Jean Dujardin as George Valentin and Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller in Michel Hazanavicius’s 2011 film The Artist. The Weinstein Company
Jean Dujardin as George Valentin and Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller in Michel Hazanavicius’s 2011 film The Artist. The Weinstein Company

Silence in film makes a comeback



The race to the Oscars began in earnest last month, with the New York Film Critics Circle handing out a clutch of awards to some of this year's prestige movies. But the recipient of its best picture gong - and now leading the charge for Academy Award success - is undoubtedly the most unlikely contender for some years. Also recognised by the Washington Area Film Critics Association and just this week by the Boston Society of Film Critics as the best film of the year, the 1920s and early 1930s-era The Artist is an ode to the silent screen - it doesn't just use the medium's tricks to tell its heartwarming story, but its limitations as well.

The black-and-white romance focuses on a fading star of the silent era who struggles to make the transition into talkies (played masterfully by France's Jean Dujardin). Not only does the film deliver tap-dancing routines and exaggerated acting, but it provides little more aural stimulation than a jaunty score - surely a tough sell in the age of Avatar?

Maybe not. After leaving audience spellbound at its premiere at Cannes and inspiring waves of nostalgic glee at film festivals around the world, The Artist is being lauded and adored, even by those who admit they have never seen a silent movie before. With the film about to go on general release in most territories, talk of a silent revival has already begun. In preparation, here is a guide to some of the best films of the silent era.

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

Often hailed as the very first Western and the catalyst for a genre that would become Hollywood's most popular for decades to come - today, the claim is heavily disputed.

The 12-minute heist movie made by the Edison Company (established by the light bulb inventor, Thomas Edison), however, shows remarkable narrative sophistication and makes for surprisingly thrilling viewing today. The scene in which one of the robbers fires, point blank, at the screen brought the audience closer to the action than had ever been attempted before.

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Based on the play The Clansman: A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan, it's easy to guess why DW Griffith's film is reviled by many. But if you can look past the deplorable racial stereotyping, The Birth of a Nation is an ambitious and momentous civil war epic.

By all accounts, Griffith was indifferent to the racism of the story and more interested in pushing the limits of cinema. With its huge battle sequences and more than three-hour running length, it smashed all previous box-office records and was even the first film to be screened at the White House.

Les Vampires (1915)

Early cinema adopters, the filmmakers of France quickly realised that the medium of shadows was perfect for stories of terror and suspense. More thriller than horror, this 10-part serial follows the exploits of the criminal gang Les Vampires in a Paris that is riddled with trap doors and hidden passageways.

A precursor of surrealist cinema, it's a film that delights in its villains - particularly the vampish Irma Vep (played by the spectacularly dark-eyed Musidora) - more than it cares about following a coherent narrative.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919)

While Hollywood was busy making epics, German filmmakers experimented with bizarre horror stories, tinged with expressionism. With angular sets and grotesque characters, Caligari sees a deranged doctor and his sleepwalking associate linked to a series of murders in a German town.

Robert Wiene's film is a treat to behold, with its slanted windows and macabre imagery, but it also has a brilliantly articulated story - and even a twist ending.

The Thief of Baghdad (1924)

Known for portraying Robin Hood and Zorro, Douglas Fairbanks was the best-loved action star of the silent screen. Not only did he play The Thief of Baghdad's bare-chested hero, he also wrote and produced the film.

With a six-and-a-half-acre set (reportedly still the largest in Hollywood history), Baghdad was recreated in glorious detail. Some artistic licence was taken, however, such as the inclusion of dragons, winged horses and flying carpets.

The Battleship Potempkin (1925)

Perhaps the most famous and influential piece of propaganda in film history, The Battleship Potempkin is based on a real-life 1905 mutiny by Russian sailors.

The movie sees the ship's weary and oppressed crew-members overthrow their superiors - members of the old Tsarist regime - as well as a massacre of Odessan citizens by government soldiers.

The director Sergei Eisenstein wanted the film to have the maximum emotional effect on its audience and devised revolutionary camera and editing techniques to help achieve this.

