I’m not feeling terribly well today. Yesterday’s malaise has revealed itself as a precursor to the sniffles. And here I thought it was because I was woken up at around 4am yesterday by a bizarre yet insistent bird call—sort of like a series of extended whistles, interspersed with the trills of other birds. I eventually fell asleep again but didn’t wake again until 11 o’clock, when I remembered I didn’t have any coffee left. I assumed the sharp pain in my eye that I carried around with me for the rest of the day was due to not imbibing caffeine within the crucial hour after waking, but it appears the eye was connected to the nasal and throat passages, which woke me up at 4am when I couldn’t breath adequately, and the ear passages which helped keep me awake because they were hurting me.
Anyway, ‘Boo Hoo! Yawn!’ I hear you say, ‘Take some vitamin C, drink some juice. Baby.’ Alright, I didn’t start this post to bore you with my trivial maladies, perhaps I just needed to justify not going into the University today to myself.
I started this post because I’ve been walking past the film festival tickets and programme I’ve kept for over a month now to remind myself that I had promised to post something here about the films I saw at the BIFF. The ticket on top at the moment is from the silent film I saw Beyond the Rocks.
Every year the BIFF presents a silent film which is screened to the accompaniment of organ music. Whatever film is playing it’s a bit of a special occasion because we just don’t have these kind of cinematic experiences any more; any extra-filmic music is usually courtesy of those miscreants who still haven’t figured out that it’s just plain rude to leave your mobile phone on in the cinema (or haven’t the poor dears figured out the silent mode of their phones, yet?). I always feel like I’m getting two for the price of one, a concert and a film experience (when I see the silent films that is, not when I’m distracted by the ignorant mobile phone owners).
This year the film was one that, until very recently it was thought, had been lost to the annals of decay. Then someone was scavenging through an un-catalogued archive in the Netherlands somewhere and found a near complete copy. It was promptly restored and now you can get it on DVD. People who know about these things were very excited about the discovery of Beyond the Rocks, not only because it’s an old film, but because it was an unusual film for its time since it featured two stars of Hollywood in the one film, Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. While this kind of double act is fairly common practice now, apparently, at the time, it was not. Gloria Swanson read the move as a slap on the wrist for daring to ask for more money for the films in which she starred; she maintained that putting her in a film with Valentino was a way of reminding her that she was not the star she thought she was. One wonders what kind of atmosphere this knowledge made for while shooting, but any fears that there would be fisticuffs at dawn between Rudy and Gloria as they vied for superior star status were, we learnt, put aside because they really were very good friends. Oh, I love a happy ending.
The film itself was an adaptation of a torrid romance novel, about an ill-timed flirtation between a young woman and an aristocrat, while she’s on her honeymoon with her overweight and, it must be said, not terribly robust, older husband. The poor neglected husband seems to make matters much worse for himself by getting sick in the mountain air and on almost every other occasion. I ended up feeling quite sad and sorry for him.
Still, when the competition is Rudolph Valentino, not too many would stand a chance. I swear, I had to catch my breath and fan my face; I was all aflutter after watching Valentino on screen. The appeal of him as an actor and sex symbol is more than obvious. Dr H. credits Valentino with giving her a crisp white shirt and cuff links fetish, and while the man himself was beautiful in his own right, the fashion of the 1920s and the costumes in the film did him no harm whatsoever.
The costumes served Ms Swanson rather well too, it must be said. Seeing all those twenties outfits made me wish I could see them in full colour. I’m sure the seamstresses amongst you can appreciate the work that has gone in to them more than I ever will, but they were quite glorious.
While there were no mobile phones going off in this film, there was a distraction that neither I nor anyone sitting around me could understand. It was only ten minutes into the film when it became obvious that someone had fallen asleep and was snoring! I did my very best to tune the offender out, and I was successful thanks to the appeal of Valentino. Alas others were not so successful, and after I had declared to all and sundry that Valentino was ‘hot’ and managed to regulate my breathing again, the conversation turned to the snoring man. I could elaborate, but really, all I can think about is Rudolph Valentino; the way he holds his hands, the way he leans against a tent pole, the way he fixes Gloria with his gaze... Phew!