First Light: The International Silent Cinema, 1894-1934


First Light: The International Silent Cinema, 1894-1934

June 15, 2017

Following last summer’s series on French and American film noir, the Paris Center will now present a wide-ranging survey of highlights from cinema’s earliest years. Once again organized and presented by Richard Peña, Professor of Film Studies at Columbia and former Director of the New York Film Festival, the series will explore the origins of the cinema as it emerged from the influences of theater, literature and the visual arts. Topics to be discovered include German Expressionist Cinema; African-American silent film production, and the appearance of cinema in Japan and China. Each program will begin with a brief introduction by Professor Peña, followed by screenings of selected films, many of which will feature live musical accompaniment offered by students of Jean-François Zygel's piano improvisation class at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris. Each film will be then discussed by Prof. Peña, often together with a noted film critic or scholar.

About Richard Peña

Richard Peña has been at Columbia since 1989, and was named Professor of Professional Practice in 2003.  Mr. Peña also served as the Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Director of the New York Film Festival from 1988 to 2012. At the Film Society, he has organized retrospectives of Michelangelo Antonioni, Sacha Guitry, Abbas Kiarostami, Robert Aldrich, Gabriel Figueroa, Ritwik Ghatak, Kira Muratova, Youssef Chahine, Yasujiro Ozu, Carlos Saura and Amitabh Bachchan, as well as major film series devoted to African, Chinese, Cuban, Polish, Hungarian, Arab, Korean, Japanese, Soviet and Argentine cinema. He is also currently the co-host of Channel 13’s weekly Reel 13.

About the piano improvisation class at CNSMDP

Created 15-years ago by Jean-François Zygel, the piano improvisation class at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (CNSMDP) assembles a dozen pianists (undergraduate and masters students) who are engaged in exploring all of the artistic and musical avenues of this ever-expanding field.  Whether accompanying performances in dance, theater or silent cinema, piano improvisation requires excellent listening skills and great versatility, as well as in-depth knowledge of musical styles and genres.


Full Program/Programme complet

All films shown at 7:30pm/Projections à 19h30

19 June

The Cinema Appears/Le cinéma apparaît:  Muybridge, Marey, Edison, Lumière, Méliès

20 June

The Cinema Discovers Form/Le cinéma découvre sa propre forme: Alice Guy Blaché, The Brighton School, Films d'Art, D.W. Griffiths

Discussant: Marie Regan, professor of film, American University of Paris.

21 June*

The Serial Film/Le film de série: “Fantômas” (1913, Louis Feuillade)

Discussant: Dominique Païni, former director of the Cinémathèque Française

Piano accompaniment by Camille Taver

22 June*

The Feature Film/Le long-métrage: “The Mother and the Law” (1919, D.W. Griffith)

Piano accompaniment by Masanori Enoki

26 June*

German Expressionism/L’expressionisme allemand: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920, Robert Wiene)

Piano accompaniment by Orlando Bass

27 June*

Scandinavian Cinema/Le cinéma scandinave: “The Outlaw and his Wife” (1918, Victor Sjöström)

Discussant: Sarah Leperchey, professor of Cinema, University of Paris 1

Piano accompaniment Thomas Lavoine

28 June*

African-American Cinema/Le cinéma afro-américain: “Body and Soul” (1925, Oscar Micheaux)

Piano accompaniment by Harry Allouche

29 June

Soviet Cinema/Le cinéma soviétique: “Earth” (1930, Alexander Dovzhenko)

3 July*

Silent Comedy/Le cinéma burlesque: Max Linder, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd

Piano accompaniment by Adelon Nisi

4 July

The Birth of the Documentary/La naissance du documentaire: “Nanook of the North” (1922, Robert Flaherty) and “A propos de Nice” (1930, Jean Vigo and Boris Kaufman)

Discussant : José Mouré, professor of Cinema, University of Paris 1

5 July*

Japanese Cinema/Le cinéma japonais: “I was Born, But...” (1932, Yasujiro Ozu)

Discussant:  Hubert Niogret, filmmaker and film critic

Piano accompaniment by Satsuki Hoshino

6 July*

Chinese Cinema/Le cinéma chinois: “Goddess” (1934, Wu Yonggang)

Piano accompaniment by Camille El Bacha

* With live piano accompaniment by students of the improvisation class of Jean-François Zygel at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris.

*Films accompagnés au piano par les élèves de la classe d’improvisation de Jean-François Zygel, en partenariat avec le Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris.

 All films shown with English inter-titles. Admission is Free.