The Gold Rush (1925)

After graduating from merely acting in films, Charlie Chaplin began writing, directing and even scoring his own projects. The Gold Rush was his most technically ambitious.

It sees his Little Tramp character head to the Yukon in search of his fortune, only to encounter fellow prospectors that are as treacherous as the conditions. It contains many timeless moments of comedy, but the scene in which the Tramp boils and eats his own shoe is perhaps the best remembered.

The General (1926)

America's greatest silent clown, Buster Keaton brought more than his famous deadpan expression and mind-blowing stuntwork to this, his greatest work.

Set during the civil war, the runaway-train movie sees Keaton attempting to save his locomotive (named The General) and his beloved, from the clutches of Union spies.

Not only in front of the camera, but also sitting in the director's chair, Keaton made a movie that is not just a great comedy, but a brilliant action-adventure and a stirring war film. Not bad for a clown.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Germany's FW Murnau was best known for Nosferatu, his deliciously gothic retelling of Dracula, when he was brought over to the US. But the film he chose to make in Hollywood was a far gentler affair.

With every frame resembling a perfectly composed still photograph, Sunrise tells the story of a rural couple whose lives are disrupted when a temptress arrives from the city. It boasts a level of emotional depth that no other silent quite achieved.

Metropolis (1927)

Considered cinema's first sci-fi masterpiece and, in its day, the most expensive film ever made, the German filmmaker Fritz Lang ensured the silent age went out with a bang when he made Metropolis.

Set in a futuristic dystopia where a bourgeois elite live a carefree existence above ground while a raggedy underclass toil in its bowels, the film's political message is not difficult to determine. Applying the expressionist flourishes seen first in Caligari to giant sets and cityscapes, it's as visually breathtaking as any film made since.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Cry Macho

Director: Clint Eastwood

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam

Rating:**

MATCH DETAILS

Juventus 2 (Bonucci 36, Ronaldo 90+6)

Genoa 1 (Kouame 40)

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Clinicy
Started: 2017
Founders: Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman, Abdullah bin Sulaiman Alobaid and Saud bin Sulaiman Alobaid
Based: Riyadh
Number of staff: 25
Sector: HealthTech
Total funding raised: More than $10 million
Investors: Middle East Venture Partners, Gate Capital, Kafou Group and Fadeed Investment

Wenger's Arsenal reign in numbers

1,228 - games at the helm, ahead of Sunday's Premier League fixture against West Ham United.
704 - wins to date as Arsenal manager.
3 - Premier League title wins, the last during an unbeaten Invincibles campaign of 2003/04.
1,549 - goals scored in Premier League matches by Wenger's teams.
10 - major trophies won.
473 - Premier League victories.
7 - FA Cup triumphs, with three of those having come the last four seasons.
151 - Premier League losses.
21 - full seasons in charge.
49 - games unbeaten in the Premier League from May 2003 to October 2004.

Company profile

Name: Yodawy
Based: Egypt
Founders: Karim Khashaba, Sherief El-Feky and Yasser AbdelGawad
Sector:
HealthTech
Total funding: $24.5 million
Investors: Algebra Ventures, Global Ventures, MEVP and Delivery Hero Ventures, among others
Number of employees:
500

A MAN FROM MOTIHARI

Author: Abdullah Khan
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 304
Available: Now

Islamic Architecture: A World History

Author: Eric Broug
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Pages: 336
Available: September

2024 Dubai Marathon Results

Women’s race:
1. Tigist Ketema (ETH) 2hrs 16min 7sec
2. Ruti Aga (ETH) 2:18:09
3. Dera Dida (ETH) 2:19:29
Men's race:
1. Addisu Gobena (ETH) 2:05:01
2. Lemi Dumicha (ETH) 2:05:20
3. DejeneMegersa (ETH) 2:05:42

Seven Winters in Tehran

Director : Steffi Niederzoll

Starring: Reyhaneh Jabbari, Shole Pakravan, Zar Amir Ebrahimi

Rating: 4/5

'Gehraiyaan'

Director:Shakun Batra

Stars:Deepika Padukone, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Ananya Panday, Dhairya Karwa

Rating: 4/5

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

2018 ICC World Twenty20 Asian Western Sub Regional Qualifier

Event info: The tournament in Kuwait this month is the first phase of the qualifying process for sides from Asia for the 2020 World T20 in Australia. The UAE must finish within the top three teams out of the six at the competition to advance to the Asia regional finals. Success at regional finals would mean progression to the World T20 Qualifier.

