Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Phil attends the 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival: Day Four-July 17, 2011
Hi again everyone, and welcome to the fourth and final day of the 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival! For the past three and a half days, the majestic Castro Theater has been my home, but sadly, it must come to an end. But before I say goodbye, let me tell you about Sunday's line-up!
The morning began with AMAZING TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES: KEVIN BROWNLOW ON 50 YEARS OF RESTORATION. In this exciting and highly informative forum, historian and author Kevin Brownlow takes us on his amazing journey, from being a silent film fan to acquiring a print of NAPOLEON, and spending his life restoring this lost classic. Listening to Kevin speak, you can feel just how much he loves his film, and his determination to return it to its original glory. Not seen in the US for over 30 years, NAPOLEON will be shown at the Paramount Theater in Oakland for four days only (March 24, 25, 31, and April 1) and that's it! So if you want to purchase tickets for the cinema event of a lifetime, click here to buy your tickets! Go ahead, I'll wait for you........
Got your tickets for NAPOLEON? Good for you! Let's continue, shall we?
The first afternoon program began with another orphan film. TRIBUNE-AMERICAN DREAM PICTURE (1924) was contest held by the Oakland Tribune. Fans would write about their most strangest dreams, and the winner would have his or her dream made into a film starring themselves. Mabel Nicholson was the winner for her dream, which involved her and her husband traveling from Oakland to San Francisco and back again in search of their missing infant.
The afternoon showing of SHOES (1916), written and directed by Lois Webber, was fantastic. The film stars Mary MacLaren as Eva Meyer, a store clerk who tries to support her family, but in the end breaks down and sells her body for a pair of shoes. Webber was clearly ahead of her time, dealing and bringing to light social commentary, more specifically on women's issues. Webber tackled issues, such as abortion, birth control, and women's rights. Not very many of Webber's films have survived, and it is a real shame. At one point in her career, Webber was one of the highest paid women directors in Hollywood, and was regarded in high esteem along with D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille. The film print came from EYE Film Institute from the Netherlands and look amazing! Accompanying the film was Dennis James on the Mighty Wurlitzer!
The second afternoon program was WILD AND WEIRD: SHORT FILM FAVORITES WITH NEW MUSIC. The program was introduced by historian David Shepard and presented several shorts from the new Flicker Alley DVD release of the same name. The program's main focus was on the Alloy Orchestra, performing their new musical scores to these silent short gems. The program showcased the following short films: DREAM OF A RAREBIT FIEND (1906), RED SPECTRE (1907), THE ACROBATIC FLY(1910), THE THIEVING HAND (1908), PRINCESS NICOTINE (1909), ARTHEME SWALLOWS HIS CLARINET (1912), THE CAMERAMAN'S REVENGE (1912), DREAMS OF A RAREBIT FIEND: THE PET (1921), FILMSTUDIE (1926), and LIFE AND DEATH OF 1413, A HOLLYWOOD EXTRA (1928). Between the shorts were lantern slides that promoted upcoming films as well as humours messages.
The WEIRD AND WILD DVD, featuring new music by the Alloy Orchestra, is now available on the Flicker Alley website. Click here to purchase a copy for yourself now! Go ahead! I'll wait for you again.......
Did you buy the WEIRD AND WILD DVD? Good for you! Let's continue, shall we?
The early evening program focused on the films from the former Soviet Union. The orphan short CHESS FEVER (1925) was just hilarious! Who knew comedies even existed in Russia? The film's about a young man whose main love in his life is chess. However his soon bride-to-be is not a fan and she gets so frustrated that she breaks up with him, but is true love more powerful than chess?
The main feature was mind blowing! THE NAIL IN THE BOOT (1931) was just absolutely mind blowing! Director Mikhail Kalatozov was hired to make a military film, but the film was censored by the Soviets (boo! on them) and as a result, Kalatozov didn't make another film for over eight years! The film's about a soldier's journey to march back to headquarters and inform them to aid an armored train that his under attack. To make his quest more difficult, along the way he his injured thanks to a nail sticking out of the sole of his boot. He arrives to HQ, but it is too little to late. He stands on trail for failure to save the train, but he then turns it around on the factory workers for producing the faulty boots that hindered him to reaching HQ in time.
The film was, in my opinion, a propaganda film, promoting the idea and message that sloppy and shoddy work can lead to the demise and morality of the country. But the message was told in a dynamic way! Kalatozo's directing was fantastic! Later on in his career, Kalatozo would go one to direct THE CRANES ARE FLYING (1957) and I AM CUBA (1964). The great Stephen Horne once again outdid himself with his incredible score for this incredible film!
The closing film of the festival was HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (1924), starring the "Man of a Thousand Faces" himself, the great Lon Chaney. In the film Chaney plays Paul Beaumont, a scientist who goes mad after his discoveries are stolen by his wealthy benefactor Baron Regmard (Marc McDermott), who claims the discoveries as his own and also manages to steal his wife as well. Humiliated and betrayed, Beaumont joins the circus and becomes the clown known as HE-who gets slapped. The act involves him being slapped in the face a hundred times, thus becoming hugely popular. There he befriends a a horse backrider named Bezano (John Gilbert) and they both fall in love with his assistant Consuelo (Norma Shearer). But when the Baron buys Consuelo's hand in marriage from her father, Beaumont vows not to let that come to fruition.
The film was directed by Swedish filmmaker Victor Sjostrom (this was his first American film for the newly-formed MGM), and Chaney's performance was outstanding. Chaney really was the best actor of the silent era, and this film proves that he could convey a wide range of emotions. From blissful happiness to sheer madness, this is one of my favorite Lon Chaney films.
Bringing the film to life with music was the Matti Bye Ensemble. Folks, they were on fire this past weekend and don't be surprised when they become superstars in the world of silent film scores. Also, they and Jill Tracy are performing together for a free show tonight at the Disco Volante in Oakland!
Well folks, there you have it! Another SF Silent Film Festival has come to a close. I just want to say hi to all my friends that I got to see again, and to all my new friends that I meet this year, I cannot wait to see you all again at next year's festival! I had so much fun this past weekend! If you'd like to learn more about the SF Silent Film Festival, and how to become a member, visit their website at http://www.silentfilm.org/index.php
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!