Sunday, July 16, 2006

Silent Film Festival

Went a little overboard this weekend & saw 4 programs at the SF Silent Film Festival at the Castro. This year there were a lot of interesting programs, & I had a hard time narrowing down my choices.

Au Bonheur des Dames
This was the best program I saw over the weekend. Made in 1930 in Paris, so it's one of the last silent movies made in France. A beautiful & meticulous film in the classic silent style. Spectacular climactic montage sequence. I enjoyed the documentary street scenes of Paris. Based on a novel by Zola with one of those endings that is so right yet you hate it anyway. Musical accompaniment by the Hot Club of San Francisco, in the style of Django Reinhardt. More or less appropriate to the period & fun to listen to, but they weren't quite up to the emotional range of the movie.

Pandora's Box

I've saw this a long time ago, & I remember being impressed by it, but for some reason this time I wasn't that into it. I mostly found it exhausting. Everyone in the movie spends a lot of time glaring at each other & acting like animals. I noticed that in early scenes a menorah is prominently displayed in Lulu's apartment, & Schigolch has many stereotypically Jewish characeristics. Is this from the Wedekind source?

Musical accompaniment on the organ by Clark Wilson. He evoked the time frame of the movie by referring to the Three Penny Opera & the musical Cabaret. He played very consistently through the 2+ duration of the movie, though I found his playing a little lacking in variety.

Although the show was scheduled to start at 8:20pm, the film didn't start rolling until 9:10. It was sold out, so it took a while to get everyone into the theatre, then there was plenty of borching beforehand. Local artist Bruce Conner gave a rambling, pointless reminiscence of coming from the same town as Louise Brooks.

Amazing Tales from the Archives

Session about issues of film preservation. Appealed to the geek in me. I was interested to learn about the different formats many of the films are preserved in, such as paper prints, the spirograph, & the 3 column 35 mm films for home use. Naturally, everything is being transferred to digital.

The Girl with the Hatbox

Cute Soviet comedy about a perky young girl finding love & mayhem in Moscow. The film moves very deliberately at first, but there are several big comedic pay offs as the action moves into high gear at the end.

Whenever I see a Russian movie, I'm always impressed by the acting, & here the same high level of acting is evident. All the performers are great. I really liked the actor playing Natasha's love interest. He has a very appealing & expressive way of moving, & he's never over the top. I was disturbed to read in the program notes that 10 years after this movie, he ended up in the gulag.

Musical accompaniment was provided by a balalaika ensemble. Appropriate to the film, but for now I've heard as much balalaika music as I care to hear.

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