Saturday, April 7, 2007

Two announcements: Jack Garner & Kevin Brownlow

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle has announced that long-time film critic Jack Garner will retire. The nationally syndicated journalist was a friend to all those interested in Louise Brooks. Not only had Garner known the actress in Rochester (where he had worked since the early 1970's), he had also interviewed her and her fellow silent film star, Lillian Gish. Garner had also introduced a recent centennial celebration screening of Pandora's Box, and contributed the forward to the recent book by Peter Cowie, Louise Brooks: Lulu Forever. And, way back in 2000, Garner praised the Louise Brooks Society website in the pages of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. According to the article announcing his retirement, Garner will continue to contribute occassional articles and columns. Good luck Jack !


I am very excited to learn that Kevin Brownlow - film historian extraordinaire and friend of Louise Brooks - will be coming to San Francisco at the end of the month. Brownlow will be given the Mel Novikoff Award from the San Francisco Film Society. Brownlow will also be participating in two programs as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. I am excitied because Kevin Brownlow - the author of The Parade's Gone By - is a legend among those who love silent film. (I had the pleasure of seeing Brownlow once before - at Cinecon in Los Angeles - and even got him to sign a few books for me then.)

Here is San Francisco Film Society press release:
Kevin Brownlow To Receive Mel Novikoff Award At 50th San Francisco International Film Festival
Archivist, Historian, Author, Documentarian and Director Honored for His Extensive and Peerless Body of Work
April 3, 2007
San Francisco, CA – Kevin Brownlow will receive the Mel Novikoff Award at the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 26–May 10). Named for the pioneering San Francisco art and repertory film exhibitor Mel Novikoff (1922–1987), the Award acknowledges an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public’s knowledge and appreciation of world cinema. The Novikoff Award will be presented at An Afternoon with Kevin Brownlow on Saturday, April 28 at 2:00 pm at the Castro Theatre, preceding an onstage interview with film scholar Russell Merritt. Afterwards Brownlow will introduce the screening of his selection, The Iron Mask (1929). The gallant Douglas Fairbanks must save the French crown from black-hearted schemers in Alan Dwan’s lavish version of The Three Musketeers, filled with chivalry, derring-do and impressive pre–special effects stuntwork. Mask was made at the end of the silent era and is considered the summation of the swashbuckling genre.
As it is impossible to do justice to Brownlow’s body of work in just one afternoon or even one day, Cecil B. De Mille – An American Epic (2004), directed by Brownlow and produced by his colleague Patrick Stanbury, will play at 9:15 pm on Saturday, April 28 at the Sundance Cinemas Kabuki. Narrated by Kenneth Branagh and featuring music by Elmer Bernstein, Cecil B. De Mille follows the career of one of Hollywood’s original pioneers. Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Charlton Heston and Angela Lansbury are some of the many well-known names that appear, while De Mille’s surviving kin also lend insight into his personal and family life. His (and by extension, Hollywood’s) greatest hits are covered in detail, including later historical and Biblical epics like Cleopatra (1934), Samson and Delilah (1949) and The Ten Commandments (1956). The documentary includes never-before-seen footage of the parting of the Red Sea, which Spielberg declares “the best special-effects sequence of all time.”
Finally Brownlow will present the lecture Kevin Brownlow: Introduction to Silents on the pre-talkie era and screen excerpts from silent gems including Bronco Billy’s Adventure (1911),Scaramouche (1924), The Chess Player (1926) and Fire Brigade (1926) at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley on Sunday, April 29, at 5:30 pm. PFA pianist Judith F. Rosenberg will provide accompaniment. This program is presented in association with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
Born in Sussex, England in 1938, Kevin Brownlow is the godfather of modern film archiving practices. He is the preeminent film historian and documentarian of the silent era. He is also one of the most accomplished British directors of his era, having made the masterpieces It Happened Here (1966) and Winstanley (1975).
How It Happened Here, a warts-and-all account of the making of his first feature, is an important book on the difficulties and triumphs of making an indie film. Brownlow’s collection of interviews with silent-film stars, The Parade’s Gone By (1968), and his ensuing 12-part television documentary Hollywood (made with David Gill) have inspired numerous film archivists, critics and professors.
Brownlow’s magnificent restoration of Abel Gance’s 1927 classic Napoleon wasn’t just the film preservation event of the decade when it was rereleased in a gloriously restored version in 1981, but a cultural phenomenon. For nearly 40 years, he assembled every scrap of celluloid he could find, searching flea markets and the world’s archives. He championed the film and Gance at every opportunity. And he is still restoring the film. Like the Flying Dutchman, the film is his curse—and the world’s blessing.
Most of all, there are the films he has salvaged and dusted off for Photoplay Productions, the company he founded to focus on important restorations like The EagleThe Phantom of the OperaThe Thief of Bagdad and The Gold Rush to name just a few. To see a film bearing the Brownlow touch is to go back to a magical time when the silent movies glowed on the silver screen and cinema was a physical experience.
Brownlow’s intense passion is something to emulate. His utter tenacity to present the best restorations and orchestral scores has always been about the value of the film itself. And his writings make the reader want to see every movie he mentions because he loves them so much. 
Previous recipients of the Mel Novikoff Award are Anita Monga (2005), Paolo Cherchi Usai (2004), Manny Farber (2003), David Francis (2002), Cahiers du Cinéma (2001), San Francisco Cinematheque (2001), Donald Krim (2000), David Shepard (2000), Enno Patalas (1999), Adrienne Mancia (1998), Judy Stone (1997), Film Arts Foundation (1997), David Robinson (1996), Institut Lumière (1995), Naum Kleiman (1994), Andrew Sarris (1993), Jonas Mekas (1992), Pauline Kael (1991), Donald Richie (1990), USSR Filmmakers Association (1989) and Dan Talbot (1988). The Mel Novikoff Award Committee members are Francis J. Rigney (chairman), Linda Blackaby (ex officio), Helena R. Foster, George Gund III, Maurice Kanbar, Philip Kaufman, Edith Kramer, Tom Luddy, Gary Meyer, Anita Monga, Janis Plotkin and Peter Scarlet.
Here is a link to the Iron Mask screening, which I believe Brownlow will be attending. And here is a link to the screening of the new Brownlow documentary on Cecil B. DeMille at the Kabuki. And here is a link to the Kevin Brownlow: Introduction to Silents program at the PFA.

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