Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lulu in L.A.

I think we all agree with the sentiments expressed in this short article, which appeared in today's Los Angeles Times.

Louise Brooks and silent-era German Expressionist films have a web following and are screening at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre. 

By Susan King
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

December 6, 2007

IN the era of TMZ, Britney Spears and throwaway pop culture, it might seem there's no longer a place for silent films. Not so, says Peter Kobel, who wrote the new coffee-table book "Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture." In fact, there is a growing interest in silent films "and not just among film-school nerds," he says.

"On MySpace, there is a very large silent-film group, like 1,500 members," Kobel says. "I have actually met some very cool people in that group. They are not just students, but they are in rock bands or they are artists. You can tell by their sites and chatting with them, a lot of people are into this stuff. . . .

"It's my theory that they are rediscovering silent films because they are often strikingly original or strange or just plain interesting."

Look no further than tonight's screening at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre for two intriguing examples of silent-era German Expressionism -- 1925's "Variety," starring Emil Jannings as a former trapeze artist who lands in prison, and director Joe May's pre-noir "Asphalt" from 1929. The films, both restored by the Library of Congress, are traveling the country in conjunction with the publication of the book. The library's Christel Schmidt will introduce the movies, and Daniel Redfield will provide live piano accompaniment. Plus, attendees will be able to buy the book, which is lavishly illustrated with materials from the Library of Congress and features a foreword by Martin Scorsese and introduction by historian Kevin Brownlow.

As for those more interested in Britney than Brownlow, Kobel has the perfect solution: Louise Brooks. The silent-film actress has a surprisingly active Web following. "Of anyone you would want to pick out," Kobel says, "Louise Brooks is going to be a cult figure for modern times."

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