Friday, July 30, 2010

The 30th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival - the Castro Week Highlights

The 30th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the world’s first and largest Jewish film festival, will be held July 24 – August 9, 2010, in San Francisco, Berkeley, the Peninsula and Marin County. For films, schedules, venues and tickets, visit and its programming pages.

Instead of delving into a slew of DVD press screeners for the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival this year, I decided I needed to be there in person, as much as possible.  By this point, after Frameline, the SF Silent Film Festival and (my unreported) dozen or so screeners for the SF IndieFest Horror Fest (aka Another Hole in the Head), not to mention reacquainting myself with Matthew Barney's seven-plus hour CREMASTER CYCLE, all within a month of each other, I got a bit burnt out.  But after last year's commotion at the SFJFF, and due to the number of live performances scheduled this year, I felt I really wanted to attend, live and as freshly as possible. Here are my highlights from the first week of the SFJFF, as it opens at the Castro, before moving on to Berkeley, Marin and parts beyond, and returning to San Francisco at the SF Jewish Community Center.

Opening Night began with a traditional review of festival trailers. This year's trailer is actually stood up pretty well against the collection.  Introductory comments were presented by Dana Doron, President of the Board, who in turn introduced a corporate sponsor. This was perhaps the only unfortunately dull section of the program, until Doron introduced Executive Director, Peter Stein and the new Program Director, Jay Rosenblatt.  Peter is always a hoot to watch and listen to as a speaker!  Jay Rosenblatt appeared a bit nervous in his debut (as well as displaying a surprising tenor of a speaking voice) as he introduced the opening night film.

SAVIORS IN THE NIGHT (dir. Ludi Boeken, France/Germany, 2009, 100 mins.)
The film follows the true story of Jewish refugees who were successfully hidden from the Nazi regime by fellow Germans. Yes, I know it sounds like I just gave away a HUGE spoiler, however, it works as wells as a study of the relationships between the regime, the faithful and those who were attempting to survive. There is a little girl in the cast, who thankfully is not asked to cross the line into precociousness or "cuteness", but has been expertly directed to be overwhelmed the situation. The mothers of the farm family as well as the refugees are both wonderfully portrayed and give riveting performances. Though it could be dangerously called a "happy holocaust film", it is a relief (as well as a choice opening night selection) to pick a film that presents hope in the human condition under the worst of circumstances. Following the film, the woman whose life it was based on, Marga Spiegel (who received an exceptionally warm standing ovation), director Ludi Boeken and principal actor Lia Hoensbroech were present for an in depth interview with Mr. Rosenblatt and a smattering of audience Q&A. (Next screenings: Sat, July 31 2010, 6:45pm Cinearts @ Palo Alto Square‎; Sat, August 7 2010, 7:00pm, The Roda Theatre @ Berkeley Repertory Theatre; Mon, August 9 2010, 6:15pm, Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center)

HUNGRY HEARTS (dir. E. Mason Hopper, USA, 1922, 80 min) This fairly melodramatic silent film was accompanied by an enthusiastic, if not nearly psychedelic score composed by Ethan Miller (Howlin’ Rain, Comets on Fire) performed by the Moab Strangers, which formed specifically for this project, including Bay Area psychedelic rock and folk heroes Matt Baldwin, Utrillo Kushner (Colossal Yes, Comets on Fire), Joel Robinow (Drunk Horse). I found the combination of the score and the on-screen histrionics of newly arrived Jewish immigrants faced with the injustices of settling in New York City, combined perfectly, particularly during the climatic meltdown scene, at which time a portion of the audience (including myself) erupted in spontaneous applause. (In fact, I had the same euphoric feeling I have when watching Bill Morrison's DECASIA with Michael Gordon's score.)  Unfortunately, it was a one-time only performance for this festival.
A ROOM AND A HALF (dir. Andrey Khrzhanovsky, Russia, 2008, 130 mins.) As Jay Rosenblatt introduced the film with an excerpt of the Variety review, as a "fantasia of memory", nearly perfectly describes this wild ride of a biography of Nobel poet laureate, Joseph Brodsky. The stunning mixture of technique and styles including archival footage, original animation, and a kaleidoscopic combination of cinematographic techniques and the classical and period soundtrack used in film the dramatic narrative gives the screenplay a near Proustian weight and depth. It is an exhilirating couple of hours and worth catching at its encore screenings! (Next screenings: Mon, August 2, 2010, 6:00pm, The Roda Theatre  Berkeley Repertory Theatre)

