Friday, July 26, 2013

The Joyless Street

I ended my marathon Saturday at the SF Silent Film Festival with the evening's screening of The Joyless Street, an aptly titled film by G.W. Pabst about the relentlessly grim lives of the denizens of a Vienna neighborhood after World War I. It's a dreary & grotesque world of poverty, stock market scams, sexual exploitation, murder, degredation & starvation. Following all the characters & subplots takes some work. Asta Nielsen & Greta Garbo play young women trying to stay afloat. They both give psychological performances. Nielsen often seems to be in a trance-like state, & Garbo becomes so detached she seems like a non-human creature. Interestingly, she plays the more virtuous of the 2 women.

The 4 member Matti Bye Ensemble accompanied, playing piano, violin, cello, guitar, keyboard & percussion. Their original score was quiet, eerie & minimalistic. It had an appropriately dark mood but did not always match the action.

SF Silent Film Festival photo IMG_20130720_135344_zps7abcdf18.jpgI saw no empty seats at the show, & the audience was impressively still for the movie's bleak 2-and-a-half hour duration. Artistic Director Anita Monga introduced the film. We learned that it was banned & then released in censored versions that sometimes changed the story. Only 5 of its original 200 intertitles have survived. We saw a reconstruction from the Filmmuseum München that is still missing a half hour. Some of the footage is in poor condition, & there are continuity gaps toward the end.

§ The Joyless Street (Die freudlose Gasse)
Germany, 1925, 150 mins. • Director G.W. Pabst
Musical Accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble

2013 SF Silent Film Festival
Saturday, July 20, 2013, 8:30p
Castro Theatre


Michael Strickland said...

Sounds like a heroic Saturday Kultur Fest on your part, though you must have been unable to distinguish between waking and dreaming after such a marathon.

Axel Feldheim said...

Saturday was a bit much, but I was excited to be at the festival, & I was actually interested in seeing just about all the films. I saw the last 2 movies back to back, but otherwise I had a couple hours break between films. There's more festival posts to come!