Sunday, July 28, 2013

Renegade Craft Fair

Renegade Craft Fair
Over the weekend I visited the Renegade Craft Fair at Fort Mason. It seemed even bigger than last year, with 3 aisles of booths running the entire length of the pavilion. Even though I was there late in the day, it was crowded. Attendees are mostly female.

Renegade Craft Fair
The craft fair circuit now includes 5 US cities plus London, England, & I met many vendors from out of town. The products generally feel upscale & are not cheap.

Renegade Craft Fair
I was delighted by these gentlemanly tattooed dolls by Mimi Kirchner. Their details repay close examination.

Renegade Craft Fair
I liked the richly-drawn concert posters by Landland. The artist still had surprise in his voice as he told me how the Dave Matthews Band contacted them through their Web site with a commission.

Renegade Craft Fair
Kinetic Creatures did a fantastic job with this cardboard walking rhino. It's assembled with folds, tabs & slots & requires no glue. It walks on its own with the addition of a motor.

Renegade Craft Fair
Toyota had it's own corner of the pavilion. The Toyota reps were handsome, though the company's presence is hardly "indie."

Renegade Craft Fair
There was food & a mezzanine level bar overlooking the floorplan. It would be easy to spend hours at the fair.

§ San Francisco Renegade Craft Fair
July 27 + 28, 2013 11am – 7pm
Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion

Sketchbook Project Summer Tour

Sketchbook Project
Something called the Sketchbook Project is in town this weekend. Their bookmoblie, traveling cross country filled with thousands of 5" x 7" sketchbooks, is currently parked at the San Francisco Center for the Book.

Sketchbook Project
To view a sketchbook, you register for a free library card, then line up to search the catalog for something to check out or simply check out 2 sketchbooks at random. The Sketchbook Project scrupulously tracks checkouts for each book, so the process is cumbersome.

Sketchbook Project
Saturday afternoon there were quite a few people in line, & the staff was busy retrieving & re-shelving books.

Sketchbook Project
Anyone may submit their work to the library by buying a barcoded blank sketchbook for $25 or $60, filling it with their artwork, then sending it to the library for inclusion in the next tour. They claim to have over 27,000 sketchbooks, so the library may be worth close to a million dollars.

Sketchbook Project
This particular afternoon I was too impatient to wait in any lines, so all I did was get a library card & look over the shoulders of a few other people. Many sketchbook are also viewable online.

§ Sketchbook Project Summer Tour 2013
SF Center for the Book
Friday, July 26, 2013, 4:00 - 8:00pm
Saturday, July 27, 2013, 2:00 - 7:00pm
Sunday, July 28, 2013, 12:00 - 6:00pm

Saturday, July 27, 2013

J-Pop Summit Festival 2013

J-Pop Summit Festival
On Saturday I walked through the street fair part of the J-Pop Summit Festival in Japantown. It was crowded.

Post Street was a gauntlet of food trucks ...

J-Pop Summit Festival
... and neatly regulated vendors.

There was also a tempting $5 sake tasting area.

J-Pop Summit Festival
Fortunately there were just enough cosplay attendees to make the crowd distinctive.

This costume was seamless. I like his tail.

J-Pop Summit Festival
The young lady on the right may be dressed as a dessert.

J-Pop Summit Festival
This trio was particularly impeccable. Photographers trailed them through the fair.

§ J-Pop Summit Festival 2013
Saturday/Sunday, July 27th & 28th, 2013
San Francisco’s Japantown

Safety Last!

SF Silent Film Festival photo IMG_20130721_204514_zps0e48c58c.jpgThe Harold Lloyd classic Safety Last! was the final show of the SF Silent Film Festival on Sunday night, & it was great to see it with the joyful festival audience. Once again I saw no empty seats. I asked the lady next to me how she got interested in silent movies, & she replied, "I like to time travel." Operations Director Lucia Pier introduced the event, & there was a drawing for the raffle prize from McRoskey Mattress. Artistic Director Anita Monga then interviewed visual effects expert Craig Barron & Susanne Lloyd, Harold Lloyd's granddaughter. Mr. Barron referred to a video demonstrating how the clock scene was shot & admitted that the movie would be digitally projected at 24 FPS, which is just a tiny bit faster than it should be. We saw a beautifully crisp version from Critereon.

