Saturday, July 17, 2010

SFSFF: Amazing Tales from the Archives

San Francisco Silent Film FestivalAmazing Tales from the Archives: Lost & Found Films
Accompanied By: Donald Sosin
Fri, Jul 16th 11:30am
Castro Theatre

I was surprised by the heavy turnout for this Friday lunchtime presentation. Kyle Westphal, recipient of the 2009 Silent Film Preservation Fellowship, showed 2 color test films from 1926, using a process requiring 2 cameras. The technique was abandoned because of the expense & difficulty of registering images from different cameras. The films show Hope Hampton, actress & opera singer, modeling Paris fashions. Mr. Westphal thinks Ms. Hampton is a better model for Kane's wife in Citizen Kane than Marion Davies. This year's fellowship recipient is restoring Douglas Fairbanks's Mr. Fix-it, which will be screened at the festival next year.

Joe Lindner, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, showed the one surviving reel of a 1916 King Baggot feature, a fragment of a 1921 Hallboys slapstick comedy, & a 1928 reel of trailers. The trailers reel shows that the theater changed its movies almost daily. Mr. Lindner emphasized that discoveries are still to be made.

The large audience was really here for the last presenters, Paula Félix-Didier and Fernando Peña of Museo del Cine, Buenos Aires. They are responsible for the nearly full-length Metropolis that was shown that evening. However, the archivists were more interested in showing clips from early Argentine cinema, including a grotesque educational/horror film containing microscopic photography of flies. They also showed a 1929 sound film featuring performers of Argentine music. It contains the 1st tango ever recorded on film. To partly appease the audience, Mr. Peña did tell the story of how he spent 20 years trying to gain access to the archive which he suspected held the full-length print of Metroplis. But I think he was really saving the story for the evening's show.

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