Winter Gardens Film Festival 2017: A Sumptuous Feast of Black and White Glamour
Last weekend, the Winter Gardens Film Festival returned to the iconic and historic Blackpool Winter Gardens to showcase the best of classic and contemporary black and white film.
Some of the VisitBlackpool team went along to experience some spectacular and varied entertainment, from classic comedy, silent horror wonderful musical accompaniment.
Film Festival Director, Catherine Mugonyi, was asked in an interview with AltBlackpool last week why Blackpool needs a film festival. She responded: “Why the heck not? We have a strong entertainment tradition, amazing venues, local expertise and the infrastructure to handle festivals.”
Friday night featured the festival launch, with the screening of the 1942 film ‘You Were Never Lovelier’, starring Fred Astaire and the beautiful Rita Hayworth.
Astaire plays Robert Davies. After losing his money gambling, Fred Astaire’s character Robert Davies heads to a Buenos Aires nightclub to seek his fortune, falling for Maria – the club owner’s daughter played by (Rita Hayworth). With a heavy dose of Hollywood glamour, this lavish production was a sweet antidote from the horror of World War II when it was released.
In keeping with the silver screen sparkle, the party held in the gorgeous Grand Foyer Bar had a swing dance theme. It was fabulous to see so many revellers dolled up in their pin-up dresses and victory-rolled hair twirling along with live dance band the Billionaires.
Saturday started early with some Buster Keaton fun, but the next film we went to see was the abridged screening of 1931 classic horror film, Frankenstein . . . with a twist.
The screening was accompanied by the Lancaster Millennium Choir, a community choir whose creativity had the audience laughing loudly at their tongue-in-cheek humour. With the exception of a piano, all the music and sound effects were created by the choir. Some of the lyrics were hilarious, and their performance brought new life to an old film which was summarised in a 30 minute screening.
Straight after this performance, the hoard of die-hard classic film fans traipsed along to the Opera House to watch the screening of the 1925 adaptation of the Phantom of the Opera, starring ‘Man with 1000 Faces’ Lon Cheney. The film is an atmospheric delight, truly frightening and it was amazing to see the pioneer of SFX make-up (Lon Cheney) in his signature role.
Some of us were a little unsure that we’d enjoy a feature-length film with no audio, but we were delighted when we saw a band setting up on stage. Minima are a four-piece group who perform a modern original music live to interpret the images of silent film. The result was simply breath taking. The music was a haunting and sensuous experience, with its instrumentation including (but not limited to) cello, double bass, guitars, synthesizer, glockenspiel and drum kit. Combined, this music conjured a thrilling relationship with the film, following the Phantom down into his subterranean nightmare world. The effect this had on the audience was so profound that there was a standing ovation as they took their bows.
The quality continued with a screening of what can only be described as one of the world’s most influential filmmakers, with Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon; a tale of justice and truth recounted in four very conflicting accounts. This Japanese classic, which had you gripped from start to finish, was a perfect complement to the programming of the Festival.
The weekend was a fantastic event for both seasoned classic and independent films fans as well as newcomers to the genre. The performances were varied to allow room for contemporary twists and interactive elements, and we thoroughly enjoyed every performance we saw. Thank you Catherine of the Winter Gardens Film Festival very much for having us!
We cannot wait to see what the 2018 has in store!