The atmosphere was terrifically fun. The audience laughed long & loud during the climbing sequence & applauded the moment when Harold Lloyd dangles from the clock. 2 ladies in the row behind me were actually screaming with laughter. The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra sounded consistently buoyant & elegant. Their original score of pleasant salon music was fitting & unobtrusive. They were sometimes drowned out by the audience's roaring laughter.

SF Silent Film Festival photo IMG_20130720_152706_zps759a5a64.jpgA book store & book signings were on the mezzanine throughout the festival, but every time I went up there it was too crowded to get a good look at anything. The festival hands out a substantial program book with excellent essays, also available online, about all the films. Next year's festival has been moved up to late May.

§ Safety Last!
USA, 1923, 70 mins. • Directors Sam Taylor, Fred Newmeyer
Musical Accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

2013 San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Sunday, July 21 at 8:30 pm
Castro Theatre

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Last Edition

Sunday afternoon the Castro Theatre was full up for the premiere at the SF Silent Film Festival of the restoration of The Last Edition, a 1925 crime drama filmed in San Francisco & containing views of the old Chronicle Building at Market & Kearny & scenes of The Chronicle's offices & printing presses. The event started 20 minutes late, & there was a feeling of anticipation. We saw the original trailer, & then film restorer Robert Byrne introduced the film. He told us of his astonishment when he 1st viewed it & saw shots of Market Street. He also told us to look for a cameo of San Francisco Chief of Police Daniel J. O'Brien, as well as publicity stills of his son, actor George O'Brien.

The Last Edition is not a good film, but the festival audience got into the sprit of it anyway, applauding an expansive shot of our City Hall & cheering for the last-minute capture of the villians. Stephen Horne was a vigorous accompanist, playing piano, accordion & flute, & occasionally strumming the piano strings directly. He incorporated a period song called "San Francisco Bound" & played thunderously during the gratuitous fiery climax. His excellent playing enhanced the film.

SF Silent Film Festival photo IMG_20130721_094236_zpsaa0f77b3.jpgDuring the big chase scene, an intertitle appeared backward. The film was stopped. & the audience immediately became restless. Mr. Horne continued improvising, starting with Für Elise. For a while the audience clapped along as he played another tune. The film resumed past where it had stopped, so I suspect we missed some exciting moments. My movie companion thought they should have just let the film run until the end of the reel, since we could probably follow the action regardless.

§ The Last Edition
USA, 1925, 105 mins. • Director Emory Johnson
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

2013 San Francisco Silent Film Festivalc
Sunday, July 21 at 3:30 pm
Castro Theatre

Kings of (Silent) Comedy

The Sunday morning show at the SF Silent Film Festival was a program of shorts featuring Felix the Cat, Charley Chase, Buster Keaton & Charlie Chaplin. I'd never seen Charley Chase before, & he made a good impression in Mighty Like a Moose, a frothy domestic comedy. A husband & wife both get cosmetic surgery on the same day. Not recognizing one another, they of course proceed to flirt. Mayhem ensues. Charley Chase has a dapper presence, & he comes across as an ordinary guy in a farcical situation rather than as a clown. The audience laughed especially loud at a routine in which he plays both sides of a fist fight.

I'd never seen the Buster Keaton short The Love Nest either, which parodies the romantic notion of going to sea to forget a lost love. Keaton is hilariously deadpan as he seals a farewell letter with his tears. Most of the gags weirdly invoke death, & the film has a surreal, fragmentary feel. It includes an impressive shot of a breaching whale. The film was only recovered in the 1970s, & perhaps the ending is still lost. As a bonus, we saw a color home movie of Stan Laurel, shot in Santa Monica in the early 1960s, in which he flashes his famous goofy grin.

