Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Report from the SFSFF

It was a wet and sometimes windy day on Saturday in San Francisco. But in the Castro Theater, thousands of silent film fans turned out for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival's now annual Winter Event. I was among them. And so was big-time Buster Keaton-fan and Louise Brooks Society associate director Christy Pascoe (pictured to the left on a rainy Castro street).

We were all there to take in the day's worth of films and programming.

One of the splendid things about the festival is the sense of comradery and community it engenders. I saw many old friends (most all of whom I've met over the years at the Festival), and even made a few new ones. And, I connected with a few never-met-in-them- in-the-flesh-before-Facebook friends. Hello Joan Myers and the other "Daughters of Naldi" who were present.

Here I am engaged in conversation with Rudolph Valentino expert Donna Hill (pictured below to the right). I have known Donna for years. She runs Falcon Lair, the excellent Rudolph Valentino website located at http://www.rudolph-valentino.com/ and also  blogs about silent film via "Stolen Moments" - the only silent film podcast I  am aware of. Check them both out sometime.

Donna and I were chatting about some of the films we had seen earlier in the day - as well as the latest on our various silent film projects. Donna is continuing work on a new book about Valentino called Rudolph Valentino: The Silent Idol. I am very excited about this project, and can't wait till Donna is done. You can find out more about this new book by visiting this page.

Though we have spoken on the phone and corresponded via email for a number of years, I also had the chance to meet Elaine M. Woo in person for the first time. I was truly delighted. Here we are pictured to the left and below.

Elaine is a producer and documentarian responsible for Anna May Wong: Frosted Yellow Willows. That 2007 documentary has shown on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and has screened at Pordenone (where it premiered) and elsewhere around the United States and the world. And, it has drawn rave reviews where ever it plays. For more on this film, visit its website at www.anna-may-wong.com/

Like me, Elaine is an enthusiastic researcher. She has traveled all over the world in search of new material on Anna May Wong's career. Though she has completed her documentary, Elaine is still researching the iconic Chinese American actress and silent film star.  

Elaine and I chatted about libraries and microfilm and archives and film journals and newspapers and obscure publications and our own collections of research material and the challenges of getting at difficult to reach stuff. It was shop talk - and it was fun!

Though no Louise Brooks films were shown at the 2009 Winter Event, the actress did have a small presence at the day long event. This snapshot, taken from the balcony inside the Castro (a grand 1922 movie theater), shows an image from a slide show projected on the big screen. I think you may recognize the actress.

Next Summer's event will be four days! The 15th annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival is set for July 15 - 18, 2010. Programs and special guests will be announced in the Spring. I hope to see you there.


  1. Pout. I wanna see the pics taken of you, Christy and myself at last years' fest.

  2. Last Sunday, discriminating filmgoers in San Francisco's newest sister city, Kraków, could see Pandora's Box in that city's annual silent film festival. Puszka Pandory wasn't shown in a movie palace, such as the Castro; it was shown in a palace palace, as in Buckingham. Louise Brooks was recognized as "one of the great divas of the silent screen". And Leslaw Lic, Kraków's most famous silent film pianist -- recipient of the festival's 2009 Gold Padlock award -- accompanied the film. Would I kid you? Website: kinopodbaranami.pl/film.php?film_id=5873 . ... Kraków and Rochester were twinned when Brooks was 66. ... Notable Cracovians: Rudolph Maté and Gilda Gray.
    * * *
    Clive Hamilton (founder of a think tank called The Australia Institute) posted a blog at Crikey ("Australian for independent journalism") titled "Lulu's back in town". It found me when I was looking for Fats Waller.

    "At Copenhagen” -- which has a relationship going with Berlin, by the way -- “a good deal of suspicion surrounds developed country proposals to meet emission reductions by the use of accounting tricks through provisions covering 'land use, land-use change and forestry' or LULUCF (pronounced “loo loo CF”)...". Gee, I'd pronounce it Lulu Seph.

    The blog received a comment from thedukeofmadness:

    "When Clive had the heading 'Lulu’s back in town', I was expecting 'To Sir With Love' to play in the background. I feel ripped off. Well, Frank Wedekind, the German playwright who wrote Pandora’s Box which had the character Lulu, also wrote a play called Earth Spirit so it may well have been referencing that too. Personally I blame the Bourgeoisie for all the Earth’s problems. And probably Lulu’s too. But then, of course, we could talk about Louise Brooks, the American Silent actress, who played Lulu in the film of Pandora’s Box ...".

    Well connected ... duke.

  3. I was remiss to have overlooked a Keaton-Brooks convergence that occurred at the Eastman Theatre in Rochester, March 27th, 1926. The program for Saturday Morning Movies for Children (SMMOCH) paired The Balloonatic and The Rookie's Return (1920); and in the p.m., The American Venus wrapped up a One Week run at the theater.

    SMMOCH was a national conspiracy launched on April 25, 1925 -- at the Eastman. Twenty-seven hundred kids each paid 10¢....

    The hotel where Brooks visited Keaton (in 1958?) overlooks the block containing the Eastman School of Music, home of the Theatre.

    P.S. At busterfied.tripod.com/quotes, LB's essay on BK is headlined, '"Buster Keaton" by Louise Brooks (leading lady from film "The General")'. An alternate universe!


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