ANITA (dir. Marcos Carnevale, 2009, Argentina, 104 mins.) This was featured as the Centerpiece Film of the San Francisco portion of the festival and features one of the most charming and warm performances of the festival, by Alejandra Manzo, who is living with Down Syndrome.  (She was present for the Q&A.) After the Jewish neighborhood suffers a bombing, 'Anita' finds herself wandering lost in the city and proceeds on a Candide-like series of episodes. The film does tread treacherously into 'made-for-tv' melodrama, but it is rescued nearly single handedly by Ms. Manzo's surprisingly uncloying and sincere performance. (Next screenings: Sun, August 1 2010, 6:30pm, Cinearts @ Palo Alto Square‎; Tue, August 3 2010, 6:30pm, The Roda Theatre, at Berkeley Repertory Theatre)

THE "SOCALLED" MOVIE (dir. Garry Beitel, 2010, Canada, 87 mins.) Socalled (aka Josh Dolgin): Frankly, I can not describe this biographic documentary of musician, rapper, composer, magician, filmmaker and visual artist, who calls himself "Socalled" (aka Josh Dolgin) better than the program notes: "...Blasting through the boundaries that separate different cultures, eras and generations, Socalled creates a wholly unique sound combining klezmer, funk, soul and hip-hop. Not too shabby for a nice Jewish boy from Montreal. Socalled is a musical alchemist, always looking for the next old thing to make new again, whether it’s introducing funk trombone legend Fred Wesley (of James Brown’s famous band, the J.B.’s) or inspiring 1950s lounge pianist Irving Fields to pen a new hit song. Shot partly in Socalled’s Montreal neighborhood, where Hasidic Jews and hipsters crowd the sidewalks, and following him on tour through New York, France and an emotionally spiritual trip back to his ancestral home of the Ukraine, The “Socalled” Movie is a dynamic, kaleidoscopic portrait of an iconoclastic artist at the peak of his powers."  'Socalled' was present for a short concert after the screening in San Francisco, and his charm and joy was infectious! 

 It was accompanied by the short subject, MAURICE AT THE WORLD'S FAIR (dir. Spike Jonez, 2010, US, 4 mins.), which relates a childhood memory of Maurice Sendak exacting some revenge against his big sister, featuring Catherine Keener in an array of roles in the dramatic recreation. I love her!

(Next screenings: Sat, August 7 2010, 9:15pm, The Roda Theatre, at Berkeley Repertory Theatre)

A pair of semi-short subjects are screening together, which feature the Holocaust survival stories of two very different, but similarly strong women. INGELORE (dir. Frank Stiefel, 2009, USA, 40 mins.) focuses on Ingelore Herz Honigstein, who was born deaf and narrates in speech and sign the harrowing events leading up to her immigration to America from Nazi Germany. "Frank Stiefel’s portrait of his mother is both a loving tribute and a remarkable feat of compressed storytelling."  

SURVIVING HITLER: A LOVE STORY (dir. John-Keith Wasson, 2010, USA, 65 mins.)  Tells a similar story, however its subject, Jutta Cords is an exceptionally verbose interview subject. Her story of the romance with a German soldier, which ends up involved in the "Valkyrie" project to assassinate Hitler, is what Hollywood dramas are made of.  It is a riveting story told by a riveting speaker.

Both directors were present, as well as Ingelore Herz Honigstein, who proved to be quite the 'witness' during her public appearance.

