There was a delay letting people into the Castro Theatre for the final program of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival on Sunday night, & I did not see any empty seats by the time the program began, about 15 minutes late. The evening began with a raffle, followed by a showing of the candy-colored 2011 restoration of Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon. Stephen Horne accompanied elegantly on the piano, playing tunes from Offenbach's Le voyage dans la Lune. There are no intertitles, so actor Paul McGann read the film's narration. Mr. Horne improvised on Bach's Air for the G String when the film did not start rolling immediately.
On entering, the audience received fans made of cut-outs of Buster Keaton's face, & we were asked to hold them over our own faces as photographers took pictures for Fandor. Frank Buxton and Leonard Maltin reminisced about meeting Buster Keaton & pointed out Buster Keaton's granddaughter & great-grandchildren in the audience.
The main feature was The Cameraman, probably Buster Keaton's last great film. In the episodic story, Buster plays a hapless newsreel photographer courting a pretty girl working in the news office. The film still works beautifully, & the festival audience was great. They laughed in all the right places, applauded the best gags, & hissed Buster's romantic rival. The elevator shot that follows Buster up & down several floors of a building is still amazingly clever. For some reason I think it's hilarious that the Chinatown gangs in the Tong War scene have mounted machine guns. The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra accompanied the movie, providing pleasing Salon-style background music. I liked their choice of the Blue Danube Waltz for the famous changing room scene.
§ The Cameraman (1928)
Directed by Edward Sedgwick, Buster Keaton
Accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Introduced by Frank Buxton and Leonard Maltin
Shows with Georges Méliès' A TRIP TO THE MOON - with live narration by Paul McGann!
San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 7:30 PM