Saturday, February 12, 2011

SF Silent Film Festival Winter Event

PhotobucketDespite the sunny weather, the Castro Theatre was packed for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival's Winter Event. In his enthusiastic opening remarks, festival founder Stephen Salmons welcomed us to this "one day cabinet of wonders" & invited us to step back into the 20th century. I would have liked to see all 3 programs, but I only had the stamina for 2. I did see a lot of people wearing all-day passes, though. Many of the volunteers wore spiffy 20's fashions.

It was great fun to see the program of 3 Chaplin shorts with the festival's responsive crowd. The joy of Chaplin's Mutual period was clear. Some young children in the audience giggled at every fall & kick in the pants. Donald Sosin accompanied the shorts on the piano, playing tunes that sounded like dance music of the period. The music matched the films so well that I was often not aware of it.

After taking a break to walk down Market Street for a coffee & pastry, I returned for L'Argent, a nearly 3-hour epic from France with a timely story about a bank scandal. Romain Serman, Consul General of France, briefly introduced the film, which he described as a gem of French cinema. He noted the irony that this film about the evils of money itself cost a whopping 5 million francs in 1928. He called director Marcel L'Herbier the James Cameron of the period. I never got into the film itself. It has a novelistic pace, strongly delineated characters, & many large crowd scenes, but the story-telling seems inefficient. There are a lot of intertitles to read. The movie was accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, comprising piano, violin, clarinet, trumpet, cello & percussion. They played a melodic score that evoked French classical music as well as salon music & period jazz. They also provided airplane engine & jungle sounds. They paced themselves well, never sounding tired for the entire duration of the film.

§ San Francisco Silent Film Festival Winter Event

It’s Mutual: Charlie Chaplin Shorts
The Pawn Shop (1916)
The Rink (1916)
The Adventurer (1917)
Accompanied by: Donald Sosin

L’Argent (1928)
Accompanied by: Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

February 12, 2011
Castro Theatre

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