(Next screenings: Wed, August 4 2010, 2:15pm The Roda Theatre, at Berkeley Repertory Theatre - Free Admission)

BUDRUS (dir. Julia Bacha, 2009, USA, 82 mins.) This film is currently becoming an audience and jury favorite documentary on the festival circuit and appears to be Oscar bound. It is both an infuriating, yet in the end an immensely moving document of a peaceful resistance movement that took place in the Palenstinian West Bank against the Israeli attempt to surround the village of Budrus with a wall. The movement is led by Ayed Morrar, who successfully involves the politically far flung factions of the village, as well as involving the eager female citizens. The film also has a great deal of footage and interviews with the Israeli soldiers who were involved in this helpless face down. I was truly surprised by how moved I was by the achievement that Morrar's peace movement (or as the producer describes him: "the Ghandi of the Middle East") was able and continues to influence the occupation of the West Bank.  (Next screenings: Sun, August 1 2010, 6:45pm, The Roda Theatre, at Berkeley Repertory Theatre)

A FILM UNFINISHED (dir. Yael Hersonski, 2009, Israel, 89 mins.)  This is a nearly painful visual experience of the recovery and restoration of a lost "documentary" from the Third Reich which portrays the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto. It was incomplete, so director Hersonski proceeds to attempt to piece it together in an attempt to decipher not only the propoganda behind the piece, but also reveals some truly tragic scenes of treatment. She has also gathered some of the survivors who actually appear in the film and/or were witnesses to the staging of some of the scenes. She also was able to obtain the diaries of the "mayor" of the ghetto, which describes his disgust in being involved in the production's creation. It is nearly as painful to watch the participants watch the film, as it is to see the scenes of the deaths in the streets of the ghetto. A particularly sobering experience. (Next screenings: Sat, July 31 2010, 4:15pm, Cinearts @ Palo Alto Square; Sun, August 1 2010, 4:15pm, The Roda Theatre @ Berkeley Repertory Theatre; Sat, August 7 2010, 4:45pm, Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center)

To bring the week at the Castro to a close, the festival chose to present THE KLEZMATICS: ON HOLY GROUND (dir. Erik Anjou, 2010, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Poland, USA, Color, 105 mins.), which is something of a party in itself! I am only vaguely acquainted with this Grammy winning klezmer/world music/jazz fusion band, but am quickly a fan, after watching this documentary, as well as the mini-concert that a pair of the members gave at the Q&A following the screening.  The film itself is described pretty honestly and accurately by Peter Stein in the program: "...[the film] combines the best elements of a backstage doc, a concert film and an eye-opening lesson in remixing Jewish culture."

(Next screenings: Sat, July 31 2010, 7:00pm, The Roda Theatre @ Berkeley Repertory Theatre and features a post-film reception in the Roda courtyard.)

Maxxxxx says re the faves of the week, which  based around music, i.e. HUNGRY HEARTS, THE KLAZMATICS: "Dooby doobie dooo-ooo!"

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The epic art film of the century (so far) THE CREMASTER CYCLE (dir. Matthew Barney,  USA, 1994-2002, 540 minutes, approximately - who's counting?), Matthew Barney's seven hour opus to the cremaster (the muscle which controls the descent of the testicles) returns to San Francisco at the Roxie Theatre, after it's huge engagement at the Castro Theatre seven years ago. It will be accompanied by his latest film, DE LAMA LAMINA (commented upon below), but frankly I'd pass on that just to make more energy and room and time for The Cycle! 

Since Matthew Barney is an ARTIST, people generally love him or loathe him.  If you love him, you probably need not read further as you already have your Cycle Tickets and are going, unless you want to read another, though brief, interpretation of his work here.  If you are new to Matthew Barney, fear not!  You do not need to see the entire 7 hours in a gulp.  I would suggest, if you were to pick and peck at the Cycle, that you begin with Cycle 5. Yes, the ending.  The music by Jonathan Bepler, who scores the entire cycle, is glorious, the visuals are (unusually) accessible and there is even Ursula Andress to look upon to add to the beauty of the piece. It is also one of the hour long episodes.

