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!"

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

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