SF Silent Film Festival, it already wrapped around 3 sides of the block. There was a delay letting us into the theater, & a conscientious festival staffer walked the whole length of the line, explaining that there was a problem with the soundboard. We were there to see South, the 1919 documentary about Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated attempt to cross the Antarctic in 1914, filmed by crew member Frank Hurley. It's an amazing visual record, though awkwardly packaged as a feature film. It starts as a hearty adventure, with scenes featuring the expedition's eager sled dogs. It then becomes a survival story when pack ice destroys the ship, an event astonishingly captured on film. There is no more footage of the expedition past this point, so the film is instead padded with still photos, melodramatic drawings, & scenes of arctic wildlife, eventually turning into a silent version of March of the Penguins. It took me a while to start worrying about the dogs, which disappear without comment halfway through the film.
The festival presentation included actor Paul McGann, who at several points read from Shakleton's letters in his velvety English accent. Stephen Horne accompanied on piano, zither, flute, accordion & xylophone, sometimes managing to play 2 instruments at once. He provided appropriate mood music for each scene, as well as a tactful silence when the expedition's ship succumbs to the ice.
§ South (1919)
Directed by Frank Hurley
Accompanied by Stephen Horne on the grand piano, with Paul McGann narrating
San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Saturday, Jul 14, 2012 5:00 PM