If you are a newbie and feeling adventurous, then dive into Cremaster 3, the longest of the Cycle at three hours. The production values and artistry are jaw dropping!!  The musical score is dreamy and chaotic. It is a mammoth piece, taking place in the Chrysler Building as well as the Guggenheim Museum, and features Richard Serra, Aimee Mullins and the punk band, Grand Masters. (The Guggenheim Museum sequence is the only section of the entire Cycle that is or ever will be (legitimately) available on DVD.)  It is not quite as accessible as episodes 5 or 1, unless you are familiar with Celtic and Masonic rituals. However, it fits quite nicely in the Cycle as a whole, compared to episode 2.  I would NOT recommend episode 2. Actually, if it weren't so early in the cycle, it would make for a nice dinner break for even some of the Barney-heads, I'm sure!

So, what is all the commotion about?  Yes, I could be somewhat snide and say that Matthew Barney has created a seven-hour art film about his testicles dropping.   However, it does dig deeper into the psyche of his view of masculinity and 'manhood', in all it's forms: biological, psychological, emotional, spiritual. His performances (he appears throughout the Cycle) are quite athletic and robust and, quite often, features himself in the nude. Cycle parts 1, 3, 4 and 5 follow this interpretation quite nicely.  Cycle 2 (aka the Gary Gilmore episode) feels out of place at best. Even after reading quite a bit of analysis of Cycle 2, I still fail to grasp what Gary Gilmore and his Mormon upbringing (HOW did Matthew Barney get the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to cooperate?!) have to do with the cremaster.

I would have switched the sequence of parts 2 and 4. The films were not made in numerical order, but rather in the order of 4 (1994), 1 (1995), 5 (1997), 2 (1999) and 3 (2002).)   Cycle 4 is generally regarded as the most biological interpretation, with the racing of two motorcyclists around the Isle of Man, their target is Matthew Barney as a satyr waiting for them on a pier, and it would fit quite nicely after Cycle 1's dueling Goodyear Blimps. Cycle 3 features Barney having to test himself in Celtic and Masonic rituals: sort of the coming of age of a man. (Then I would have inserted Cycle 4, featuring the murderer, I guess?)  Cycle 5 is definitely the most romantic and spiritual piece, as he reaches a climax. Literally.

Overall, I am gobsmacked at the enormous production values for an 'art project'!  It is nearly Wagnerian in scope.  The Roxie is offering "Marathon Passes" for the weekend screenings.  The theatre has also broken it down into consecutive mini-cycles during the week for those unsure of taking it in one big 7 hour gulp!

For the TRULY DEVOUT Matthew Barney fan, The Cycle is being accompanied by his DE LAMA LAMINA (dir. Matthew Barney, US, date?, 55 mins.)  However, if you ARE truly devout then you have probably seen his HOIST (included in shorts compilation DESTRICTED) which is cut into this document of his performance of the piece at the Carnaval de Slavador da Bahia, Brazil. Though probably the most exhibitionistic of his works that I know of (yes, it features a full erection), I also feel it is the most mundane, if not provocative for its own sake, of his works.  Find HOIST on DVD and save yourself an hour.

Maxxxxx says re THE CREMASTER CYCLE:  "Is it time for shower??!"

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Pagina Perdida

I received a mysterious email, with a link to this trailer for "an intriguing scenario and inhabited by strange characters, "Lost Page” ("Página Perdida") is an abstract film, the result of a powerfull visual dimension created by Lucas Moreira added to the experimental electro-acoustic music of Marcelo Armani.
Produced by Sanglant Films and Department of Culture of São Leopoldo."

It is called: Pagina Perdida

I want to see more....!

Maxxxxx says"Ooooo!"

