Home Arts Head back in time when movies were silent and elegant

Head back in time when movies were silent and elegant

by Bashir Rifai October 7, 2014
Head back in time when movies were silent and elegant

The silent screening of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame will leave you speechless

Feel like experiencing a film as audiences did during the silent film era? Well,The Film Society has you covered with its screenings of silent films. On Oct. 3 and 4, the society screened The Hunchback of Notre-Dame accompanied by live musicians. Presented by Le Cinéclub with the Westmount Park United Church providing the venue, The Film Society pulled out all the stops to make the audience experience a classic masterpiece the way it was meant to be experienced.

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is originally based on Victor Hugo’s classic tale first published in 1831

Audiences were greeted by the high-walled, main hall of the old gothic church, a perfect venue for this film, and presented with a reproduced version of the original program shown to audiences at the New York Loew’s State Theatre in 1924. Before the start of the film, a member of Le Cinéclub took the podium to give the audience an introduction to the show. The Film Society, established in 1992, provides film fans in Montreal with everything from classic to modern cinema, with screenings taking place every second Sunday at Concordia University.

For The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, the host explained that audiences were about to see the 16 millimetre version of the film, which was the case because Universal Studios allowed the original 35 millimetre prints of the classic film to disappear. The film gained massive popularity all over North America at the time of its release, even though, as the presenter said, there was “no green-screen, no CGI: what you see, is what you get.” As for the music, the ensemble was led by Shayne Gryn at the piano and the organ, Beth McKenna playing the clarinet and the flute, and Erica Bridgeman playing the percussion instruments.

Following the introduction, the lights were dimmed and the film began. Directed by Wallace Worsley, starring Lon Chaney Sr. in the title role of Quasimodo and Patsy Ruth Miller in the role of Esmeralda, it is easy to see why this film saw the success it did upon its release. The acting was brilliant across the board. The skill required from actors, who at the time had to rely upon facial expressions to express emotion, are much appreciated in this classic film. Also, the brilliant use of makeup, mainly on Lon Chaney Sr., the magnificent sets, the subtle use of lighting and the villainous figures lurking in the shadows, all come together to set the appropriate mood for audiences to become invested in the telling of this classic tale, based on the novel by Victor Hugo.

These elements, combined with the jazzy, gothic inspired score provided by Gryn and company, the perfect venue and even the clicking sound of the film projector contributed to transport a 21st century audience to a different era of filmmaking.

All in all, the passion of Le Cinéclub / The Film Society was easily witnessed and appreciated by the full house audience that night.

For more information on future screenings, visit cineclubfilmsociety.com.


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