Friday, June 02, 2017

Opening Night of SF Silent Film Festival

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival had a packed house for their opening night on Thursday. The event started about 10 minutes late due to ticket holders still waiting to get into the Castro Theatre. The program featured the 12-piece Berklee Silent Film Orchestra performing their original score for The Freshman, Harold Lloyd's effortlessly endearing comedy about social humiliation.

Festival President Robert Byrne thanked sponsors & introduced Suzanne Lloyd, Harold Lloyd's granddaughter, & Sheldon Mirowitz of the Berklee School of Music. Ms. Lloyd expressed her excitement to hear the new music, & Mr. Mirowitz explained that the score was composed by 7 of his students, who were each assigned one reel of the film to orchestrate. He individually introduced the student composers, who come from the United States, Switzerland & Mexico.

The score begins boldly, with a peppy march that recurs throughout. The music generally sounds 19th century classical, plus marches & jazz dances that evoke the film's period. It's synchronized with the on-screen action tightly, & every musical mood is stated clearly. The band was amplified, & I sometimes felt bullied by the score. The musicians were technically very secure, & all gave strong, boldhearted performances that fit the fearlessly optimistic personality of Lloyd's character.

The opening night audience was enthused, even applauding the restoration credits preceding the film. I'd never seen The Freshman before, & I found it simply plotted & thoroughly enjoyable. Intertitles sometimes carry the jokes, & I wish I knew what was meant by calling someone a "radio liar." I was impressed by the performances of 2 cats & by the string of gags involving Lloyd in a disintegrating dinner jacket at the Fall Frolic. The audience applauded the smooth choreography of a scene in which Lloyd takes advantage of temporarily having 3 arms. The show ended with a long & happy standing ovation for the composers & musicians. For those just getting started, there was an opening night party at the McRoskey Mattress Company down the street, apparently with more live music.

§ The Freshman
dirs. Fred C. Newmeyer &  Sam Taylor | 1925 | USA | 76 min
Live musical accompaniment by Berklee Silent Film Orchestra

San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2017
Thursday June 1 2017, 7p
Castro Threatre

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