Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jazz + Silent Film Festival

Saturday, April 12, 3PM
Jazz + Silent Film Festival
Castro Theatre
Sherlock Jr.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Club Foot Orchestra

This weekend was warm & sunny, & such days are rare & precious in The City, even in the age of global warming. I, however, spent most of the Saturday in the Castro Theater to hear the Club Foot Orchestra accompany 3 silent movies as part of the SF Jazz Festival. I've heard them do each of these movies before, but never in one day. These are really fun events, & there was a full house for all the shows.

The Club Foot Orchestra scores are especially fun because they do not merely accompany the action on screen but also comment on it. When Buster is rejected by this girlfriend's father in Sherlock Jr., we hear a bluesy guitar riff. On a bigger scale, whenever the vampire in Nosferatu is biting someone, we get a version of slinky burlesque-show music at full volume. At this distance, Dr. Caligari & Nosferatu may be more important for historical reasons than for their entertainment value, but the Club Foot Orchestra's modern scores go a long way to making them effective again. Sherlock Jr. is possibly Keaton's best, minute for minute packed with some of his cleverest gags.

Each screening was preceded by the Castro's organ & then the animated short Felix the Cat Woos Whoopee. For the Felix cartoon, the orchestra improvises freely to the wild on-screen images. Since I ended up sitting through this 3 times, I got to hear the band get better & better at matching the movie's timing.

All the movies seemed to be DVD projections instead of actual film. There were a couple of glitches when the image froze momentarily. The versions of Dr. Caligari & Nosferatu were in really poor condition & looked terrible. Nosferatu seems to be missing scenes. I hope that better restorations of these films exist.

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