Günter Buchwald accompanied on the piano. His playing sounded both classical & jazz inflected & fit the period but did not follow the action closely. The event was introduced by Executive Director Stacey Wisnia. Critic Leonard Maltin, a conspicuous attendee at the festival in the past, this year introduced the films via a pre-recorded video.

There were many children, & I heard parents around me reading the intertitles aloud. The little ones were definitely paying attention. The restaurant scene in Chaplin's The Immigrant begins with Eric Campbell trying to get Chaplin to remove his hat. When Edna Purviance later sat next to Chaplin, a little girl behind me yelled "You're not allowed to wear hats!"

§ Kings of (Silent) Comedy
Musical Accompaniment by Günter Buchwald

Felix Goes West
Directed by Otto Messmer, USA, 1924

Mighty Like a Moose
Directed by Leo McCarey, USA, 1926

The Love Nest
Directed by Buster Keaton, USA, 1922

The Immigrant
Directed by Charles Chapiin, USA, 1917

Stan Laurel Home Movies

2013 San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Sunday, July 21, 10:00am
Castro Theatre

Kiosk Museum

Late Wednesday morning a small group of well-dressed people were assembled at the entrance to Maiden Lane on Grant for the unveiling of something called the Kiosk Museum. Basically it seems to be a new way to justify those cumbersome JCDecaux advertising kiosks, now that there are no newspapers to sell out of them.

2 of the kiosks house lit display cases containing puppets from around the world. The press release boasts that this museum is open "24/7."

I caught the tail end of the opening day ceremony, which included a small temporary stage for officials from JCDecaux, City Hall & design firm HOK. A children's puppeteer also participated. His hand puppet called Wolfie sang "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" to passersby after the ceremony.

§ A World View of Puppets
Kiosk Museum
Northwest corner of Grant Avenue & Maiden Lane.
Southeast corner of Stockton & Post Streets.
July 24, 2013 through November 6, 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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The House on Trubnaya Square

Saturday evening I saw the Soviet urban comedy The House on Trubnaya Square at the SF Silent Film Festival. A befuddled country girl arrives in Moscow, her pet duck tucked under her arm. By accident she finds herself in a menial job, then just as accidentally gets caught up in party politics when she innocently joins the union. The film moves at breakneck speed & has much frantic action. I was sometimes confused. Director Boris Barnet throws in rapid-fire montage, unusual camera angles, freeze frames & scenes running in reverse. The film opens on an impressive set that allows you to see 5 floors of an overcrowded tenement all at once. The audience applauded the film's heroine when she becomes so overcome with patriotic fervor while watching a play that she jumps on stage & takes over the scene. The film was introduced by Anita Monga, the festival's Artistic Director, & Susan Oxtoby of the Pacific Film Archive. Stephen Horne accompanied on piano, accordion, flute & drum, sometimes playing more than one instrument simultaneously. His lively accompaniment had a Russian flavor & included snippets of songs & The Internationale. Wonderful old Soviet movie posters were included in the slide show before the screening.

§ The House on Trubnaya Square
USSR, 1928, 65 minutes • Director Boris Barnet
Musical Accompaniment Stephen Horne

2013 SF Silent Film Festival
Saturday, July 20, 2013, 6:30p
Castro Theatre

Legong: Dance of the Virgins

Saturday afternoon the SF Silent Film Festival presented Legong: Dance of the Virgins, a silent film shot in 2-color technicolor in Bali in 1933. The native cast enacts a thin story of tragic love, but really the film is a gorgeous travelogue, including depictions of lush scenery, village markets, cock fights & traditional dances. I found the sight of 2 toddlers smoking cigarettes somewhat startling. A ritual suicide dance is particularly intense, & the film ends with a spectacular cremation ceremony.

