Monday, July 19, 2010

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!"

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


Anonymous said...

You think Reggio stole from Vertov? Reggio spent 14 years as a monk and had hardly seen any films. Chances are he had never seen Vertov's film. What parts do you think he "lifted"?

Jay, aka The Angry Little Man said...

"The Grid" sequence, in particular, feels like a 'quote' if not a condensed 20 minute version of MAN...

The resemblence of the sequence seems uncanny to me.

Brian said...

I don't know about Reggio's entire life story, but at some point while preparing Koyaanisqatsi he came to the Pacific Film Archive and studied a number of avant-garde films in the collected holdings. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that Vertov's film (or films) was among those he viewed. I understand that he viewed at least one film by Bruce Conner (my guess is Crossroads); he included a special thanks to Conner in the credits of Koyaanisqatsi.

Jay, aka The Angry Little Man said...

Note to self: Must see Bruce Connor's CROSSROADS.

Thank you Mr. Darr! And your information in the program notes was as great as always!

Dreyer said...

You can get all the Matti Bye CDs at for a fraction of what Amazon's asking ... that's the record label's own distro

how to download movies for free said...

I have no idea about story of Reggio's entire life but it seems to be interesting one. Let me make a plan. I will surely go for it..