By Don Simpson | July 8, 2012
Director: Paul Festa
Writer: Paul Festa
Starring: Matthew Simmons, Paul Festa, Kevin Clarke, Artist Malcolm Drake, Jaime Garcia Castilla, Martyn Garside, Eric Glaser, Cohdi Harrell, Kegel Kater, Rumi Missabu, Laura Stokes, Jeremiah Turner, Sylvie Volosov
Many of my favorite films are silent, which means that most of them date back to the 1910s and 1920s. Every once in a while, though, a contemporary director releases a new silent film. Some of these modern day silent films work (such as Guy Maddin’s silent films), but most of them fail. (In case you are wondering, Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist falls somewhere in the middle for me.)
In 2010, writer-director Paul Festa made a 20-minute silent film set to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, and I am happy to report that the result — The Glitter Emergency — works. Despite shooting with digital cameras, Festa reproduces the unique visual aesthetic of early films. He nails the frame rate, graininess and contrast (though all presumably fabricated during post-production); Festa also assembles a cast of actors that clearly understand the over-expressive method of acting that is all but required when making narrative silent films. At certain points, the film seems to become a bit too much of a spoof for my tastes, but for the most part the story benefits from the medium.
More Georges Méliès than Charles Chaplin or Buster Keaton in tone, the story is a fantastical tale of Peggy the Peg-Leg Ballerina (Matthew Simmons), who is stuck at home with her two evil stepsisters (Rumi Missabu and Eric Glaser). Like Cinderella, Peggy daydreams of escaping her life of servitude and taking the stage as a famous ballerina. Enter two mercurial Pixies (Martyn Garside and Jaime Garcia Castilla) and violinist in 7-inch platforms (Paul Festa) who propel Peggy towards her glittery destiny.