SF Silent Film Festival photo IMG_20130720_135948_zpsca4647c5.jpgThe film was accompanied by the Club Foot Orchestra, consisting of 4 strings, clarinet & trumpet, plus at least 15 members of Gamelan Sekar Jaya, who sat on stage in front of the screen. The textures of the 2 ensembles complemented each other. The music was entrancing & followed the movie closely. Richard Marriott conducted, & the musicians received a noisy & prolonged standing ovation. Afterwards, attendees who had been to Bali told me that it still looks very much as it does in the movie.

§ Legong: Dance of the Virgins
Bali, 1935 • Director Henri de la Falaise, 65 mins.
Musical accompaniment Gamelan Sekar Jaya and the Club Foot Orchestra

2013 SF Silent Film Festival
Saturday, July 20, 2013, 2:15pm
Castro Theatre

Winsor McCay: His Life and Art

I started my Saturday at the SF Silent Film Festival at this morning event in which animator & film historian John Canemaker gave a slide lecture about cartoonist Winsor McCay & presented 4 of his animated shorts. Mr. Canemaker spoke knowledgeably & affectionately, likening McCay's drawing skill to Leonardo da Vinci's & calling him the "Giotto of animation." McCay originally presented Gertie the Dinosaur as a vaudeville act, which Mr. Canemaker recreated by standing in front of the screen & encouraging the audience to interact with Gertie. Mr. Canemaker pointed out how McCay strove for a believability that was not matched until Disney, decades later. We also saw McCay's grim animated depiction of the sinking of the Luisitania. Noting the imagery of explosions & falling bodies, Mr. Canemaker called the sinking "the 9/11 of its day."

Advisory Board member Russell Merritt introduced the program & told us that Mr. Canemaker was the 1st Academy Award winner to appear onstage at the festival.  Stephen Horne accompanied the films, playing piano, flute, accordion & something that made a high-pitched, whining whistle. It was an especially good sound effect for McCay's shudder-inducing cartoon about a mosquito.

§ Winsor McCay: His Life and Art
A Special Presentation by John Canemaker
Musical accompaniment Stephen Horne

Little Nemo (Vitagraph, 1911, 3 mins.)
How a Mosquito Operates (Vitagraph, 1912, 6 mins.)
Gertie the Dinosaur (Box Office Attractions, 1914, 18 mins.)
The Sinking of the Lusitania (Jewel Productions, 1918, 12 mins.)

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Saturday, July 20, 2013, 10:00am
Castro Theatre

SFSFF: The Patsy

I ended my 1st day at the SF Silent Film Festival with The Patsy, a satisfyingly silly romantic comedy starring Marion Davies & directed by King Vidor. The film rolls along smoothly & is entertaining from moment to moment. Even the intertitles are full of snappy one-liners. Marion Davies has a forthright screen presence & is an unaffected comic actress. The audience gleefully applauded her mischievous imitation of Lillian Gish. The jowly Marie Dressler is terrific as Davies's indomitable mother & may be the film's real star.

The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, comprised of piano, violin, cello, clarinet & cornet, played pleasant salon music, setting an appropriate mood for each scene & staying in the background. They were impressively consistent & in tune throughout. They also provided a realistic sound effect for an electric doorbell. The program was introduced by Anita Monga, the festival's Artistic Director, & Mike Mashon, of the Library of Congress, who told us we would be seeing a new print from Marion Davies's own archives & stated that the film displayed "the true Marion Davies." He enjoyed when Ms. Monga asked the audience to sing Happy Birthday to him. The Voice of the Festival announced the name of the wrong band but was vociferously corrected by the audience. The audience clearly enjoyed the show & gave the musicians a standing ovation.

