Monday, May 25, 2015

SF Silent Film Festival Schedule

§ SF Silent Film Festival 2015
Castro Theatre

Thursday May 28

7:00 pm
All Quiet On The Western Front
Lewis Milestone, USA, 1930 • 134 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Friday May 29

10:00 am
Amazing Tales from the Archives (Free)
Serge Bromberg, Bryony Dixon & Robert Byrne, presenters
Musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin

1:00 pm
Cave of the Spider Women (Pan si dong)
Dan Duyu, China, 1927 • 60 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin and Frank Bockius

4:00 pm
When the Earth Trembled
Barry O'Neill, USA, 1913, USA • 48 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

7:00 pm
The Last Laugh (Der letzte Mann)
F.W. Murnau, Germany, 1924 • 90 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Berklee Silent Film Orchestra

9:30 pm
The Ghost Train
Géza von Bolváry, UK/Germany, 1927 • 93 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne & Frank Bockius
Narration by Paul McGann

Saturday May 30

10:00 am
Ted Wilde (Harold Lloyd), USA, 1928 • 85 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

1:00 pm
Visages d'enfants
Jacques Feyder, France, 1925 • 117 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne
Preceded by Serge Bromberg receiving 2015 SFSFF Award

4:30 pm
The Donovan Affair
Frank Capra, USA, 1929 • 73 mins.
Musical accompaniment and narration by the Gower Gulch Players

7:00 pm
Flesh and the Devil
Clarence Brown (Greta Garbo, John Gilbert), USA, 1926 • 112 mins
Musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble

9:30 pm
Harald Schwenzen, Norway, 1922 • 105 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald

Sunday May 31

10:00 am
The Amazing Charley Bowers
Charley Bowers, USA, 1926–28 • 75 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Serge Bromberg

12:30 pm
Avant-Garde Paris
Emak-Bakia • Man Ray, France, 1927 • 16 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Earplay
Ménilmontant • Dimitri Kirsanoff, France, 1926 • 44 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

2:30 pm
Why Be Good?
William Seiter (Colleen Moore), USA, 1929 • 81 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

4:30 pm
Per Lindberg, Sweden, 1923 • 86 mins.
Musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble

7:00 pm
Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Berthelet (William Gillette), USA, 1916 • 116 mins.
Musical accompaniment by the Donald Sosin Ensemble

9:30 pm
The Swallow and the Titmouse (L'Hirondelle et la Mésange)
André Antoine, France, 1920  • 79 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne and Diana Rowan (harp)

Monday June 1

1:00 pm
So You Think You Know Silents (Free)
Bruce Goldstein, presenter • 60 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Steve Sterner

3:00 pm
The Deadlier Sex
Robert Thornby (Blanche Sweet), USA, 1920 • 60 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald

5:00 pm
100 Years in Post-Production: Resurrecting a Lost Landmark of Black Film History
Ron Magliozzi, presenter • USA • 60 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin

7:00 pm
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
Fred Niblo, USA, 1925 • 141 mins.
Soundtrack with score by Carl Davis
Preceded by Kevin Brownlow in conversation with Serge Bromberg

Up-coming: SF Silent Film Festival

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is one of my favorite events, & this year it runs for 5 days, starting this Thursday night at the Castro Theatre. This year's selections look particularly strong, & I'd see everything If I could. The classics are represented by All Quiet on the Western Front, Murnau's The Last Laugh, Greta Garbo & John Gilbert in Flesh & the Devil, & Fred Niblo's Ben-Hur, puportedly the most expensive Hollywood production of the silent era.

The festival has been touting the restoration of When the Earth Trembled, a 1913 melodrama with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake at its climax, & Sherlock Holmes, a recently discovered 1916 feature starring William Gillette, the stage actor who established our iconic image of the detective. Cave of the Spider Women is a Chinese adaptation of an episode from Journey to the West. Other intriguing shows are a compilation of surreal shorts by Charley Bowers & an uncompleted film with an African-American cast that includes Bert Williams. I'm excited that Menilmontant is on the schedule. It's one of the best silent films I've ever seen, & I hope to learn more about it at the screening.

All the programs except for Ben-Hur are accompanied with live music, ranging from solo piano to a student orchestra from Boston's Berklee College of Music. Actors will perform the dialogue live for Frank Capra's The Donovan Affair, a talking picture with a missing soundtrack. The irrepressible film preservationist Serge Bromberg will speak in the festival's free Amazing Tales from the Archives presentation, accompany the Charley Bowers shorts on the piano, interview Kevin Brownlow before Ben-Hur & receive a well-deserved festival award at the screening of Visages d'enfants.

