Retour de flamme

‘Retour de flamme’ is a long running film event animated by the French film historian, restorer and producer Serge Bromberg. At the core of the event is the presentation of restored versions of mostly silent films, live accompanied by Bromberg at the piano. Bromberg also provides vivid commentary and context to the films, and to the process of film restoration in general. He always starts his show with an illustration of the vulnerability of nitrate film:

Serge Bromberg and the Cinémathèque’s programming director Jean-François Rauger

At the Retour de flame event I attended at the Cinémathèque française, Bromberg presented three Buster Keaton films from the period 1921-1922 (there’s a Keaton retrospective running at the Cinémathèque). Although I found Hard luck somewhat simplistic and rather disappointing, the ‘great stone face’, or ‘Malec’ (an anagram of the French ‘calme’) as he is often referred to in France, showed in Day dreams and The blacksmith why many a film historian prefers Keaton over Chaplin as the greatest slapstick artist. I find this discussion rather tiring, and prefer to imagine what it would have been if these two geniuses would have played together in a film during their high days! Alas, their only on-screen co-operation can be found in this fragment of Chaplin’s 1952 film Limelight:

(Read a little more about this co-operation here:

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