§ The Patsy
USA, 1928,  Director King Vidor, 81 minutes
Musical Accompaniment Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Friday, July 19 at 7:00 pm
Castro Theatre

Monday, July 22, 2013

SFSFF: Tokyo Chorus

Friday afternoon I was at the SF Silent Film Festival to see Tokyo Chorus, a small social drama about shame & unemployment by famed Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu. Though Ozu had already made 21 films, this is considered the 1st to display his mature style. The main character is an independent-minded young man who loses his job after openly quarreling with his boss. The scenario is episodic & gritty, though Ozu also includes scenes of light physical comedy. The festival audience laughed when fans were wielded with great emphasis in an escalating office fight. It was interesting to note Ozu's characteristic below-the-waist camera angles. I liked the film's blunt, unidealized depiction of the main character's son, a demanding child perhaps 5 years old. The boy's frank anger & disappointment toward his father are devastating.

The screening was introduced by the Artistic Director Anita Monga & Stephen Gong of CAAM. Günter Buchwald accompanied on piano & violin, sometimes playing both simultaneously. He played simple repeated chords & arpeggios that sounded similar for every scene.

§ Tokyo Chorus
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu, Japan, 1931, 90 mins.
Musical accompaniment by Günter Buchwald

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Friday, July 19, 4:30 pm
Castro Theatre

Sunday, July 21, 2013

SFSFF: Amazing Tales from the Archives

Friday morning the SF Silent Film Festival presented a free informational program on film preservation. Executive Director Stacey Wisnia introduced film preservationist Rob Byrne, who gave a 45 minute slide show about the restoration of the Half Breed, a 1916 feature starring Douglas Fairbanks. Mr. Byrne showed us intertitles from various versions which had different names for the characters & sometimes different plots. There might even be alternate takes of the same shot. Ultimately he used 3 sources, all generations removed from the original 1916 release. A color-coded spreadsheet was required to track the alternatives available for each scene. We saw scenes from the different sources & how they were combined in the restoration, which premiered at the festival on Saturday.

Céline Ruivo, Director of Film Collections at the Cinémathèque Française, then talked about Le Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre, an early synchronized sound technology that premiered at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle but then quickly disappeared. The Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre catalog contains short films capturing famous performers of the era, including Sarah Bernhardt & Benoît Constant Coquelin, the actor who created the role of Cyrano de Bergerac. Restoration of these films was especially difficult because both the films & the cylinders used to record the sound were run at a variety of different speeds. A complex spreadsheet was used to track all the sources & their technical details. Unfortunately Ms. Ruivo showed only one of the films, a scene from an opera called La Poupee featuring a singing doll. Bizarrely, the soundtrack contains the voices of the singers, but the instrumental accompaniment had to be provided live by Stephen Horne on the piano.

§ Amazing Tales from the Archives
Rob Byrne, film preservationist
Céline Ruivo, Director of Film Collections at the Cinémathèque Française
Stephen Horne, piano

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Friday, July 19, 11am
Castro Theatre

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Schwabacher Summer Concert

L to R: Pene Pati, Zanda Švēde, Issachah Savage
Photo by Kristen Loken
Thursday night I heard the Schwabacher Summer Concert, featuring 8 Merola artists in semi-staged scenes from 6 operas. The singers were in concert dress & accompanied by a full orchestra on stage behind them. Steamer trunks, a few props & lighting changes provided the scenery. The performance was supertitled. All the Merolini sang out at a consistent volume & were engaging actors.

Baritone Alex DeSocio makes a firm, open & resonant sound, & his death scene from Don Carlo was secure & received appreciative applause. Soprano Aviva Fortunata sang Donna Elvira's "Ah, chi mi dice mai" & Desedemona with a sustained loudness & focus. Bass-baritone Rhys Lloyd Talbot moved around the stage a lot during his rendition of Leporello's Catalog Aria, so though he sang it with ease, he was not always with the orchestra.

The excerpt from L’Italiana in Algeri got the busiest staging, which included ropes, gun-toting harem guards & Isabella emerging from a steamer trunk to sing "Cruda Sorte!" Tenor Matthew Newlin's voice sounded even throughout it's range, though a bit stiff, in Lindoro's "Languir per una bella." Mezzo Zanda Švēde was a standout. Her voice is distinctively deep & viscous, & she was a confident & sultry Isabella.