§ Festival Website | Musicians | Programs & Tickets | Passes

§ 20th Anniversary San Francisco Silent Film Festival
May 28–June 1, 2015
Castro Theatre

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cypress String Quartet, Minus One

I recently discovered that the renovated Presidio Officers' Club now hosts a full schedule of talks & musical performances. The events are free, though you're asked to register via Eventbrite to guarantee admittance.

It's a brisk 20 minute walk from my apartment, so there's no reason for me not to become a regular.

The venue is a reception hall with a high ceiling, different types of seating & a raised stage area at one end. Attendees were encouraged to bring drinks in from the tequila bar next door.

Friday evening I heard a concert by the Cypress String Quartet, except that due to a medical situation they were missing their 2nd violin. Fortunately the replacement program of solos, duos & trios turned out to be a bonus. It was a treat to hear cellist Jennifer Kloetzel play 3 movements from the Bach Solo Cello Suite in D minor in the 1st half. Her sound was wonderfully booming & reverberant, & her playing had momentum.

The members of Cypress make a consistently cushy, balanced & ripened sound. The evening's 2nd half was strong, beginning with 2 movements from Dohnányi's Serenade for String Trio. The vigorous & engaged playing made me want to hear the rest of the piece. Elena Ruehr's Prelude Variations for viola and cello, written to celebrate a marriage, felt like an intimate & languid conversation between the 2 instruments & was lovely. The concert ended with 3 movements from a Beethoven string trio, which the players gave an appropriately restless motion. They communicated the wildness of the finale without being harsh or rushed. There was no printed program, so the musicians gave friendly spoken introductions to each selection. Though outside noises sometimes intruded (the room adjoins a restaurant), the acoustics were good.

For some reason, many attendees brought small children with them.

A little girl sat in front of me during the 2nd half & was unable to stop playing with the hair at the back of her head, & so was able to be highly distracting without making any noise. Her mother was seated behind me & finally leaned over to reprimand the daughter. I thanked her.

§ Cypress String Quartet
Cecily Ward, violin
Tom Stone, violin
Ethan Filner, viola
Jennifer Kloetzel, cello

Ludwig van Beethoven
Duett mit zwei obligaten Augengläsern, WoO 32 ("Eyeglass Duo")
1st movement

Johann Sebastian Bach
Suite No. 2 in D minor for unaccompanied cello, BWV 1008
I. Prelude
II. Allemande
III. Courante

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
String Duo No. 1 in G major for violin and viola, K. 423
III. Rondeau. Allegro

Ernő Dohnányi
Serenade in C major for string trio, Op. 10 (1902)
I. Marcia. allegro
II. Romanza. adagio non troppo quasi andante

Elena Ruehr
Prelude Variations for viola and cello (2008)

Ludwig van Beethoven
String Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 3
I. Allegro con brio
V. Menuetto. Moderato - Minore
VI. Finale. Allegro

Presidio Sessions
May 22, 2015 at 6:00 pm
Presidio Officers’ Club

Friday, May 22, 2015

Salon at the Rex: Farallon Quintet

Wednesday evening in the Salon at the Rex I heard the Farallon Quintet present a program featuring the Mozart clarinet quintet. 1st violinist Dan Flanagan introduced the group as the 1st professional ensemble devoted to the clarinet quintet repertoire. So far they know of 600 pieces written for this particular configuration, besides the well-known examples by Mozart, Brahms & Weber.

Their program began with Chad Cannon's Citizen 13660 - Vignettes, a work commissioned by the quintet. Mr. Cannon is based in Los Angeles & works for Hollywood as well as composing for the concert hall. The piece is comprised of 8 short movements, lasting about 20 minutes altogether. 2nd violinist Matthew Oshida explained that the titles of each movement come from Citizen 13660, the illustrated memoir by Miné Okubo about her experience as an interned Japanese American during World War II. The strings play a lot of simmering arpeggios, with a slow melody sometimes on top. The music is specific in depicting flurries of dust or the clanging of bells. The overall mood is sad & rueful. Clarinetist Natalie Parker made a clean, even sound that blended with the strings, & her playing seemed effortless.

I enjoyed hearing Mozart's brilliant clarinet quintet in the small salon space. It was like having the right-sized frame around a great picture. The quintet's tempos were flexible & slightly pushed, & the musicians clearly listened to each other. Mr. Flanagan's playing was forward & bright. Cellist Jonah Kim made every moment of his part look rewarding to play, & his phrasing was detailed & assertive. The quintet captured the humor of the Menuetto, & Ms. Parker lightly played a little cadenza in the final movement.

