Arts & Events
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents its annual summer event July 18–21 at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. This year's festival features a wide range of genres from an array of nations: Germany, Japan, Sweden, Bali, the USSR, the UK, Denmark, France, and America.
Here are a few highlights. The complete schedule and ticket information can be found at silentfilmorg.
The opening night film, Prix de Beauté (France, 1930), features the last starring role for Louise Brooks, the silent-era actress who has perhaps retained her allure better than any other. It's a rare screening of a film that has long been overshadowed by Brooks' work with director G.W. Pabst, especially Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. Piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne.
Friday's screenings include Tokyo Chorus (Japan, 1931), a beloved early film by the great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, who demonstrates here the deft handling of both drama and comedy that would characterize his work for decades afterward. It concerns some of the filmmaker's enduring themes: the dreams and realities of everyday middle-class life, and the pleasures and pains of family dynamics. Music by Günter Buchwald.
One of Marion Davies' effervescent comedies, The Patsy (USA, 1928), shows at 7 p.m. Directed by the great King Vidor, Davies reveals the folly of her paramour, William Randolph Hearst, who felt comedy was beneath her, by delivering an energetic and charismatic performance, complete with impressions of other stars of the day, including Lillian Gish and Pola Negri. If not for Hearst, we might have had a full complement of Davies comedies, and she might have rightly taken her place among the best comedic actors of her day. Music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.
Saturday morning starts with cartoons. John Canemaker, author of Winsor McCay: His Life and Art, will give a presentation about the pioneer animator that includes several of his best known works: Little Nemo (1911), Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), How a Mosquito Operates (1912), and The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918). Piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne.
A rarely screened Douglas Fairbanks film shows at noon Saturday. Directed by the great Allan Dwan, The Half-Breed (USA, 1916) was filmed in part near Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Wurlitzer accompaniment by Günter Buchwald.
Greta Garbo, another of the great sirens of the silent era, appears in Joyless Street (Germany, 1925) at 8:30 p.m., restored and reconstructed to get as close as possible to director G.W. Pabst's original cut. The film was censored for both its sexual and sociopolitical content as it highlighted the growing disparity between rich and poor in Weimar-era Germany. Music by the Matti Bye Ensemble.
Sunday starts at 10 a.m. with short films by the great comedians. Film preservationist Serge Bromberg presents new transfers of some of his favorite short comedies, including Buster Keaton's The Love Nest (USA, 1923) and Charlie Chaplin's The Immigrant (USA, 1917). Music by Günter Buchwald.
At 11 a.m. the festival will screen The Outlaw and His Wife (Sweden, 1918), one of the best films by the pioneering director Victor Sjöstrom of Sweden. Sjostrom was one of the most important cinema figures of his day, the only filmmaker to rival D.W. Griffith for artistry and innovation in the 1910s. Music by the Matti Bye Ensemble.
The Last Edition (1927), showing at 3:30 p.m., is sure to be a treat for Bay Area filmgoers. The movie is about a San Francisco Chronicle pressman and was shot throughout The City. Piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne.
The festival closes Sunday night with an 8:30 p.m. screening of Harold Lloyd's 1923 classic Safety Last!, which features the famous image of Lloyd dangling from the face of a clock above downtown Los Angeles. The film is the best known example of Lloyd's "thrill comedy," in which he sought to increase the laughs by increasing the danger. Music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.
For a complete schedule and to order tickets, check out silentfilm.org.