 You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

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San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2010 - Closing Night

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is held every July at The Castro Theatre and is the largest silent film festival in the country. In its fifteenth year, the festival expands to four days and eighteen programs, July 15 - 18, 2010. Ticket information is available here:

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival wrapped up it's intensive weekend of programming (SIX A DAY?!), featuring an old favorite of mine and a new found group that I now love.

I have seen MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA (dir. Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1929, 70 mins.) with the Alloy Orchestra live at least four, perhaps five times now, as well as watched the DVD many times. The film is hypnotic and the cacophonous score reaches a near catharsis. When I first saw this, I had already "done" the QATSI Trilogy, and was left a bit taken aback by Godfrey Reggio's unabashed lifting of entire elements from Vertov's film. I don't know what more to say about MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA except that it is a MUST SEE, and preferably with the Alloy Orchestra score!   The film was preceded by the archetypal classic TRIP TO THE MOON (dir. Georges Méliès, France, 1902, 14 mins.), accompanied by Donald Sosin. I'd never seen it in its entirety, so that was sort of nifty. However, except for its iconic imagery, the campiness is really far overplayed. Ah, those French...!  Which leads me to the final feature of this year's festival.

L'HEUREUSE MORT (dir. Serge Nadejdine, France, 1924, 83 mins.), accompanied by the Matti Bye Ensemble.  This was introduced by Leonard Maltin, who gave the audience plaudits for trusting the SFSFF enough to pack the house for a literally unknown film, by a fairly unknown director, with music by a group fairly new to California. (The Matti Bye Ensemble is from Sweden.)  The film, in short, is a HOOT of a farce! Briefly, a bad playwright (played by the screenwriter, Nicolas Rimsky) is mistakenly left for dead and then, ironically revered and finds new fortune in death. So, he and his wife (a deftly subtle and wonderful Lucie Larue) play along with that. Yes, I laughed! And, yes, there were twists that even the 85 year old film was able to pull off without giving anything away! The score was a lovely, eighty minute, bittersweet waltz, which underscored the desperate situation that our characters found themselves. (I DID walk out humming the waltz!) I LOVED the music that Matti Bye composed for this. His arrangement fully utilized the instrumental, vocal and comedic talents of his five piece ensemble. Had I known how lovely his sound is, I would have bought the three CDs available there. (There is only one available at and it is an import.) I MUST HAVE!  I was thrilled to end the exhausting weekend with a new find!

(The film was preceded, as were all of the features, by a Georges Méliès film, which I have been amiss in reporting on. As TRIP TO THE MOON is probably the most well-known, that was the one which I attempted a full report. The rest of them were... sillier!) 

Maxxxxx says re L'HEUREUSE MORT  :  "Dooby doobie dooo-ooo!"

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2010 - Day 3 (aka I AM Harry Langdon!)

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is held every July at The Castro Theatre and is the largest silent film festival in the country. In its fifteenth year, the festival expands to four days and eighteen programs, July 15 - 18, 2010. Ticket information is available here:

Still coming through the exhaustive experience of the previous night's METROPOLIS, I attended only two of the six programs today. The first being a panel made up of members from each of the festival musicians, each of whom explained their craft and ideology in performing with silent films.  In summary: Dennis James ("the Master of the Mighty Wurlitzer") was by far the self proclaimed purist. He researches for the complete score and then the music of the period, then uses details from the film to fill in what might be missing. Donald Sosin (pianist) is just a step left of this, in that his method relies on a lot of preparation and analysis of the film, though he is not as much of a purist as far as material.  The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra prepares scores with pieces from the period, usually stringing together a program of "quotes" that they feel is as purist as a small ensemble can become during a performance.  The Matti Bye Ensemble prepares original material based upon a thorough dissection of the film and the nuances of the characters within it. Stephen Horne (pianist and some winds) likes to improvise and I have always found his style to be impressionistic; almost Satie- like. The Alloy Orchestra feels they are the "bad boys" of the business as anything goes for them and they LOVE to improvise, even beyond their prepared scores.  The group was moderated by Chloe Veltman, however her questions were so open and vague that the musicians had a hard time answering. She opened it up to an audience Q&A, but, frankly, that scared me and I left for a break.

