Silent Movie Prologues from Brazil
Join us at the Minghella Studios on the 6th and 7th of December to experience the restaging of two Silent Movie Prologues, together with a screening of the films they were designed to accompany: Buster Keaton’s wonderful comedy feature Go West (US, 1925) and the surviving fragment of another extraordinary 1920s film, Beggar on Horseback (US, James Cruze, 1925).
The two prologues, “The Stylised Cowboy” and “Doing it the Pirandello way…”, were originally created to accompany the presentation of the films in Cinelândia, the area of marquee cinemas in Rio de Janeiro, in 1926. As part of the AHRC-FAPESP funded IntermIdia project, in conjunction with Reading Film Theatre and integrated into the final year of their degree programme, students from the Department of Film, Theatre & Television will perform the prologues as a prelude to these classics of silent cinema.
The UK premiere of the prologues complements another performance earlier in 2018 at Museu da Imagem e do Som in São Paulo (MIS-SP), on this occasion by the extraordinary Companhia Antropofágica. (For more information about this event, see the prologues in Brazil page here.) Both sets of performances are themselves part of the wider project: IntermIdia or, more formally, ‘Towards an Intermedial History of Brazilian Cinema: Exploring Intermediality as a Historiographic Method’, a collaboration between the University of Reading and the Federal University of São Carlos, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). The project is concerned both with investigating the history of Brazilian cinema and with exploring intermediality – cinema’s character as a mixture of artforms and media – as an analytical method for thinking about film more generally. These aims explain why reviving the movie prologues makes such an exciting area for the project to explore, combining, as they do, film, theatrical performance, set design, dance, music and song, and enabling us to bring historical material to a new audience.
Movie prologues were not unique to Brazil – they were a major exhibition practice in the United States, as pictured in the Lloyd Bacon / Busby Berkeley movie Footlight Parade (1933), and also featured as an exhibition strategy in the UK. Nevertheless, the prologues we are restaging are uniquely Brazilian. They are imbued with the carnivalesque – a mode which scholars have identified as characteristic of other aspects of Brazilian popular culture, both in the sense of relating to Carnival and as an attitude of poking fun at social hierarchies.
The University of Reading Minghella Studios can be found on Whiteknights Campus. See a full map of the campus here; Minghella Studios at map reference 195 – C4.