Saturday, July 16, 2011

SFSFF: Amazing Tales from the Archives, Program I

Unid. Children's Ben-HurA large audience turned out at the Castro Theatre for this free presentation about silent film preservation, put on as part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which opened Thursday night. Ken Fox, recipient of the festival's 2010 Preservation Fellowship, talked about recreating the intertitles for Mr. Fix-It, an early Douglas Fairbanks film which will be shown Saturday night. The film only survives in an Italian print, so the intertitles were reverse translated back into English & set in a period font called Goudy Pabst Oldstyle. Mr. Fox even learned how to use a fountain pen in order to recreate written documents seen in the film. We also learned that typographers call that dot on top of an "i" a "tittle".

Jan-Christopher Horak described his long quest to identify The Fall of Jerusalem, a mysterious Biblical epic from the 1920s. Even though it was distributed in the United States up to the 1970s, he could find nothing about it. Eventually a lip-reader saw the actors speaking German, & viewers at a screening recognized some of the actors, leading Mr. Horak to the film's origin.

Anthony L'Abbate, a preservation officer from George Eastman House, gave us a crash course in film identification & pointed out studio trademarks cleverly incorporated into movie sets. An archivist working on the Lobster Nitrate Collection shared the various strategies she uses to identify films. A helpful last resort is to post frame grabs on the Nitrate Film Interest Group on flickr.

At the end of the presentation, we saw the recently restored A Heart of the Forest (1913), a one reel drama of settlers & Indians in the Old West. Its burn-down-the-settlers'-cabin climax is worthy of an Icelandic saga. Stephen Horne accompanied on the piano.

§ Amazing Tales from the Archives, Program I
San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Fri, Jul 15th 11:00am
Castro Theatre

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