Monday, May 02, 2011

An Afternoon with Serge Bromberg

Late Sunday afternoon I was at the Castro Theater for this super-entertaining show at the San Francisco International Film Festival of 3-D films , some going back to the unbelievable date of 1900. At the start of the event, Rachel Rosen, Director of Programming, presented Serge Bromberg with the Mel Novikoff Award for his efforts to promote & preserve film history. Then Rick Prelinger of the Prelinger Library interviewed Mr. Bromberg about his career as a film collector, archivist & presenter. We heard how he discovered a color version of Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon, which will premiere at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The decaying film took 3 years to unwind.

The interview transitioned into Mr. Bromberg's 2 hour presentation of 3-D films, a kind of road show he performs a few times a year. The films ranged from a cheesy studio short to computer animation to silents. All of them were fun. I enjoyed the cool 1950s design & subversive humor of Melody, the 1st 3-D cartoon. The action of Falling in Love Again, a 2003 animation, occurs mostly in the air & is a perfect fit for 3-D. Most incredible were the "accidental" 3-D films made by Méliès. In order to produce 2 negatives for export purposes, Méliès shot these films with 2 cameras simultaneously. By combining the 2 prints, the movies can be projected in 3-D, & it works! Mr. Bromberg was able to push 3-D back even earlier by projecting sequential stereoscopic images originally printed on paper. Some of these have amusingly naughty scenarios, such as a woman receiving a lover in her bedroom.

Mr. Bromberg himself is a genuine showman. To demonstrate the volatility of old nitrate stock, he set a strip of it spectacularly aflame for us. He bounded on stage to introduce each film, & his joy in sharing them was undeniable. He even played the piano for the silent films, providing simple but charming accompaniment. Mr. Bromberg seems like the kind of guy who would invite you out to a nice restaurant & make sure you tasted all the best things on the menu. The Castro Theater was full for the event, & the audience was rapt for the entire 2 1/2 hour event.

§ San Francisco International Film Festival 54
An Afternoon with Serge Bromberg
Mel Novikoff Award: Serge Bromberg
Retour de Flamme: Rare and Restored Films in 3-D

Third Dimensional Murder (George Sidney, USA 1941)
Musical Memories (Dave Fleischer, USA 1935)
Working for Peanuts (Jack Hannah, USA 1953)
Parade of Attractions (Fish) (Soviet Union, late 1950s)
Motor Rhythm (John Norling, Charley Bowers, USA 1953)
Arrival of a Train and other shorts (Auguste Lumière, Louis Lumière, France 1935)
Lumber Jack-Rabbit (Chuck Jones, USA 1954)
Parade of Attractions (Birds) (Soviet Union, late 1950s)
Melody (Ward Kimball, USA 1953)
Parade of Attractions (Jugglers) (Soviet Union, late 1950s)
Various brief 3D risqué situations (1900, René Bunzli),
Falling in Love Again (Munro Ferguson, Canada 2003)
Knick Knack (John Lasseter, USA 1989)
The Infernal Boiling Pot, The Oracle of Delphi, Parafargamus the Alchemist (George Méliès, France 1903-1906)
Coyote Falls (Matthew O’Callaghan, USA 2010)

Sunday, May 1, 5:00 pm
Castro Theatre

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