Pene Pati
Photo by Kristen Loken
Tenor Pene Pati's voice was wonderfully warm, connected & Italianate in the final scene of Lucia di Lammermoor. His singing is fresh & musical, & he seems to have untapped reserves. He ended with a thrilling high note (high D?) definitely not in the score & received extended applause & cheers. Issachah Savage showed off his powerful & weighty tenor voice & very clear diction in a too-brief assignment from Otello. He was stunning.

Apart from a shaky Mozart overture, the orchestra, led by Kevin Murphy, played buoyantly. The brasses sounded nicely mellow in the Don Carlo excerpt, & the woodwinds were neat & transparent in the introduction to Act IV of Otello. The orchestra never overwhelmed the singers, whose voices rang out vibrantly into the auditorium. The audience was attentive and quiet, though latecomers seated during the performance caused some noise. The singers received enthused applause & bravos. A cellphone rang during the Otello excerpt. A gentleman in the back of the auditorium sighed loudly in the silence ending quiet scenes. The program will be repeated in a free performance at Yerba Buena Garden, Saturday, July 20th, at 2:00 PM

§ Schwabacher Summer Concert
Conductor: Kevin Murphy
Director: Roy Rallo

Overture to Der Schauspieldirektor (W.A. Mozart)

Don Giovanni (W.A. Mozart)
From Act I, Scene 5
Donna Elvira: Aviva Fortunata
Don Giovanni: Alex DeSocio
Leporello: Rhys Lloyd Talbot

Don Carlo (Giuseppe Verdi)
From Act IV, Part 2
Rodrigo: Alex DeSocio
Don Carlo: Pene Pati

L’Italiana in Algeri (Gioachino Rossini)
From Act I, Scene 3
Lindoro: Matthew Newlin
Mustafà: Rhys Lloyd Talbot
Haly: Thomas Richards
Isabella: Zanda Švēde
Taddeo: Alex DeSocio
Ensemble: Pene Pati, Issachah Savage

Lucia di Lammermoor (Gaetano Donizetti)
Act II, Part 2
Edgardo: Pene Pati
Raimondo: Rhys Lloyd Talbot
Ensemble: Matthew Newlin, Issachah Savage, Alex DeSocio, Thomas Richards

L’Amico Fritz (Pietro Mascagni)
From Act III
Fritz: Pene Pati
Beppe: Zanda Švēde
Offstage Chorus: Aviva Fortunata, Zanda Švēde, Matthew Newlin, Issachah Savage, Alex DeSocio, Rhys Lloyd Talbot

Otello (Giuseppe Verdi)
From Act IV
Emila: Zanda Švēde
Desdemona: Aviva Fortunata
Otello: Issachah Savage
Cassio: Matthew Newlin
Iago: Alex DeSocio
Lodovico: Rhys Lloyd Talbot
Montano: Pene Pati

Thursday, July 18 at 7:30 PM
Everett Auditorium at Everett Middle School

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Blue Jasmine

Left to right: Cate Blanchett as Jasmine, Max Casella as Eddie,
 Bobby Cannavale as Chili and Sally Hawkins as Ginger
Photo by Merrick Morton © 2013 Gravier Productions
 Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
This week I saw a preview screening of Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen's new movie starring Cate Blanchett as Jasmine, a proud but useless woman, whose life married to a wealthy New York financier has collapsed. Bankrupt & friendless, she arrives in San Francisco to stay with her working-class sister in the Mission. The film hovers between pathos & comedy & sadistically charts Jasmine's unwinding mental state, seen in flashbacks & miserable misadventures. Ms. Blanchett gives Jasmine a Hamptons drawl & a patronizing air & never plays for sympathy. I continually cringed at her behavior.

I liked the naturalistic performance of Sally Hawkins as Jasmine's hardscrabble sister. Michael Stuhlbarg is frightening as Jasmine's creep of a boss. The handsome Bobby Cannavale plays an Italian lunkhead stereotype affectionately. Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay & Peter Sarsgaard are also fittingly cast.

