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Live Cinema Commerates Jonathan Dennis

Live Cinema Commerates Jonathan Dennis
Embassy – Sunday 4 August, 6.00pm

The Wellington Film Festival and the Wellington Sinfonia are proud to present a single rare screening of one of the great dramatic classics of the silent era. Don’t miss this chance to experience Carl Davis’s excellent symphonic score performed by the Wellington Sinfonia in the superb live acoustic of the Embassy Theatre.

The Wind will commemorate the life and work of Jonathan Dennis, who died in January this year. Jonathan contributed programmes to the Auckland International Film Festival from 1984, first in his capacity as Director of the New Zealand Film Archive and, after 1990 as the Festival’s Special Programmes consultant. He was probably best known to most New Zealanders for his colourful and opinionated Film Show on National Radio.

The Wind is one of cinema’s great masterpieces. The lovely Lillian Gish gives her finest performance ever as the young Virginian innocent who travels West to stay with relatives on the Texan prairie, only to be pushed into a harsh, unwanted marriage, and to find herself immersed in a maelstrom of rape, murder and madness. Swedish émigré Sjöström directs with immaculate attention to psychological detail, while making perfectly credible the film’s transition from low-key naturalistic comedy of manners to full-blown hysterical melodrama. Filmed under extremely difficult conditions on location in the Mojave desert, its climactic sandstorm sequence has to be seen to be believed, although the entire film – erotic, beautiful, astonishing – demonstrates such imagination and assurance that it remains, sixty years after it was made, completely modern. — Geoff Andrew, Time Out

As it was to be filmed in the Mojave Desert and spring had already come, we had to work quickly. At first the weather was still very cool, but then the heat burst. Film coating melted from its celluloid base. With temperatures at 120 degrees F, it was impossible to develop the film. Finally the technicians packed it frozen and rushed it to Culver City laboratories to be thawed out and developed. Working on The Wind was one of my worst experiences in filmmaking. Sand was blown at me by eight airplane propellers and sulphur pots were also used to give the effect of a sandstorm. I was burned and in danger of having my eyes put out. My hair was burned by the hot sun and nearly ruined by the sulphur smoke and sand. A few days before we finished in the desert, it turned cold. By late afternoon a real sandstorm had arisen with the intensity of a hurricane. The landscape was seen through a veil of sand, and, as they filmed the cowboys and me on our horses, bent forward in the saddle as we made our way back to camp, I wished fervently that Mr Griffith could be there. How he would have loved to photograph that scene! – Lillian Gish, The Movies, Mr Griffith and Me

The Wind is one of the greatest and one which incidentally serves to accentuate Jonathan’s associations with the windy capital and with the film’s star Lillian Gish who summoned him onboard when she docked at Wellington on the Queen Elizabeth. In all its turbulence and heroic frenzy, it is also a film that evokes Jonathan’s avid, emotional response to movies. He knew his own excitement was best communicated by showing the films, and doing so in the best prints with screening facilities and music to match. He was unreasonable enough to ensure that this became as possible in New Zealand as in London or New York. We hope to be reaping the benefits for a long while yet.

For more information please contact:
Shelley McCarten
Wellington Film Festival
04 802 2576 or

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