Saturday, July 14, 2012

Phil attends the 17th Annual SF Silent Film Festival: Day Two-July 13, 2012

Hello folks and welcome to Day Two of my trip the 17th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival at the historic Castro Theatre! There were a lot more films to see today, as well as a very interesting and informational presentation on digital film restoration.

The AMAZING TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES: INTO THE DIGITAL FRONTIER was hosted by festival staff member Anita Monga and featured guest speakers Andrea Kalas, Vice President of Archives at Paramount Pictures and Grover Crisp, Senior Vice President of Film Restoration and Digital Mastering at Sony Pictures. Kalas talked about the restoration of WINGS (which opened the festival last night and is available on both Blu-Ray and DVD at and all the little details that went into this project. Crisp discussed the restoration of DR. STRANGELOVE and presented a side by side compassion of the original film print and the newly restored digital copy. He also did the same thing for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Both Kalas and Crisp participated in a Q&A session with the audience.

The first film screened was LITTLE TOYS (XIAO WANYI), a rare long lost Chinese silent film. Directed by Sun Yu, it starred Ruan Lingyu as Sister Ye, who lives in a rural village where everyone makes traditional toys. However, a series of unfortunate incidents occur in succession: her husband dies of an unknown illness, her son is kidnapped and sold to a wealthy lady in Shanghai, and her village is destroyed during an attack, forcing them to relocate to the city to keep making their toys. Ten years later, another series of unfortunate events occur, leaving Sister Ye besides herself. Blending life, love, and political and social issues, it's no wonder that the Hong Kong Film Awards voted it as part of the 100 best Chinese films of all time. Actress Ruan Lingyu was an icon of the Chinese Cinema, and after seeing this film, it's easy to understand why! Sweet, tragic, kind, and heartbreaking are just some of the emotions Lingyu conveyed in the film. The film was originally released by Lianhua Film Company in 1933 and this print came courtesy from the China Film Archive.  Providing the musical score was Donald Sosin on the grand piano.

The second film of the day was Ernst Lubitsch's THE LOVES OF PHARAOH (DAS WEIB DES PHARAO), his last big film production before he left Germany for Hollywood.The film's about Pharao Amenes (Emil Jannings), who agrees to accept the Ethiopian King Samlak's daughter Makeda's (Lyda Salmonova) hand in order to secure peace between them. However Pharao Amenes fall in love with Makeda's slave girl Theonis (Dagny Servaes). However things become even more complicated when Theonis falls madly in love with a young Egyptian named Ramphis (Harry Liedtke). Lubitsch wanted to prove to Hollywood that he too could make a blockbuster epic with a cast of thousands shot on elaborate sets, complete with a dramatic script. Thought to have been lost, the film was restored in DCP (Digital Cinema Package) from a wide variety of film print resources. The film was originally produced by Ernst Lubitsch-Film and Europäische Film-Allianz and released here in the states by Parmount Pictures on February 21, 1922. This print source came from Alpha-Omega GmbH. Accompanying the film was the great Dennis James on the Mighty Wurlitzer.

Theatrical Movie Poster (1926)
Film number three for today was the comedy MANTRAP. Based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis and directed by Victor Fleming, the film stars the enchanting Clara Bow as Alverna, a manicurist who meets and marries a small town Canadian woodsman named Joe Easter (Ernest Torrence). However, the girl loves to flirt with the men, and she falls for a rich and famous New York divorce attorney named Ralph Prescott (Percy Marmont), who is visiting their small rural town on vacation. Bow was sexy and funny, which caused many men to fall in love with her. After watching her in this film, how could you not? I totally fell in love with her! Bow had great on screen chemistry with both of her male leads, which elevated that film and made it more accessible to audiences. The film was originally released by Paramount Pictures on July 24, 1926. The film print came from The Library of Congress. Musician Stephen Horne provided the musical accompaniment.

The final film of the night was part of the festival's Director's Picks series, where they invite a Hollywood filmmaker to pick their favorite silent film. Tonight's filmmaker was San Francisco treasure Philip Kaufman! His film pick for the festival was the amazing THE WONDERFUL LIE OF NINA PETROVNA, directed by Hans Schwarz and stars the absolutely stunning Brigitte Helm as Nina Petrown. In the film Nina  is currently dating the high ranking German officer Col. Beranoff (Warwick Ward), but in secret, she is madly in love with lowly officer Lt. Michael Rostof (Francis Lederer but billed here as Franz Lederer). The story was just gripping, Schwarz's directing was just fantastic! Using effective sweeps, camera pans, and close-ups to tell this romantic and tragic story of young love was both beautiful and heart wrenching! Helm was simply incredible in the film! She is famous to most silent film fans for her portrayal of Maria and The Machine Man in Fritz Lang's 1927 science fiction masterpiece METROPOLIS. The film was originally released by legendary German studio UFA on May 30, 1930. The film sourse came courtesy from the F.W. Murnau Stiftung. Providing the musical accompaniment was the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra,

Another fun-filled day was had by all, especially for this silent film buff! There are still two more days of the SF Silent Film Festival, so if you would like to know more about the festival and its film schedule, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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