Though the San Francisco setting is significant only in so far as it is not New York, many scenes take place in recognizable locations. We even know the exact address of the Mission District apartment where Jasmine stays. The story has echoes of A Streetcar Named Desire, & the unsettled ending may explain why there are so many crazy people muttering to themselves on park benches.

Sally Hawkins as Ginger and Louis CK as Al
Photo by Merrick Morton  © 2013 Gravier Productions
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The press screening was over-capacity, & they had to bring in folding chairs to accommodate everyone. The audience applauded when Louis C.K. appeared on screen as a party guest, dancing with Jasmine's sister. The gentleman seated in front of me laughed out loud when Jasmine revealed she had received electroshock therapy. Even in a room full of critics, someone's cellphone rang halfway through the movie.

Blue Jasmine opens in Bay Area theaters on August 2nd.

§ Blue Jasmine
Director: Woody Allen
USA, 2013, 98 min

Monday, July 15, 2013

Up-coming: SF Silent Film Festival 2013

This Thursday is opening night of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. It's one of my favorite film events, & this year's program looks especially exciting & diverse. Opening night is a Louise Brooks feature I'd never heard of before called Prix de Beauté. The centerpiece film is a restoration of Pabst's The Joyless Street, featuring Greta Garbo. Closing night is the Harold Lloyd classic Safety Last! Marion Davies appears in The Patsy, directed by King Vidor, & Douglas Fairbanks stars in the western The Half-Breed. The Last Edition from 1925 includes scenes shot on location in San Francisco. There are also films from Japan, the UK, Denmark, France, the USSR & Sweden. All the films will have live musical accompaniment, ranging from piano to chamber orchestra. Legong: Dance of the Virgins, a color film shot in Bali, will be accompanied by the Club Foot Orchestra & Gamelan Sekar Jaya. A last-minute addition to the festival is a 2-minute animated trailer for Vertov's The Eleventh Year, believed to have been created by Soviet graphic designer Alexander Rodchenko.

§ San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2013
July 18-21, 2013
Castro Theatre

Thursday, July 18

7:00 pm
Prix de Beauté
France, 1930 • Director Augusto Genina
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

Friday, July 19

11:00 am
Amazing Tales from the Archives (Free)
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

2:00 pm
The First Born
UK, 1928 • Director Miles Mander
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

4:30 pm
Tokyo Chorus
Japan, 1931 • Director Yasujiro Ozu
Musical accompaniment by Günter Buchwald

7:00 pm
The Patsy
USA, 1928 • Director King Vidor
Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

9:30 pm
The Golden Clown (Klovnen)
Denmark, 1926 • Director A.W. Sandberg
Musical accompaniment by Matti Bye Ensemble

Saturday, July 20

10:00 am
Winsor McCay: His Life and Art
A Special Presentation by John Canemaker
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

12:00 pm
The Half-Breed
USA, 1916 • Director Allan Dwan
Musical accompaniment by Günter Buchwald on the Mighty Wurlitzer

2:15 pm
Legong: Dance of the Virgins
Bali, 1935 • Director Henri de la Falaise
Musical accompaniment by Clubfoot Orchestra and Gamelan Sekar Jaya

4:00 pm
France, 1926 • Director Jacques Feyder
Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

6:30 pm
The House on Trubnaya Square
USSR, 1928 • Director Boris Barnet
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

8:30 pm
The Joyless Street (Die freudlose Gasse)
Germany, 1925 • Director G.W. Pabst
Musical accompaniment by Matti Bye Ensemble

Sunday, July 21

10:00 am
Kings of (Silent) Comedy
Tiles include:
Felix Goes West (USA, d. Otto Messmer, 1924)
Mighty Like a Moose (USA, d. Leo McCarey, 1926)
The Love Nest (USA, d. Buster Keaton, 1923)
The Immigrant (USA, d. Charles Chaplin, 1917)

1:00 pm
The Outlaw and His Wife (Berg-Ejvind och hans hustru)
Sweden, 1918 • Director Victor Sjöström
Musical accompaniment by Matti Bye Ensemble