The next program I attended was introduced by Stacey Wisnia, who presented the SF Silent Film Festival Preservation Award (I need to check that!) to Photoplay Productions, which was represented by (apparent silent film aficionado icons) Kevin Brownlow and Patrick Stanbury.  (They received a standing ovation!) Brownlow gave a lovely acceptance speech and introduced THE STRONG MAN. 

I have found the spirit that has unknowingly haunted me until now: Harry Langdon, in THE STRONG MAN (dir. Frank Capra, US, 1926, 76 mins.)  I am Harry Langdon!  I almost could not laugh at the foibles and bits performed, for I was just seeing too much of ME in it to enjoy it!  I used to LIVE to perform that kind of hysterical-deadpan!  Even with the mutated frame-rate, his timing was precious. (He had a short lived career, having committed suicide, but I must do more research!) The plot is a bit more slapstick bound than one expects from Frank Capra, but there is still a moral of course.  Stephen Horne's accompaniment was not as "moving" as I am used to hearing from him, but then I was surprised that he was playing for a comedy.

The festival was beginning to run late at this point, and though I intended to return for the late show HAXAN: Witchcraft Through the Ages, it was reportedly running over 45 minutes late, so I am sort of glad I passed and stayed home.  Which leads me to my one qualm with the festival:  It is a bit like a convention, as far as making the extra time for book signings and merchandising in the mezzanine area.  Even though there is a solid hour slotted between programs for this, the festival was still running nearly an hour behind by the end of each night.  This might also be due to the complicated sound checks as the performers are setting up?  I don't know. I just think the timing is the one thing that would snap the event together.

Maxxxxx says re THE STRONG MAN:  "I'm Maxxxxxx!"

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2010 - Day 2 (METROPOLIS, plus!)

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is held every July at The Castro Theatre and is the largest silent film festival in the country. In its fifteenth year, the festival expands to four days and eighteen programs, July 15 - 18, 2010. Ticket information is available here:

It would be easy to be dismissive of the majority of the day's programming and go straight to the big event, but that seems unfair...

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival has a fairly high educational quotient about it. The program notes are in the form of a booklet; the introductions are by experts on the subjects of the film; the Q&A's are always moderated and not open (which is a good thing, IMHO!). The festival started the second day with the seminarial "Amazing Tales from the Archives", which is a program consisting selected archivists speaking of their latest finds and projects. The "...Archives" program is for the pretty hard core silent film enthusiast, as can get very technical and, for the uninitiated, trivial. Of course, this year, with the restored METROPOLIS screening, the featured speakers were Paula Felix Didier and Fernando Peña from Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, who are responsible for the find. (They were preceded by Kyle Westphal and Ken Fox, who presented projects, including the restoration of Kodachrome dual-color process reels.) Though Didier and Peña wanted to speak more of Argentina's film history and their current project involving early films of tangos, they found themselves compelled to talk about METROPOLIS, which they would repeat before the evening presentation. (So, more on that, later!)

The next program was A SPRAY OF PLUM BLOSSOMS (dir. Bu Wancang, China, 1931, 100 mins.), which is an adaptation of Shakespeare's TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, set in Shanghai. Unfortunately, the entire production, including Donald Sosin's piano accompaniment was all so "pleasant" that I promptly fell asleep, and can not really speak to it beyond that.

The evening began with ROTAIE (dir. Mario Camerini, Italy, 1928,91 mins.), which executive director, Anita Monga introduced with the notes about what a rare opportunity it was to have the Italian print! She compared it to Murnau's SUNRISE, which from my perspective was spot on. I loved this film!  Kathe von Nagy plays a newlywed to a handsome rogue (Maurizio D'Ancora), who resembles a YOUNG Frank Langella at points. I found myself glued to Nagy's every expression as she watches and bears her husband's descent into gambling addiction and found Stephen Holder's score quite moving. The finale is a bit "tacked on" seeing as director Camerini was a "futurist" and therefor felt compelled to add a big of a Socialist message on as a lesson. Sigh.

