Niles International Film Festival

This weekend the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum runs its three-day Niles International Film Festival. Actually, it would be more accurately titled the Niles European Film Festival, since the six features and seven shorts are all from that particular semi-continent. All films are silent, of course, with piano accompaniment. The George Melies short, “The Impossible Voyage,” will also have live narration.

Speaking of silent films with live narration, it’s too bad they’re not showing any Japanese films (which were shown in their home country with live narration. Japan continued to make silent films well into the 1930’s. Ozu’s masterpiece I was Born, But… came out in 1932; he didn’t make a talkie until 1935.

European as it may be, Niles’ line-up serves up plenty of well-known but seldom-seen fare. I’ve been going to silent films for 35 years, but there’s not a single feature on the list I’ve seen theatrically.

It begins Friday night with Rene Clair’s comedy, The Italian Straw Hat, preceded by the aforementioned “Impossible Voyage”–a hand-colored print.

Saturday is the big day, with Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin, Symphony of a Great City starting the festivities off at noon. Then, at 3:15, they’ll screen Alfred Hitchcock’s first movie that feels like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Lodger. Then at 7:30 we return to Germany for Fritz Lang’s masterwork, Spies.

Niles moves to colder climes (Denmark and Russia) on Sunday for Dreyer’s Master of the House at 1:00 and Pudovkin’s Mother at 4:00. (That’s Pudovkin’s film Mother; his actual mother will not appear.)