Thursday, June 24, 2010

Six reasons to attend the SF Silent Film Festival

If you’re a fan of Louise Brooks and have been thinking about attending the upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and need a few reasons to encourage you to purchase a ticket – then here are six. Each, on its own, is reason enough IMHO.

1) The Festival, which is putting on its 15th annual event this July, will screen one of Louise Brooks’ best films, Diary of a Lost Girl. As the "Founder’s Pick" film, this 1929 German movie has been designated the centerpiece work at this year’s event. It will be shown with live musical accompaniment provided by the outstanding Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

According to the world renowned British film historian Kevin Brownlow, the collaboration between director G.W. Pabst and actress Louise Brooks helped establish Brooks as an “actress of brilliance, a luminescent personality and a beauty unparalleled in screen history.” I think we would all agree.

2) Kevin Brownlow will be in attendance. If you know Brooks’ life story (or you’ve read Barry Paris’ outstanding biography), then you’re aware of the importance of this film historian in the revival of interest in the actress.

Let's put it this way: there is no more important film historian in the history of silent film. And, there is no more important book than Brownlow’s classic 1969 study, The Parade’s Gone By (University of California press). Interestingly, Brownlow's book carries this acknowledgment, “I owe an especial debt to Louise Brooks for acting as a prime mover in this book’s publication.”

This film historian lives in England, and doesn’t make all that many appearances in the United States. Brownlow will be signing books twice over the course of the Festival, as well as introducing a couple of films. Bring your copy of The Parade’s Gone By and get is signed. Or buy a copy at the Festival and get it signed. (Brownlow's book and the other books mentioned in this post will all be on sale at the Festival.) And don’t miss this opportunity to meet the man.

3) Another author who knew the actress will also be in attendance. Ira Resnick, a longtime collector and the founder of the Motion Picture Arts Gallery in New York City (the first gallery devoted exclusively to the art of the movies) will be signing copies of his superb new book, Starstruck: Vintage Movie Posters from Classic Hollywood (Abbeville).

This book features posters and lobby cards of many silent films including a handful of Brooks’ films, and notably a one-of-a-kind poster for Diary of a Lost Girl (pictured left) for which the author once paid the near record setting sum of $60,000. Another illustration in the book is inscribed to Resnick from Brooks.

Resnick will  be signing books following the July 17th screening of Diary of a Lost Girl.

4) Also signing books following Diary of a Lost Girl will be Hollywood screenwriter Samuel Bernstein, whose Lulu: A Novel, has recently been published by Walford Press. The subject of this “non-fiction” novel is Louise Brooks and the period in her life when she went to work with Pabst in Germany. It’s an enjoyable read, and the latest in a shelf worth of worthwhile works of fiction which have taken the silent film star as its muse.

Bernstein, who lives in Los Angeles, will be signing books following the July 17th screening of Diary of a Lost Girl.

5) The San Francisco Silent Film Festival takes place at the historic Castro Theater. Built in 1922, this grand theater is one of the last standing movie palaces in the San Francisco Bay Area. And what’s more, no theater in San Francisco can claim to have shown more Brooks films.

As a neighborhood movie theater in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the Castro screened just about every Brooks’ film back then. And beginning with the late 1970’s revival of interest in Brooks, the Castro has regularly shown the actress’ surviving works. The two Pabst films, along with A Girl in Every Port (1928), Beggars of Life (1928), Prix de Beaute (1930) and the remaining fragments of The American Venus (1926) and Just Another Blonde (1926) have all been shown at the Castro in recent decades. The July 17th screening of Diary of a Lost Girl is the latest in a long history of Castro love for Lulu.

6) I will be there. Recently, as I am always going on about, I edited and wrote the introduction to a new “Louise Brooks edition” of Margarete Böhme’s 1905 book, The Diary of a Lost Girl (PandorasBox Press). Böhme’s book was the basis for the 1929 film of the same name. This just published illustrated edition includes the original English-language translation of this once controversial and bestselling work, which has been out of print in the United States for a century. My edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl is making its debut at the Festival. And what's more, I'll be giving away a mini-Thymain or mini-Louise Brooks button to those who line up to get a book.

Along with Resnick and Bernstein, I will also be meeting the public and signing books following the July 17th screening of Diary of a Lost Girl. That's a trio.

Hopefully, one of these six reasons should provide the tipping point in deciding to attend the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Please note, however, that when the Festival screened Pandora’s Box in 2006, it became the only film in the Festival’s now 15 year history to sell out in advance. The Castro Theater holds 1,400 people! That's a lot of Louise Brooks' fans.

1 comment:

  1. what a great post, thanks for sharing all the juicy details.

    seems like christmas in july this year...!

    and how about rousting all the hard working folks from the festival-
    to perhaps consider launching an east-coast edition in january...?

    hey, i think that that just went to the top of my wish list...!
    possible locations include new york, of course... and rochester.

    or perhaps the east coast fest should seek sunnier climes-
    especially with a january event date-

    and rotating locations to add extra variety for the repeat patrons...

    thru some grand old towns and theaters of the south / southeast-
    virginia, north and south carolina, tennessee and florida.

    sea breezes, a small town with a cool old theater-
    and of course some great silent films for a few days...
    please stir and serve!


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