Experience the glamour and awe of the silver screen with cult classics and strong iconic women at Chelmsford Picture House. Seducing us with her onscreen power is the star of ‘Pandora’s Box’ (PG, Tuesday 4 September at 7.30pm), Louise Brooks. The Hollywood star topped the bill in the 20s. Thanks to her black, bobbed hairstyle and beautiful looks, she was an iconic symbol of the jazz-age Flapper generation, where the women threw aside ‘acceptable behaviour’ and flouted social norm; in fact, they smoked, drank and even drove cars, and made the 1920s roar!
Louise was an actress and dancer who had a brief affair with Charlie Chaplin. However, it was when Louise left Hollywood for European films that her star shone at its brightest. The first movie Louise made in Europe was ‘Pandora’s Box’, directed by Georg Pabst, and it opened in 1929. Louise played the central character, Lulu, and the film depicts a seductive, carefree young woman whose raw sexuality brings ruin upon herself and those close to her. ‘Pandora’s Box’ had what is considered to have been one of the earliest portrayals of a lesbian and the film explored cosmopolitan sexuality. It was maybe due to these themes considered scandalous in the late 1920s, that the film was not loved by film critics, although it made Louise a world-wide star with the general public. The film finally found favour with the critics in the 1950s, when its scope and forward thinking was reappraised, and it was seen as trail-blazingly ahead of its time.
‘Pandora’s Box’ has now been digitally restored by the British Film Institute (BFI) and is the first film to be shown as part of the Picture House’s Silent Classics. The movie will be screened in all its black-and-white splendour on Tuesday 4 September at 7.30pm and is a must for anyone intrigued by the silent movie era. Future silent features will include the Russian war drama, ‘Battleship Potemkin’ and the 1920s German horror ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’. All three silent classics can be seen on a special ticket costing just £15.
Strong women are also celebrated in the ‘Women 100’ season at Chelmsford Picture House with one of the key films of early 1980s feminism, ‘The Gold Diggers’ (U, Thursday 6 September at 7.30pm). The film was the debut feature by director Sally Potter, who later filmed ‘Orlando’, and stars Julie Christie. Noted for having an all-female crew, Potter’s work mixes the avant-garde with the arthouse in a portrayal of the power of patriarchy and women as icons and objects. ‘The Gold Diggers’ revolves around a bank clerk who is fascinated between the relationship between gold and power, and a film star on a quest about her identity and childhood.
Forthcoming Women 100 films will include the documentary-style ‘Born In Flames’, which explores racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism in an alternative United States socialist democracy. Plus ‘The Company of Strangers’, which provides an insightful look into ageing and mortality from eight women stranded at a bus stop. All three films in the Women 100 series can be seen at just £15 for a season ticket.
An equally strong woman, Edith Rigby, is depicted in the live drama ‘Woman on Fire’ on the Cramphorn Studio’s stage on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 September at 7.45pm. The show is full of poetic language, sharp wit and defiant spirit: an explosive one-woman performance of one of the most dangerous females in the British suffrage movement, Edith Rigby. Although Edith lived in the shadow of Mrs Pankhurst, she fought hard against social injustice and denying women the right to vote. Actress Claire Moore brings Edith vividly to life, and asks: ‘How far will you go for what you believe in?’
For full details and to book tickets, visit www.chelmsford.gov.uk/theatresor call the Box Office - Tel No: 01245 606505.