Monday, July 13, 2009

SFSFF: The Gaucho

The 14th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival
The Gaucho (1927)
July 10 - 12, 2009
Castro Theatre

I think this is one of the best movie events in town, & I was happy to have been at 4 programs this weekend. The films shown usually have both historic & artistic interest, & the festival has done a great job of developing enthusiastic audiences, some of whom even show up in 1920s attire. I attended the opening night screening of The Gaucho (1927), starring Douglas Fairbanks, looking remarkably vigorous for a man in his 40s. The movie is a picaresque adventure set in South America & can still be enjoyed as it was originally intended. Fairbanks's masculine persona & graceful athleticism still charm as well. He makes smoking look so cool that it is almost insidious. In one outrageous gag, he sucks a lit cigarette into his mouth, gives the girl a kiss, then pops the cigarette out & continues smoking.

Tony Maietta & Jeffrey Vance, authors of a recent book about Fairbanks, were present to show us technicolor outtakes of a scene with Mary Pickford as the Virgin Mary. Unfortunately the final color version of this scene is not in the restoration.

The film was accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, which, though grandly named, is a quintet consisting of piano, violin, cello, clarinet & trumpet. They played an original, Spanish-flavored score written in salon music style. They were quite exhausted by the effort.

I missed seeing Stephen Salmons, who has been replaced as Artistic Director by Anita Monga. Melissa Fairbanks, granddaughter of Douglas Fairbanks, traveled from England to be in attendance.

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