Thursday, November 24, 2016

San Francisco Day of Silents on December 3

On Saturday, December 3rd, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents "A Day of Silents," a day-long six program event showcasing great directors, great performances and great films.  With so many festivals devoted to so many different aspects of the cinema, festivals goers in San Francisco are fortunate to take in movies one may have only heard or read about. And not just that: at this event one can experience films on the “big screen” with live musical accompaniment in the confines of a historic movie theater, the Castro, which dates to the time these films were first released.

This year, this now annual event presents a Jazz Age gem by the great Ernst Lubitsch, the first full-length feature by legendary director Sergei Eisenstein, the oldest surviving film with a homosexual protagonist, a classic by Josef von Sternberg which features a performance by the winner of the first-ever Best Actor Oscar, and more—including three short films by Charlie Chaplin made here in the San Francisco Bay Area!

And what’s more, each film features live musical accompaniment by either favorites Donald Sosin or the Alloy Orchestra. For complete details and tickets, visit Here is the line-up of films for the day.

Chaplin at Essanay — 10:00 AM (84 min)

Charlie Chaplin signed with the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company in late 1914 after making a name for himself at Keystone. It was at Essanay that Chaplin was able to develop as a filmmaker—where he became truly "Chaplinesque." This program features three short films that chart this development, all from 1915. His New Job is Chaplin’s first title at Essanay and it has the Tramp working behind the scenes at a film studio. In The Champion, the Tramp wins a championship fight with the help of his pet bulldog. Chaplin plays dual roles in the hilarious A Night in the Snow—as Mr. Pest in the orchestra seats and Mr. Rowdy in the peanut gallery.

Restorations by the Chaplin Project (led by Lobster Films and Cineteca di Bologna). DCP from Lobster Films. Copresented by Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and the Exploratorium.

So This Is Paris — 12:15 PM (68 min)

 Ernst Lubitsch’s fabled "touch" is on full display in this Jazz Age gem, as married couples (Monte Blue and Patsy Ruth Miller, Lilyan Tashman and George Beranger) find their attentions straying to the opposite’s spouse. The ecstatic Charleston dance number seen in the film is justly famous, with its swirling camera and dizzying optics adding to the film’s feeling of seductive intoxication. 

Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin: Restored 35mm print from the Library of Congress. Copresented by the Art Deco Society of California.

Strike (Stachka) — 2:15 PM (94 min)

Legendary director Sergei Eisenstein’s first full-length feature, Strike tells the story of a massive factory uprising in six powerful episodes. Cinematographer Eduard Tisse’s brilliant camerawork gives a semi-documentary feel to the striking workers and their suppression by the czarist factory owners and police. Set in pre-revolutionary Russia, Eisenstein’s dazzling montage is a riveting display of revolutionary filmmaking that changed the face of cinema forever.

Live musical accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra: 35mm print from the George Eastman Museum. Copresented by the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

Different from the Others (Anders als die Andern) — 4:45 PM (74 min)

Thought to be the oldest surviving film with a homosexual protagonist, Different from the Others was recently restored by the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project. Directed by Richard Oswald and co-written by famed psychologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the film tells a devastating story of queer life under Paragraph 175, the 1871 German law criminalizing homosexuality. Young virtuoso Kurt Sivers (Fritz Schulz) approaches acclaimed violinist Paul Körner (Conrad Veidt, of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari fame) with the hope of becoming his student in early-1900s Germany. Paul agrees to take Kurt under his tutelage, which quickly blossoms into affection, but their relationship is thwarted when a blackmailer threatens to reveal Körner’s homosexuality.

Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin: Restored 35mm print from the UCLA Film and Television Archive (50 m.) Different from the Others will be preceded by preserved newsreels from UCLA: Flashes of the Past: A review of historic events from 1910 to 1925 / Pathé Exchange, Inc. (24 m.) Introduced by Des Buford, Frameline's director of exhibition & programming. Copresented by Frameline and Goethe-Institut/Berlin & Beyond

The Last Command — 7:00 PM (88 min)

Emil Jannings won the first-ever Best Actor Oscar for his nuanced portrayal of an exiled Russian general turned Hollywood extra. Movie director Lev Andreyev (William Powell), a former Russian revolutionary, is making a Hollywood epic about the Russian revolution when he recognizes his czarist foe—now going by the name Grand Duke Sergius Alexander—in a book of headshots and casts the destitute extra as a general in his movie. Josef von Sternberg’s stunningly photographed The Last Command displays an insider’s look at life and work in Hollywood. Bay Area academic and author Anton Kaes wrote that the “underlying project” of the movie was “to probe the magic and mystery—and perils—of double identities inherent in the very nature of film acting."

Live musical accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra: 35mm print from Paramount Pictures. Copresented by the San Francisco Film Society.

Sadie Thompson — 9:15 PM (97 min)

This first version of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel Rain stars Gloria Swanson as San Francisco prostitute Sadie Thompson who’s waylaid on the remote tropical island Pago Pago with a sexy sergeant (Raoul Walsh) and a crusading moralist (Lionel Barrymore). The film project was beset by problems from the beginning—the censors were dubious and the studios were reluctant. It was Swanson’s perseverance that won the day. She negotiated with the censors, put up $200,000 of her own money, and handpicked the cast. The film marks Swanson’s greatest performance, and happily for all, it was an enormous success at the box office. Sadly, the last reel of the film is missing. The search is on, but in the meantime the film’s end has been reconstructed with production stills and footage from a 1932 adaptation. Dennis Doros reconstructed the missing reel, and Kino Lorber funded the reconstruction.

Live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin. Introduced by Swanson’s step-son Bevan Dufty, who was recently elected to the BART Board of Directors, District 9: 35mm print from Kino Lorber.   Copresented by California Film Institute.

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