UAE’s fixtures: Fri Apr 20, UAE v Qatar; Sat Apr 21, UAE v Saudi Arabia; Mon Apr 23, UAE v Bahrain; Tue Apr 24, UAE v Maldives; Thu Apr 26, UAE v Kuwait

World T20 2020 Qualifying process:

  • Sixteen teams will play at the World T20 in two years’ time.
  • Australia have already qualified as hosts
  • Nine places are available to the top nine ranked sides in the ICC’s T20i standings, not including Australia, on Dec 31, 2018.
  • The final six teams will be decided by a 14-team World T20 Qualifier.

World T20 standings: 1 Pakistan; 2 Australia; 3 India; 4 New Zealand; 5 England; 6 South Africa; 7 West Indies; 8 Sri Lanka; 9 Afghanistan; 10 Bangladesh; 11 Scotland; 12 Zimbabwe; 13 UAE; 14 Netherlands; 15 Hong Kong; 16 Papua New Guinea; 17 Oman; 18 Ireland

Company profile

Name: WonderTree
Started: April 2016
Co-founders: Muhammad Waqas and Muhammad Usman
Based: Karachi, Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, UAE, and Delaware, US
Sector: Special education, education technology, assistive technology, augmented reality
Number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Growth
Investors: Grants from the Lego Foundation, UAE's Anjal Z, Unicef, Pakistan's Ignite National Technology Fund

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Ejari
Based: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Founders: Yazeed Al Shamsi, Fahad Albedah, Mohammed Alkhelewy and Khalid Almunif
Sector: PropTech
Total funding: $1 million
Investors: Sanabil 500 Mena, Hambro Perks' Oryx Fund and angel investors
Number of employees: 8

How to help

Send “thenational” to the following numbers or call the hotline on: 0502955999
2289 – Dh10
2252 – Dh 50
6025 – Dh20
6027 – Dh 100
6026 – Dh 200

RESULTS

Time; race; prize; distance

4pm: Maiden; (D) Dh150,000; 1,200m
Winner: General Line, Xavier Ziani (jockey), Omar Daraj (trainer)

4.35pm: Maiden (T); Dh150,000; 1,600m
Winner: Travis County, Adrie de Vries, Ismail Mohammed

5.10pm: Handicap (D); Dh175,000; 1,200m
Winner: Scrutineer, Tadhg O’Shea, Ali Rashid Al Raihe

5.45pm: Maiden (D); Dh150,000; 1,600m
Winner: Yulong Warrior, Richard Mullen, Satish Seemar

6.20pm: Maiden (D); Dh150,000; 1,600m
Winner: Ejaaby, Jim Crowley, Doug Watson

6.55pm: Handicap (D); Dh160,000; 1,600m
Winner: Storyboard, Richard Mullen, Satish Seemar

7.30pm: Handicap (D); Dh150,000; 2,200m
Winner: Grand Dauphin, Gerald Mosse, Ahmed Al Shemaili

8.05pm: Handicap (T); Dh190,000; 1,800m
Winner: Good Trip, Tadhg O’Shea, Ali Rashid Al Raihe

Start-up hopes to end Japan's love affair with cash

Across most of Asia, people pay for taxi rides, restaurant meals and merchandise with smartphone-readable barcodes — except in Japan, where cash still rules. Now, as the country’s biggest web companies race to dominate the payments market, one Tokyo-based startup says it has a fighting chance to win with its QR app.

Origami had a head start when it introduced a QR-code payment service in late 2015 and has since signed up fast-food chain KFC, Tokyo’s largest cab company Nihon Kotsu and convenience store operator Lawson. The company raised $66 million in September to expand nationwide and plans to more than double its staff of about 100 employees, says founder Yoshiki Yasui.

