Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Up-Coming: SF Silent Film Festival

I just received the schedule for the San Francisco Silent Festival at the Castro, July 15 - 18. This is one of my favorite events, & I try to catch at least a couple of programs. As usual, the festival has quite a range, from Laurel & Hardy shorts to a bizarre Swedish documentary about witchcraft. I have never seen a Harry Langdon film, so this will be a chance to check him out in The Strong Man. The alluring Louise Brooks appears in Diary of a Lost Girl, which I have seen before. If I go again, I might have to close my eyes during the deranged reform school calisthenics scene. They are also screening Fritz Lang's Metropolis in a new restoration that adds a whopping 25 minutes. Every time I see this movie, it gets longer. It's clearly a great film, but I hope they don't find any more of it.


y2k said...

We saw the newly-restored Metropolis a couple of weeks ago when it was shown in Boston. I've never seen it before, and after reading reviews of it, I can see how the new-found sequences helped with understanding some of the scenes.

This version is 149-minutes long, just 4 minutes shorter than the original shown in Berlin in 1927; so even if the remaining 4 minute of clip is found, it won't make much of a difference I suppose.

I thought the movie went by quickly; I didn't check my watch once.

Does any of the SF screenings offer live orchestra accompaniment? They did that here in Boston on opening night with the Alloy Orchestra; unfortunately we were out of town and couldn't attend. Well, it looks like they will be in SF too.

Axel Feldheim said...

It's been a while since I've seen Metropolis, but as I recall there are sections where it is obvious that something has been lost, so I am sure that this nearly complete version is a much more coherent experience. I just think it's funny that every time Metropolis comes around, there are significant restorations. It reminds me of Gilgamesh. Each new translation is longer than the previous one, since they keep finding more tablets!

One of the great things about the SF Silent Film Festival is that they have live music for every show, be it a piano, an organ or a whole ensemble. Sometimes they get quite creative, such as having a balalaika orchestra accompany a Soviet comedy or a theremin for a sci-fi epic taking place on Mars. I've never heard the Alloy Orchestra, so I should check them out.

y2k said...

That is really awesome regarding the live music accompaniment. Wasn't it what Shostakovich did before he became famous?

I wish we had a silent film festival here. I remember watching some when I was a kid (most with Charlie Chaplin).

Axel Feldheim said...

I hope you are right that Shostakovich once accompanied silent films. Listening to his Jazz Suites, I can well imagine it is true.

I am a big Chaplin fan too, though I wonder how popular he is these days. His mix of sentimentality & social critique seems out of sync with current sensibilities.

Does Boston have a suitable venue for silents? The Castro Theatre is ideal, of course, being an original silent movie palace. I was surprised to discover last year that Manhattan seems to have no such comparable venue. There is a very grand silent movie palace in New Jersey, but it is completely falling apart.

y2k said...

I wonder what type of live accompaniment will be played at Metropolis? When we saw the film, it was accompanied by the original film score composed by Gottfried Huppertz. It was almost as fun listening to the score - with lots of leitmotifs for various characters in the movie. I bet it inspired later film composers (think John Williams with his Star Wars).

I'd be interested in reading your comments after you see the movie.

I think Boston definitely has theatres suited for silent movies. There are numerous theatres built during the hey-day of 1920s, but most of them are now restored for live performances.

Lastly, regarding Shostakovich being a silent film accompanist, it was something I recall when reading programme notes @ symphony concerts. The first sentence of this article seems to support that.

Axel Feldheim said...

Wow, I did not know that the original score for Metropolis existed. That is an amazing survival! The SFSFF Website says that the Alloy Orchestra will accompany the film, presumably with their own original music. But now that I know that the original score exists, I question the wisdom of presenting the film with any other music!

Thanks for filling us in about Boston's 1920's theaters. Unfortunately your article link did not come through, but a quick Google search does support your case. I've now read it on the Web, so it must be true!

y2k said...

I believe the Huppertz has survived all these years on paper, and IIRC, the restored film has a new recording of the original score. You probably can find more info on the Kino Metropolis site and on wiki.

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks for the links about the latest reconstruction & the original score. Some of the restored footage looks like it is in pretty crummy shape. I believe there will be a program at the SFSFF devoted to the story behind the restoration itself.