Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Phil attends the Opening Night of the 24th SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL at the Castro Theatre - May 1, 2019

After a long five year absence, I finally made my way to the City by the Bay to attend the fantastic San Francisco Silent Film festival!! Again, the last time I attended the festival was back in 2014, not counting the Greatest Hits by Club Foot Orchestra one day event I attended back in September of 2018. This was a very big deal to me, and I could not wait to emerse myself again in this cinematic treasure trove of long, lost, rarely seen silent films!

I arrived to the historic Castro Theatre (aka The Cathedral of Cinema) early to help set-up the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum table up on the mezzanine. It was nice to have the theatre quiet and pretty much all to myself. I made my way to the front row, where I picked out my favorite seat for tonight's opening film, and boy oh boy, was I ever looking forward to seeing it again!!

Before the film, the festival The 2019 SFSFF Award for commitment to the preservation of silent cinema will be presented to Gian Luca Farinelli on behalf of the Cineteca di Bologna before the screening. The Italian archive has taken the lead in restoring Keaton’s entire body of work.

The opening night film of the festival was a silent comedy classic starring Mr. Stoneface himself, Buster Keaton. THE CAMERAMAN was Keaton's first film for MGM under his new contract. Our friend portrays a tin-type photographer who falls madly in love with Sally (Marceline Day), a secretary who works for MGM Newsreels. To be close to her, he abandons in his old camera career and attempts to become a motion picture cameraman. Soon Buster is out on the streets, shooting anything and everything, but there's just one problem: he's not very good. But when Sally gives him a tip on a hot story, he rushes into what I think is one of the funniest action scenes ever captured onto celluloid! Helping Buster out is his new partner: a talented street preforming monkey who knows how to work a movie camera! Yes folks, it's that funny!

As I previously stated, this was Keaton's first film for MGM. However, within a year of his contract, the studio took away Keaton's creative control over his pictures, which in the long run harmed his career. He would later say that his move to MGM was "the worst mistake of my career." But fans have called it his best work, and it was added to the National Film Registry in 2005! The film was released to theaters on September 22, 1928. In 2004, Turner Classic Movies (TCM as it's affectionately known) released a boxset entitled Buster Keaton Collection, which included THE CAMERAMAN as well as two other films. The film that was shown was the new 4k digital restoration undertaken by The Criterion Collection, Warner Bros., and Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna. The musical accompaniment was done by Timothy Brock conducting the amazing and crazy talented students of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music! These students blew me away with their high level of musicianship!! I hope the festival has them come back next year!

After the film, we all made our way to the after party, which was held yet again at the McRoskey Mattress Company building down on Market Street! There were food, fine wines and some very good micro beers for the guests to enjoy while listening to great music! Fun was had by all!

What a night I had! And there's still four more days of silent films to watch! So come on out to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, here at the Castro Theatre! To view the festival's film schedule, purchase tickets and passes, location of hotels to stay at during the festival, please visit their official website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

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