Origami is betting that stores, which until now relied on direct mail and email newsletters, will pay for the ability to reach customers on their smartphones. For example, a hair salon using Origami’s payment app would be able to send a message to past customers with a coupon for their next haircut.

Quick Response codes, the dotted squares that can be read by smartphone cameras, were invented in the 1990s by a unit of Toyota Motor to track automotive parts. But when the Japanese pioneered digital payments almost two decades ago with contactless cards for train fares, they chose the so-called near-field communications technology. The high cost of rolling out NFC payments, convenient ATMs and a culture where lost wallets are often returned have all been cited as reasons why cash remains king in the archipelago. In China, however, QR codes dominate.

Cashless payments, which includes credit cards, accounted for just 20 per cent of total consumer spending in Japan during 2016, compared with 60 per cent in China and 89 per cent in South Korea, according to a report by the Bank of Japan.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

RESULT

Los Angeles Galaxy 2 Manchester United 5

Galaxy: Dos Santos (79', 88')
United: Rashford (2', 20'), Fellaini (26'), Mkhitaryan (67'), Martial (72')

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Results

4.30pm Jebel Jais – Maiden (PA) Dh60,000 (Turf) 1,000m; Winner: MM Al Balqaa, Bernardo Pinheiro (jockey), Qaiss Aboud (trainer)

5pm: Jabel Faya – Maiden (PA) Dh60,000 (T) 1,000m; Winner: AF Rasam, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel

5.30pm: Al Wathba Stallions Cup – Handicap (PA) Dh70,000 (T) 2,200m; Winner: AF Mukhrej, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel

6pm: The President’s Cup Prep – Conditions (PA) Dh100,000 (T) 2,200m; Winner: Mujeeb, Richard Mullen, Salem Al Ketbi

6.30pm: Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club – Prestige (PA) Dh125,000 (T) 1,600m; Winner: Jawal Al Reef, Antonio Fresu, Abubakar Daud

7pm: Al Ruwais – Group 3 (PA) Dh300,000 (T) 1,200m; Winner: Ashton Tourettes, Pat Dobbs, Ibrahim Aseel

7.30pm: Jebel Hafeet – Maiden (TB) Dh80,000 (T) 1,400m; Winner: Nibraas, Richard Mullen, Nicholas Bachalard

MO

Creators: Mohammed Amer, Ramy Youssef

Stars: Mohammed Amer, Teresa Ruiz, Omar Elba

Rating: 4/5

if you go

The flights

Direct flights from the UAE to the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, are available with Air Arabia, (www.airarabia.com) Fly Dubai (www.flydubai.com) or Etihad (www.etihad.com) from Dh1,200 return including taxes. The trek described here started from Jomson, but there are many other start and end point variations depending on how you tailor your trek. To get to Jomson from Kathmandu you must first fly to the lake-side resort town of Pokhara with either Buddha Air (www.buddhaair.com) or Yeti Airlines (www.yetiairlines.com). Both charge around US$240 (Dh880) return. From Pokhara there are early morning flights to Jomson with Yeti Airlines or Simrik Airlines (www.simrikairlines.com) for around US$220 (Dh800) return. 

The trek

Restricted area permits (US$500 per person) are required for trekking in the Upper Mustang area. The challenging Meso Kanto pass between Tilcho Lake and Jomson should not be attempted by those without a lot of mountain experience and a good support team. An excellent trekking company with good knowledge of Upper Mustang, the Annaurpuna Circuit and Tilcho Lake area and who can help organise a version of the trek described here is the Nepal-UK run Snow Cat Travel (www.snowcattravel.com). Prices vary widely depending on accommodation types and the level of assistance required. 

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

The specs: 2017 Dodge Viper SRT

Price, base / as tested Dh460,000

Engine 8.4L V10

Transmission Six-speed manual

Power 645hp @ 6,200rpm

Torque 813Nm @ 5,000rpm

Fuel economy, combined 16.8L / 100km

THE BIO:

Favourite holiday destination: Thailand. I go every year and I’m obsessed with the fitness camps there.

Favourite book: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It’s an amazing story about barefoot running.

Favourite film: A League of their Own. I used to love watching it in my granny’s house when I was seven.

Personal motto: Believe it and you can achieve it.