Then, the crowd (the "rush ticket" line started over two hours earlier!) packed in for METROPOLIS (dir. Fritz Lang, Germany, 1927, 150 mins.) (photo by JimmyD), which was introduced by Paula Felix Didier and Fernando Peña from Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires. Their tale of the find actually rests on the irony that Peña knew where the complete film was stored for nearly 20 years, but unable to access it due to bureaucracy.  That, plus the fact that he and the new administrator, Didier, knew each other from a previous relationship, does make for an interesting film idea in itself.  Anyway, there are thousands of words out there about the technical aspects of the restored print, so I'll just add that as much as I actually dreaded the idea of MORE flood footage, the final third ("Furiouso") actually flows better now with the complete escape of the children. The inclusion of  "the Thin Man" subplot did not seem so fulfilling.  Of course, the Alloy Orchestra's live score was nothing short of brilliant (garnering a standing ovation!) and Kino will be including that on the DVD-BluRay release! (The film will screen with the recorded soundtrack at the Castro for a few days in August.)

Maxxxxx says re METROPOLIS: "Whooooooo!"

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Friday, July 16, 2010

San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2010 - Opening Night (THE IRON HORSE)

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is held every July at The Castro Theatre and is the largest silent film festival in the country. In its fifteenth year, the festival expands to four days and eighteen programs, July 15 - 18, 2010. Ticket information is available here:

The 15th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival (marquee photo by JimmyD) launched one of its most exciting years of programming with a definite understatement tonight. Though the house was pretty full, there wasn't the 'sold out buzz' that accompanies these events, as it was solidly three-quarters full, and started exactly on time. SF Silent Film Festival Board President, Judy Wyler Sheldon, gave the preface of acknowledgments to sponsors, staff, members and volunteers, and spoke only briefly about the programming for the rest of the weekend. She then introduced the speaker, or in this case, lecturer (whose name I did NOT catch! Must make better notes!), who proceeded to basically read the program notes to us, with a couple inserted anecdotes. (So desolate was the location in Nevada that the production provided a bordello for the crew!). His presentation, sitting in front of the theatre as if we were a class was both quirky and underwhelming. He also had the privilege of introducing the musician for the evening: Dennis James, who would be accompanying the film at the Mighty Wurlitzer!

THE IRON HORSE (dir. John Ford, 1924, US, 150 mins.) John Ford sort of had a Werner Herzog moment and dragged 400 cast and crewmembers into the Nevada desert to recreate the completion of the Transcontinental Railway, connecting the Union Pacific and Central Pacific rail lines. (Conditions were so extreme during the winter that a crew member died of pneumonia.) The spectacle of this army actually building a railroad does get a little lost in the obligatory, slow pacing of such a feat.  However, John Ford filled his cast with some quirky Western archetypes to keep subplots juggling. He cast a pair of gorgeous young lovers-to-be, who are caught on two sides of the animosity of invading the West in George O'Brien and Madge Bellamy. They are ably set against a two fingered murderer and a foppish engineering bureaucrat. They perform simply and are great to just look at in close-up.  Ford also has a trio of "clowns" and just to ratchet up the patriotism, a pair of presidential look-a-likes. Oh, and for the "effusively politically correct", you would have to look past his casting of "injuns and chinamen."

The print was in fairly good condition, though it did require a "brief intermission" between reels at one point. (A footer break?) Dennis James was also the tiniest bit off, either from the print or it may have been the first time out of all the hours I've seen him perform with such majestic perfection, that when he hit a wrong chord, there was a "plop" out there at one point. The film's pacing doesn't help him either, as only various Indian attacks break the dirge of the building of the rails.  I think the low key audience was also relatively restless, exemplified by the woman kicking the back of my chair and the man next to me who NEEDED TO FAN himself, in the 60 degree Castro Theatre.

