Friday, May 30, 2014

SFSFF: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

I was happy to be at opening night of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival on Thursday. We saw a 35mm print of Rex Ingram’s The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, restored by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill. The version has a wide range of tints & even one shot in full color. The glamorous Hollywood lighting of the actors’ faces stood out.

This opulent WWI epic has its feet firmly planted in the 19th century, & it was slightly eerie seeing it exactly a century after the start of the war that the script explicitly associates with the Biblical apocalypse. Rudolph Valentino’s epicene beauty is still alluring, & my movie companion & I were both struck by how appealing he looked sporting a bit of uncharacteristic facial stubble.

The 5-member Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra played their original score to the movie, which consisted of pleasing salon music & tango-inflected dances. An additional percussionist was employed judiciously. A snare drum solo accompanied the Germans marching into France & was particularly effective. Though the music did not always match the on-screen action, it provided a continuous background layer, & the musicians’ playing was impressively consistent for over 2-hours.

Robert Byrne, the president of the board of directors, introduced the evening & acknowledged the festival’s sponsors. He also pointed out Rudolf Valentino’s great-grand niece in the audience. The enthusiastic festival audience applauded the film’s opening credits, Valentino’s 1st appearance & the famous tango sequence. They gave the musicians a standing ovation. A handful of younger attendees came in period dress. A tango lesson was given at the opening night party afterward.

§ The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Rex Ingram, USA, 1921 • 132 minutes
Accompanied by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2014
Thursday, May 29, 7:00 pm
Castro Theatre

No comments: