Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 7:30pm
Two Films by Lois Weber
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Suspense, Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley, 1913, 16mm, 10 mins
The Blot, Lois Weber, 1921, 16mm, 80 mins
Nearly a hundred years ago, Lois Weber was the highest paid filmmaker in Hollywood, a respected contemporary of Griffith and DeMille, yet today, even in the wake of remarkable new scholarship and meticulous preservation efforts, her achievements as an actor, screenwriter, and director remain all too obscure. “It is now time,” the historian Shelley Stamp recently declared, “to ask what a history rewritten with Weber’s legacy in mind might look like.”
Tonight, Light Industry presents two of her greatest works, beginning with the tautly-designed one-reeler Suspense, produced with Weber’s husband and frequent collaborator Phillips Smalley. “No film made before World War I shows a stronger command of film style than Suspense,” argued Tom Gunning. “Placing a woman alone in an isolated home threatened by a burglar (a situation previously explored in D.W. Griffith’s 1909 The Lonely Villa), the film outdoes even Griffith for emotionally involved filmmaking. The film employs cross-cutting, a unique three-way split screen, an overhead shot, the use of reflections, and powerful close-ups to create ten minutes of sustained suspense.”
And while the panoply of inventive formal maneuvers in Suspense still impresses, The Blot points to another key aspect of Weber’s moviemaking, her insistence on cinema’s potential for articulating the social crises of the day. A true independent who established her own studio and defied the assembly-line logic of the motion picture industry, Weber repeatedly took on controversial subjects like wage equity, contraception, and addiction, while also focusing unprecedented attention on women’s perspectives and struggles. The Blot addresses a topic that is once again quite timely: after reading “Impoverished College Teaching,” a 1921 exposé in Literary Digest, Weber was compelled to dramatize the plight of poorly-paid professors and uncover the scandal of a society that would turn its back on, as one intertitle puts it, "the men who fed their souls and clothed their minds.” With its evocative location shooting in Los Angeles, both at a University of California campus and a home in the immigrant neighborhood of Boyle Heights, The Blot now stands as an extraordinary material record of a beleaguered middle class. Here, Kevin Brownlow once remarked, “is the ideal film to show to those who did not live through them what the twenties were like in America. One can see what living spaces were really like, not what art directors imposed on them—and what people really wore, not what fashion designers invented for them." An unflinching study of rising income inequality, The Blot is a film for our own age of precarity.
Tickets - $8, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.