For an encore we heard Satie's Gymnopédie No.1, arranged by Mr. Flanagan for the clarinet on the melody. The arrangement sounded distinct from the piano version & worked well. As is customary at these events, there was an affable Q&A with the musicians afterward.

§ Farallon Quintet
Natalie Parker, clarinet
Dan Flanagan, violin
Matthew Oshida, violin
Elizabeth Prior, viola
Jonah Kim, cello

Chad Cannon (1985 - )
Citizen 13660 - Vignettes

Wolfgang Amadeus Moart (1756 - 1791)
Quintet in A Major for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581


Erik Satie (1866 - 1925)
Gymnopédie No.1
Arranged by Dan Flanagan

Salon at the Rex
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Hotel Rex

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I Am Michael

This week I got to see a preview screening of I Am Michael, a first feature by director Justin Kelly, which will play on opening night of Frameline39, June 18th at the Castro Theatre. The movie is based on the New York Times Magazine profile of Michael Glatze, who lived as an openly gay man in San Francisco in the 90s, founded a magazine for gay youth, then underwent a religious conversion & in 2007 renounced his homosexuality as a sin requiring healing. He is now a heterosexual Christian pastor, living in Wyoming & married to a woman.

The film stars James Franco as Mr. Glatze, & his massively charismatic performance carries the film. In early scenes he is warm & soulful, & he does a good job depicting Glatze's increasing alienation from the cozy throuple he has with two perfect boyfriends, played by Zachary Quinto & Charlie Carver. Mr. Franco is careful not to make Glatze seem malicious, even as he becomes hurtful toward his partners.

I appreciated the movie's neat, clear storytelling & translucent, widescreen photography. The story crosses the country a few times, & it's fun occasionally seeing the streets of San Francisco. The movie probably wouldn't offend the real-life Mr. Glatze, & the director tries not to editorialize, but there may be a hint of skepticism. When the film reached its abrupt ending, I felt the story wasn't really over.

At the festival press announcement, Frameline's programmers said they hoped this would be a provocative choice for opening night. The audience will no doubt react to the parting shot delivered by Mr. Quinto in a phone call with Glatze near the end of the film. Director Justin Kelly attends opening night.

§ I Am Michael
Written & Directed by Justin Kelly
2015, USA, 99 mins.

§ San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival
Thursday, June 18, 7:00 PM
Castro Theatre

Frameline39 Festival Announcement

Monday evening Frameline held a press announcement for the up-coming San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival, running June 18 - 28 at the Castro, Roxie & Victoria Theaters in San Francisco, the Elmwood in Berkeley & the Landmark in Piedmont. We saw the festival's colorful trailer, made by Peaches Christ & parodying The Wizard of Oz. Frameline’s Executive Director Frances Wallace, Director of Exhibition & Programming Desiree Buford & Senior Programmer Peter L. Stein cheerfully ran through festival highlights while seated on the stage of the Oasis club.

Ms. Wallace said that they aimed to provoke with the opening night film, I Am Michael, starring James Franco as Michael Glatze, the former gay activist who renounced his homosexuality & became a judgy heterosexual Christian pastor. The centerpiece narrative film, The Summer of Sangaile, is a romance from Lithuania, & the centerpiece documentary, Out to Win, looks at gay professional athletes. The festival will show several films about sports, including documentaries about gay athletes at the Sochi Olympics & competitors in an Australian rugby tournament. Closing night is Bare, a drama set in Nevada & starring Dianna Agron, with Paz de la Huerta as an alluring drifter.

I counted 15 shorts programs, including an all-animation compilation. Peter Greenaway's Eisenstein in Guanajuato, a fictionalized version of the Soviet director's 1931 visit to Mexico, was described as a "glitter bomb." Tab Hunter is scheduled to attend the screening of Tab Hunter Confidential, Jeffrey Schwarz's profile of the actor. There were shouts of approval when it was announced that the festival will host a special preview screening of Magic Mike XXL.

There will be a retrospective showing of Fassbinder's Querelle, as well as a new documentary about the director. The documentary The Yes Men Are Revolting will bring us up to date with Mike & Andy's political pranks. I was glad to see that Do I Sound Gay?, a humorous examination of the gay accent, is on the schedule.

I also had a nice time chatting with board members Liz Pesch & Christopher Wiseman. Mr. Wiseman was a delightful & persuasive conversationalist, so it's a good thing he warned me that he is a Bad Idea Bear.

§ Frameline39
San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival
June 18-28, 2015

§ Press Conference & Festival Launch Event
Monday, May 18, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Maker Faire Bay Area 2015

Last weekend I was in San Mateo for the Bay Area Maker Faire, an exhibition emphasizing the intersection of art, play & technology.

