Film Society Selection
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Tickets £8.60, SHP members £7.00.
BFS members (BFS shows only) £6.60. You may have to show a BFS membership card. Concessions £7.60. SHP make an additional £0.70 charge when paying by credit card. Reserving a ticket by phone, expect to pay by cash at the box office 30 minutes prior to show time.
Tuesday 13th March 7.30 pm
Director: Lois Weber, US, 1921, 87 minutes silent with
intertitles, recorded soundtrack
Cast: Philip Hubbard, Claire Windsor, Louis Calhern
A hard-working college professor can barely afford to support his wife and
daughter. Written, directed and produced by her own production company, Lois Weber's
The Blot exemplifies the importance of women in creating American cinema.
Plus short film
Director: Freya Walker Smith, UK , 2015, 107 seconds
In a tiny projection room Kevan splices together the Wednesday matinee.
'The Blot' is ostensibly about lovers from separate classes and stars a gangly Louis Calhern (still known for his role in John Huston's 1950 The Asphalt Jungle) as wealthy college boy Phil West, and a haunted Claire Windsor as poor local librarian Amelia Griggs. Her father is West's professor at the town's university, her mother a middle-class woman exhausted by the poverty in which she and her family must live, and her would-be suitor, the impoverished, artistic young minister, Reverend Gates. However, The film's true theme is money. The film explicitly argues the need to pay, and pay well, for education and spiritual guidance. Instead, money serves only commerce and consumptionrepresented by the Griggs family's neighbours, the well-to-do, uneducated Olsens, immigrants who have flourished through the father's shoemaking skills. Phil West also represents wealth's privilege. If the Olsens love and flaunt what they have, he simply takes his status for granted. The "blot" is society's dishonor in underappreciating teachers and clergy and keeping them poor.
Weber, wanting to raise social consciousness, guarantees that the audience recognizes her theme immediately. The first intertitle states that Griggs makes "less than bare living wage," and another recognizes that the family "lacked even the bare necessities of life." She goes to great lengths in a potentially tired boy-meets-girl story to ensure, both visually and structurally, that the "blot" is not abstracted and makes us see that "money" translates to a better life and that its lack causes humiliation and crime. Weber uses three means to get her points across: the polemic of intertitles, sharp visual details, and an accomplished use of contrasts and framing.
Lois Weber can only be described as a political director. 'The Blot' was her most successful film in a long line of social realist dramas. Some of her films were attacked on legal and religious grounds and even closed by police, but these uproars only made Weber more famous. Driven to show how people suffered without social reform, she regarded cinema as a force or, in her words, a "powerful means of putting out a creed," because she had "faith in the picture which carries with it an idea and affords a basis for the argument of questions concerned with the real life of people who go to see it.