Silent Britain View large image

Film Details

Directed by: Various (TV)

Countries & Regions: United Kingdom

DVD Details

Certificate: E

Studio: British Film Institute

Length: 88 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 5 June 2006

Cat No: BFIVD728

Languages(s): English
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Silent Britain

Cast: Matthew Sweet (Pres)

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Kevin Brownlow's magnificent documentary series Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood devoted its fifth episode to a sustained piece of Brit-bashing that helped perpetuate the myth that this country was a helpless also-ran when it came to matters cinematic. The 90-minute Silent Britain provides a long-overdue corrective, demonstrating that during the medium's first decade, British filmmakers frequently rivalled and often surpassed the work of their French and American counterparts for innovation and imagination. Even Edwin S. Porter's supposedly seminal The Great Train Robbery (1903) was a direct lift from an earlier British film, and a surprising amount of basic film grammar originated here. While the industry was badly hit by World War I, the postwar silent era also offers astonishing examples of British creativity. Hitchcock needs no introduction, and E.A.Dupont's Piccadilly (1929) was recently restored, but they weren't working in a vacuum, and Anthony Asquith's silent films in particular will be a revelation to those who only know his stodgier sound features. Those in front of the camera are celebrated too: Ivor Novello's name still lives on, but what of Chrissie White, Ivy Duke, Henry Edwards, Betsy Balfour or Fred 'Pimple' Evans, all gigantic stars in their day? It's presented by author Matthew Sweet and those who have read his delightful ‘Shepperton Babylon’ will know what to expect in terms of polemic - though this plays second fiddle to a veritable encyclopaedia of clips that make his case for him. The DVD also contains a lengthy interview with silent film pianist extraordinaire Neil Brand and Adrian Brunel's short film Cut It Out (1925), a witty attack on film censorship.

Michael Brooke

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