I was there helping out Chris Jefferies, who is a friend & an advanced hobbyist. At his booth he demonstrated how to build sensor networks suitable for home automation.

The faire has also become a fashion-forward consumer trade show, with lots of small vendors & startups offering productized versions of many of the technologies on display.

The fairgrounds were packed both days, & the lines were so long at the food stalls that we gave up trying to buy lunch during the midday hours.

The event attracts affluent families, & there are lots of activities for kids.

I was enamored with the Steampunk village, set up like a gypsy camp in a corner of the fairgrounds.

I always enjoy the fanciful Burning Man vehicles. They seem to belong to another world.

My favorite object at the faire was this magnificent orrery, showing the planets revolving around a sun spouting real flames.

When I arrived on Saturday morning, not all the planets were rotating correctly, so Neo had to climb a ladder & give them a push to get them going.

I've been at Mr. Jefferies's booth for most of the years he's been exhibiting, & I've clearly backed the right horse, because on Sunday he was awarded an Editor's Choice ribbon. His ability to explain technical concepts to attendees was cited particularly.

§ Maker Faire Bay Area 2015
Saturday May 16th   10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 17th   10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
San Mateo County Event Center

Monday, May 18, 2015


Two weekends ago, a friend who is a horror film aficionado took me to see Hookman, a one-act horror-comedy by Lauren Yee, playing in a small basement theater at Z Space. The main character is an understandably paranoid college freshman. She's just been in a car accident that killed her best friend, she's been date raped, & she's being menaced by a serial killer with a hook for hand but who may or may not be imaginary. The play is fast-moving & sharp, & the jumpy dialogue does a good job satirizing the disjointed thoughts of distracted teenagers. Though characters often behave clownishly, there are also discomfiting moments of blood & gore, & the man character's growing hysteria made me feel that something was at stake.

I was impressed by the swift scene changes, which cleverly transform the stage space completely for each location. The audience was hyped for the show, & there was much laughter as well as groans of revulsion. The young cast all looked like they were having fun. My theater companion thought that Taylor Jones in the lead role & Sarah Matthes as her best friend both got the right balance between the cartoony & the realistic. He also confessed that the play's demented epilogue was his favorite part of the show.

§ Hookman
Written by Lauren Yee

Presented by Encore Theatre in association with Z Space
Directed by Becca Wolff

Taylor Jones - Lexi
Sarah Matthes - Jess
Katharine Chin - Yoonji
Aily Roper - Chloe
Jessica Lynn Carroll - Kayleigh
Devin O'Brien - Hookman

May 8, 2015 at 8p
Z Below at Z Space

Friday, May 15, 2015

Rising from the Ashes

Thursday evening at the Presidio Officers' Club, I attended an informative & engaging presentation by film restorer Rob Byrne about the recent restoration of When the Earth Trembled, a 1913 melodrama featuring a climactic sequence taking place during San Francisco's 1906 earthquake. Mr. Byrne began with the film's ambitious producer, Siegmund Lubin, a Polish immigrant who came to America as an optician & then became an early film industry pioneer. He made his 1st movie in 1897 & proceeded to build a major film company based in Philadelphia. He produced, distributed & exhibited his own films, as well as making movie cameras & projectors. Then in 1914 a fatal film explosion started a fire that destroyed everything. Disappointingly, he closed the business & returned to being an optician. Of the over 5,000 films he produced, fragments of just 200 survive.

The current restoration combines 3 different prints, & Mr. Byrne showed us the intricate spreadsheet used to track every shot in the film across all the versions. He demonstrated the differences between the sources with a neat visualization that shows all 3 versions running side by side, revealing the gaps & variations in quality. At the end of the presentation we got to see the restored earthquake sequence. The production used collapsible sets that could only be shot once, so the destruction is quite real. The audience winced audibly when it saw Ethel Clayton, Lubin's leading lady, get hit in the face by a falling chandelier, in what appears to be an unintentional mishap.

Mr. Byrne shared many fascinating details about the reconstruction, such as intertitles that had to be translated from Dutch back into English & hidden frames specifying tint colors. When the real 1906 earthquake occurred, Lubin sent cameraman John Frawley to San Francisco, & some of Frawley's footage of the actual fire are in the film.

Everyone at the presentation received a half-second strip of film from the earthquake scene. I was amazed to learn that even though the reconstruction is all done digitally, a film negative is still made as the final archival artifact. Afterward, Mr. Byrne explained to me that film is simply cheaper & more permanent than digital storage. The restored When the Earth Trembled will play at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival on May 29th.

§ Rising From The Ashes: Resurrecting the 1913 Silent Film When the Earth Trembled
May 14 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Presidio Officers’ Club