional border-town Western, starring William S. Hart in his first feature and the Grand Canyon in all its majesty. With short Sierra Jim’s Reformation, starring Raoul Walsh. (83 mins)

Friday, February 22, 2013
7:00 p.m. The Ghost That Does Not Return
Abram Room (U.S.S.R., 1930) Imported Print! Introduced by Anne Nesbet. Bruce Loeb on piano. The grand and forbidding vistas of Azerbaijan stand in for an unnamed, oil-rich South American country, in which a revolutionary is let out of jail for one day. The Soviet Wild West meets avant-garde design! (84 mins)

The Second International Berkeley Conference on Silent Cinema, hosted by the Department of Film and Media at UC Berkeley, takes place from February 21 to 23. For information, go to the Department of Film and Media website.

Series guest curated by Patrick Ellis, Mark Sandberg, Linda Witkowski of the Department of Film and Media at UC Berkeley and organized for BAM/PFA by Susan Oxtoby. We wish to thank the following for their assistance: Eric Le Roy and Fereidoun Mahboubi, CNC; Jon Wengström, Swedish Film Institute; Fleur Buckley, BFI; Teresa Huang, Chinese Taipei Film Archive; Rob Stone, Library of Congress; Daniel Bish, George Eastman House; Consulate General of Sweden, San Francisco; French Consulate, San Francisco; San Francisco Silent Film Festival; and the Department of Film and Media and the Center for Chinese Studies at UC Berkeley.