Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Represent Repertory #2: Silent sight magnified colors, wipes

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Get in line

Though the Resnais series at the PFA is ending shortly, with tomorrow night's program of shorts and next Tuesday's screening of La guerre est finie, there are still some things on the horizon to get excited about. There's a few more oh-nine sights across the bay, but more importantly, maybe (because, lucky me, I live on this side of the Bay these daze), are some things at the Castro.

First, this Saturday, the 12th, there's the all-day winter event put on by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Though there are breaks, it's a full 12-hour block of films, complete with live accompaniment, and I hope to attend each screening since I've only seen one of the featured films before (the Keaton), and that only on a television set. There really is no comparison for seeing these films in an auditorium like the Castro, as was proved to me a couple summers ago (read more here and here), even if I'd often prefer way less live accompaniment and kitschy anachronisms/laugh tracks. Not only because it's on film, and the flicker matters, but because of the size. It's a real palace in there. Further, they're showing some really cool sounding pictures that all highlight the cinema's capacity to document:

  • 11:30 AM, Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness [Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1927] A film shot entirely on location in Thailand, it's a precursor to King Kong without the stop-animation.
  • 2:00 PM, J'accuse [Abel Gance, 1919] The epic, 162-minute pacifist picture of The Great War has long been unseen in its original construction here in the U.S. so this is quite a rare opportunity to see this (equally epic) restoration.
  • 7:00 PM, Sherlock Jr. [Buster Keaton, 1924] That brisk comedy about the comedy of interpretation, and its frequent failure through projection, should shine bright. Further, it'll be introduced by Keaton's granddaughter, and there will be live foley, too, which might prove its own set of jokes both good and bad.
  • 8:00 PM, or so The Goat [Buster Keaton and Malcolm St. Clair, 1921] I've never seen this short, though it's available on YouTube, but apparently it's another identity comedy (this one of the mistaken variety), and that can only lead to good gags, and chase scenes.
  • 9:15 PM, West of Zanzibar [Tod Browning, 1928] Another Lon Chaney vehicle sure to get under everybody's skin since, right off the bat, his character is paralyzed fighting with his rival, Lionel Barrymore, and thereafter goes by "Dead Legs" as he plots his revenge for 18 years.

Hopefully I can add a few more cogent thoughts post-festival about what stung and what tickled from the day. You can probably bet on some of the same from my buddy Brian Darr, who not only writes Hell On Frisco Bay (and tweets up a storm @HellOnFriscoBay) but also serves as one of the festival's researchers and writers. —Inside, furtive, teasing tip: next summer's festival should be even more spectacular than previous years. —Further reading: the Silent Fest's blog, with notes from Brian and others.

What else? Oh, nothing but a bunch of Hitchcock. The real highlight for me and my boy Danny will be seeing Marnie on 35mm on the 17th since we both missed it during The Late Films. But there's also Vertigo the next day, and more than too many to choose from the other days, though I'll be prioritizing Preminger on the 19th for Skidoo and Bonjour Tristesse back over for what will probably be my final trip to Berkeley for the calendar year. If you happen to see me/us around town at one of these screenings, don't be afraid to say, "Hello." Even if I'm reading, chances are I'm paying more attention to other people talk around me than to the words entering my eyes.

1 comment:

  1. That silent line-up is killer. I bet the new resto of J'accuse will be a doozy - had to miss it in London due to typical non-cinephile-friendly festival scheduling. The Goat is very fine, iirc. Only seen one Keaton on the big screen (Steamboat Bill, Jr.), enough to warn me about not watching too many on the TV - the house needs to be huge, the man dwarfed, and the wind gusting off the screen.