Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Snapshot highlights: San Francisco Silent Film Festival

The marquee of the historic Castro Theater in San Francisco.The theater opened in 1922, and many of
Louise Brooks' silent films screened there in the later 1920's.

Louise Brooks seemed to be just about everywhere at the recently concluded San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Her likeness, at times, was hard to miss, and Brooks' name could be heard on nearly everyone's lips. That's because the film for which the actress is best known today, Pandora's Box, was the centerpiece film of the 17th annual Festival, which was held July 12 through July 15 at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. 

The 2012 SFSFF Program, which includes my
essay of the history of Pandora's Box
The centerpiece event took place on Saturday, July 14th, when the Festival screened a new, frame-by-frame, digital restoration of Pandora's Box, G.W. Pabst's classic retelling of Frank Wedekind's Lulu plays. The restoration, which runs 143 minutes, has been shown only twice before anywhere in the world. Fans gathered from all over for this historic event, with more than 1400 people packing the sold out Castro Theater.

Highly anticipated, this very special screening did not disappoint. I was there, and I can state this gorgeous print was a revelation. I have seen Pandora's Box many times, both in theaters and on DVD: consequently, I feel I am familiar with this silent masterpiece. Yet, sitting in the Castro, watching Pandora's Box on the theater's big, big screen, I felt I saw things in this new print I have never seen before.

As the star of the Festival's centerpiece film, Brooks  graced the cover of the Festival program. The program also contains an essay detailing the history of the film's critical reception, as well as a shorter piece on the story behind the film's restoration.

Besides appearing on the cover of the program, images of Brooks' were also featured in a slideshow projected before the screening of Pandora's Box, while related music - like the theme songs to such Brooks' films as Beggars of Life and Prix de Beaute - was played in the background.
And that's not all. I also I spotted at least a couple of women dressed as the actress, each sporting sharp black bobs. With all that said, here are some snapshot highlights of the 17th annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Thrilling! Brooks' larger than life image graced the screen of the Castro Theater
during the slide show which preceded Pandora's Box. That is Brooks in a scene
from the lost 1926 film, American Venus. In 2007, the San Francisco
Silent Film Festival screened its few surviving fragments.
These two slides also graced the screen of the Castro Theater. Since the late
1980s, Pandora's Box has screened at least eight times at the Castro!
Brooks is a favorite in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Before the film, San Francisco Silent Film Festival Artistic Director
Anita Monga (far right) introduced some of individuals involved in the
restoration of Pandora's Box.

After the film, Pandora's Box received a standing ovation.

On the left is David Ferguson. That's me in the middle. And on the right is
Angela Holm. David and Angela were the team behind the restoration of
Pandora's Box. David described me as the "keeper of the flame." Thank you.
But, it was David and Angela who did a wonderful job.
Swedish musician Matti Bye (center) chats with Angela Holm and
David Ferguson following the historic screening. Bye performed his
original score to Pandora's Box.
Here I am with acclaimed English actor Paul McGann (Withnail and I,
Doctor Who, etc...). Paul was on hand to narrate a couple of films at the
Festival. Paul is a silent film enthusiast, as well as a BIG Louise Brooks film.
Needless-to-say, we had a lot to talk about.
It was great to see old friends at the Festival. At left, I am standing with longtime
Louise Brooks Society member Camille Scaysbrook. She is originally from
Australia, and we've been emailing each other for at least a decade! And on the right,
I 'm with filmmaker Hugh Munro Neely, who directed the Emmy nominated
documentary, Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu.

Here I am with renowned film critic / film historian Leonard Maltin. Notice his
pin, which Leonard pointed out was an usher's film for Publix, the chain of
theater's owned by Paramount (Louise's primary studio).
William Wellman Jr. also attended the Festival, and introduced his Father's
Academy Award winning 1927 film, Wings. His Father also directed Louise
Brooks in the 1928 film, Beggars of Life.
Some of the Louise Brooks related merchandise for sale at the Festivals -
including autographed copies of Laura's Moriarty's novel, The Chaperone (left),
and the popular "Fearless" branded merch. There were also DVDs and books.
Following Pandora's Box, I signed copies of my Louise Brooks edition
of The Diary of a Lost Girl. I also put out some Louise Brooks collectibles.
Sitting next to me is my wife and LBS Associate Director Christy Pascoe.

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