The film was followed by a pleasant little reception sponsored by McRowsky's and catered by Poesia Restaurant.  I am hoping that this "early opening" (this is the first year that the festival started on a Thursday night), is just the low key prelude to an incredible weekend!  Friday (aka Metropolis night!) should be insane!

Maxxxxx says re George O'Brien: "Such a pretty bird!"

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

News from the SF Silent Film Festival!!

The latest press release from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival: opening NEXT WEEK!!

 Swedish musician Matti Bye will have his West Coast debut at the Festival


Dear Friend of Silent Film,

The drums have arrived! All the percussion Alloy Orchestra needs to perform their amazing scores for METROPOLIS and MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA was just delivered to our Market Street offices. Matti Bye and his ensemble in Sweden, and Stephen Horne in England, are packing their bags in preparation for their trip across the pond. The Taylor family is setting the pistons for the master of the Mighty Wurlitzer, Dennis James. And that’s not even to mention the splendid Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra and the fantastic Donald Sosin. The Festival is upon us!

This summer’s festival celebrates the un-silent part of the Silent Film Festival: the music that creates the complete and singular cinematic experience that you know and love – masterpieces from the silent era accompanied by world-class musicians. All of the festival musicians are fine-tuning their scores and preparing their contributions to our extraordinary new program VARIATIONS ON A THEME, moderated by Chloe Veltman, New York Times contributor and host of KALW’s VoiceBox. This is a program that you simply cannot miss!

Two exciting additions to this year’s Silent Film Festival:
Get your picture taken in the Metropolis Photo Booth! Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Museum

Custom-made Silent Film Festival silkscreen posters by artist David O’Daniel will be on sale in the Castro mezzanine. Browse a sampling of his brilliant work on his website.

You can find the full program and ticketing information for the 15th Anniversary Festival below and on our website. If you don’t yet have your tickets and passes yet, now is the time to get them. And don’t forget that becoming a member entitles you to discounts on those tickets and passes!

Looking forward to seeing you next week!

Warmest Regards,
Stacey, Anita, Jeremy, and Lucia

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival
833 Market Street, Suite 812
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel 415-777-4908; fax 415-777-4904

By making your annual membership contribution today, you'll receive discounts on admissions and party tickets for our 15th Anniversary Silent Film Festival in July and our Winter Event! To renew, become a member, or review member levels and benefits, please click here.
And don’t forget: becoming a member allows you to buy tickets starting now! Click HERE to purchase tickets.

Need a Hotel for the Festival?
Remember to book your accommodations as early as possible, as the festival overlaps with Semicon, one of the biggest conventions of the year in San Francisco.
The Galleria Park Hotel
The Queen Anne Hotel
Hotel Drisco
This is one more reason to stay with our valued hotel sponsors. In addition to the first-rate accommodations and service they provide and the special discounts they offer to festival attendees, each is providing much needed room donations at a time when they could easily sell out their entire inventories. Let them know you appreciate their support of the Silent Film Festival!
Check our website for specific rate and booking information.


Click HERE to purchase passes and tickets.

Festival Passes ONLY
can be purchased with No Handling Fee at:

BOOKS INC. in the Castro
2275 Market St, SF
(415) 864-6777
Daily 10:00AM – 10:00PM

1687 Market Street @ Gough
(415) 861-4532
Monday-Saturday 10:00AM - 6:00PM
Sunday 12:00PM to 5:00PM


July 15-18

Castro Theatre
Box Office and Will Call open:
Thursday 5pm
Friday 10:30am
Saturday 9am
Sunday 9am
Will Call located at door behind Castro Theatre Box Office
Photo ID required for pick-up

Maxxxxx says re Silent Films: ".........."

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

CLICK HERE for more...