3:30 pm
The Last Edition
USA, 1925 • Director Emory Johnson
Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne

6:00 pm
The Weavers (Die Weber)
Germany, 1927 • Director Friedrich Zelnik
Musical accompaniment by Günter Buchwald
Plus two-minute trailer for Dziga Vertov's The Eleventh Year

8:30 pm
Safety Last!
USA, 1923 • Directors Sam Taylor, Fred Newmeyer
Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Monsters University

Last week I finally saw Monsters University, Pixar's prequel to Monsters Inc. Sulley & Mike meet as antagonistic college freshmen in the Scare Program of MU. Their rivalry gets them kicked out of the program, & they attempt to redeem themselves by winning the college Scare Games. The movie is mild & aimed at very young children. The brightly colored monsters make MU look like a cross between an Ivy League campus & a candy store. For some reason I thought the funniest part was when a monster mom loads a washing machine in the background of one of the scenes.

Though I saw it in 2D, the movie is also in 3D, & there is an emphasis on the film's detailed environments. It was preceded by a wordless short, The Blue Umbrella, which uses convincingly photorealistic CGI to recreate the glistening light of a rainy street at nighttime.

§ Monsters University (2013)
Dir. Dan Scanlon, USA, 104 mins.

§ The Blue Umbrella (2013)
Dir. Saschka Unseld, USA, 7 mins.

The Rape of Lucretia

Photo credit: Kristen Loken
Thursday night I saw Merola Opera's production of Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia. The opera was staged as a contemporary military inquest, with all the characters assembled in a court room. There were no scene breaks, & the singers were onstage throughout, both witnessing & enacting the events of the story. The rape scene was staged symbolically, Tarquinius throwing papers into the air & overturning furniture.

The evening was taut. Everyone gave firm singing & acting perfomances & maintained a determinedly serious mood. As the chorus, tenor Robert Watson & soprano Linda Barnett were implacably stern. Mezzo Kate Allen sang Lucretia with a full, matronly voice that was also a bit warbling. Mezzo Katie Hannigan was a consistent & mature-sounding Bianca. Soprano Alisa Jordheim as Lucia sounded contrastingly high & youthful. The vocalise between the female voices in act I was lovely. Baritone Chris Carr was smooth-sounding & even suave as Tarquinius. I especially liked baritone Efraín Solís as Junius in the scene where he connivingly insinuated reasons to rape Lucretia. Bass-baritone David Weigel had a deep, resonant voice that communicated gravity.

I'd actually never heard this opera before. There are many beautiful passages, & it has an inexorable, ritual-like atmosphere. The concluding invocation to Jesus, however, seems unprepared for. It certainly did not comfort Mr. Weigel's Collatinus, who stared at the audience in horrified anguish at the end.

Merola Seat Cushion photo 1f0e8174-4539-4eba-96ca-3141eff06ce6_zpsba96c15e.jpgThe performance took place in the Everett Middle School auditorium, where the voices rang out nicely. There is no pit, so the chamber orchestra of 13 was on the floor in front of the stage. They probably sounded too prominent, but I liked their playing so much that I did not mind. It was nice to hear orchestral details, such as the double bass slides, so vividly. The school's aging, unupholstered seats were uncomfortable, even though Merola furnished them with branded seat cushions. The performance was well-attended, & the audience was attentive & focussed. The singers received appreciative applause & a partial standing ovation.

§ The Rape of Lucretia
By Benjamin Britten with libretto by Ronald Duncan

Merola Opera Program 2013
Conductor - Mark Morash
Director - Peter Kazaras

Male Chorus - Robert Watson
Female Chorus - Linda Barnett
Collatinus - David Weigel
Junius - Efraín Solís
Tarquinius - Chris Carr
Lucretia - Kate Allen
Bianca - Katie Hannigan
Lucia - Alisa Jordheim

Thursday, July 11,7:30 PM
Everett Auditorium