Monday, March 25, 2019

Upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival

The line-up of films for the 2019 San Francisco Silent Film Festival was recently announced. And it looks great. This year's festival, the 24th annual event, celebrates 24 years of live-cinema, presenting silent-era films with live musical accompaniment at San Francisco’s historic (silent-era) Castro Theatre. This year, the festival features five full days of dazzling silent-era movies set to extraordinary music by a diverse group of forty musicians from around the world! This year's festival will take place May 1–5. More information may be found HERE.

This year’s program features a number of new film restorations, including one by the SFSFF in partnership with Kevin Brownlow's Photoplay Productions, Clarence Brown’s The Signal Tower (1924). Films from ten countries will be represented, including films from Bali, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the USSR.

On opening night, Wednesday, May 1, there will be a screening of the new restoration of Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman. This exquisite 4k digital restoration was undertaken by The Criterion Collection, Warner Bros., and Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna, and will have its world premiere at SFSFF. Accompanying the film will be composer Timothy Brock, who will conduct his original score performed by an orchestra composed of students of the SF Conservatory of Music. [I interviewed Brock for this year's program booklet.]

Other highlights include a new preservation print of Goona Goona, a film made entirely in Bali with an all-Balinese cast which will be accompanied by Club Foot Gamelan (comprised of Club Foot Orchestra and Gamelan Sekar Jaya players); The Home Maker to be introduced by Oscar-honoree Kevin Brownlow and accompanied by Stephen Horne; the first Italian feature L’Inferno (1911), which will be accompanied by the Matti Bye Ensemble with intertitle narration by actor and Louise Brooks-fan Paul McGann (Withnail and I, Doctor Who); a beautiful new 4k print of Erich von Stroheim’s The Wedding March with its original Technicolor sequence, to be accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra; and the closing night’s presentation of another Buster Keaton masterpiece in a brand new restoration, Our Hospitality, also accompanied by Mont Alto.

Fans of Louise Brooks will be interested to note the various intersections between this year's Festival and Brooks' film career: directors William A. Wellman (Beggars of Life) and G.W. Pabst (Pandora's Box, Diary of a Lost Girl) are represented, while appearing on screen in various films are Fritz Rasp, Josef Rovensky, and Werner Krauss (Diary of a Lost Girl) as well as Wallace Beery (Now We're in the Air, Beggars of Life), Virginia Valli (Evening Clothes), and El Brendel (Rolled Stockings - which was filmed in nearby Berkeley).

I hope to be signing books on Saturday afternoon. Otherwise, here is the complete line-up of films. 


Special Afternoon Presentation at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley / Presented in partnership with BAMPFA An Illustrated Lecture with Gian Luca Farinelli, director of the Cineteca di Bologna
3:00 pm / Tickets and more information:
Over a century ago, a few years after the birth of the Italian nation and the birth of the new art form of cinema, early camera operators were alert to the potential of documenting the beautiful new country for the international cinema-going market and burgeoning tourist industry. Filmmakers from Germany and France flooded in to join Italian cineastes in documenting the landscapes and customs of far-flung Italian locales from Sicily to Venice. The Cineteca di Bologna has preserved a collection of these travelogues, shot between 1905 and 1914, and the Cineteca’s director Gian Luca Farinelli will present a selection of the most fascinating, providing context for the exquisite images. This early 20th-century grand tour will wend from Sicily through Amalfi, Rome, Bologna, and Milan before ending in Venice.  Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

7:00 pm  $24/$22 Opening Night Presentation
Directed by Edward Sedgwick, Buster Keaton | US, 1928  | 72 m.
With Buster Keaton, Marceline Day, Harold Goodwin
Buster Keaton’s tintype photographer falls for MGM office gal Marceline Day and tries to impress her by becoming a newsreel cameraman. His efforts take him from Yankee Stadium to the middle of a Chinatown tong war. Sublimely romantic, hilariously funny, and now in a beautiful 4K restoration! Musical accompaniment by Timothy Brock conducting his original score performed by an orchestra composed of students of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.


Our Amazing Tales program started life in 2006 to highlight the importance of film preservation and to provide insight into the remarkable work done by film archives around the world. Since then it has become one of the most highly anticipated programs in the festival. And it's free! This year's presenters: Restorer ROBERT BYRNE and researcher THIERRY LECOINTE will share cinematic wonders they’ve discovered in fin de siècle novelty flipbooks. STEFAN DRÖSSLER, head of Filmmuseum München, discusses the restoration of Robert Reinert’s Opium and Germany’s flourishing national cinema at the end of WWI. HISASHI OKAJIMA, director of the National Film Archive of Japan, demonstrates the Mina Talkie Sound System used for Kenji Mizoguchi’s Furusato. BRUCE GOLDSTEIN, director of repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum and founder of Rialto Pictures, illustrates how “Silents Got No Respect” the minute talkies came in. Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

1:15 pm  $17/$15
Directed by Victor Fleming | US, 1929 | 65m.
With Gary Cooper, Lupe Velez, Louis Wolheim, Constantine Romanoff
Sam Lash (Gary Cooper) is torn between the call of the wild and his love for Lola (Lupe Velez), the beautiful daughter of a Mexican nobleman. The electricity between Velez and Cooper resonated on screen and off, and Cooper’s nude bathing scene sealed his reputation as a matinée idol. Musical accompaniment by Philip Carli.

3:00 pm  $17/$15
Original Language Title: DIE AUSTERNPRINZESSIN
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch | Germany, 1919 | 60 m.
With Ossi Oswalda, Victor Janson, Harry Liedtke, Julius Falenstein, Max Kronert
The heiress (Ossi Oswalda) to an immense fortune cajoles her father, the Oyster King of America (Victor Janson), to find her a royal match after the daughter of the Shoe-Cream King marries a count. The Lubitsch Touch is in full force here! Musical accompaniment by Wayne Barker.

5:00 pm  $17/$15
Original Language Title: ZEMLYA
Directed by Aleksandr Dovzhenko | USSR, 1930 | 79 m.
With Semen Svashenko, Stepan Shkurat, Yuliya Solntseva, Elena Maksimova
Part Three of director Dovzhenko’s “Ukraine Trilogy,” Earth is his masterpiece. The film portrays the socialist movement to collectivize agricultural lands in the late 1920s and the resistance by landowners. One of the most important Soviet films—it is beautiful, rousing, and poetic. Musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble.

7:00 pm  $22/$20
Directed by Clarence Brown | US, 1924 | 84 m.
With Virginia Valli, Rockliffe Fellowes, Frankie Darro, Wallace Beery
This thrilling drama, set deep in the redwood forest of Mendocino on the Fort Bragg railroad line, pits a decent family against terrifying forces—a runaway train and Wallace Beery! Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius.

9:00 pm  $17/$15
Directed by Robert Reinert | Germany, 1919 | 91 m.
With Eduard von Winterstein, Hanna Ralph, Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt
With camerawork and color tinting that mirror the hallucinatory effect of its titular drug, Opium tells a fantastical story of addiction and vengeance with more than a touch of eroticism. Musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald.


10:00 am  $15/$13
Directed by William A. Wellman | US, 1926  | 72 m.
With Florence Vidor, Lowell Sherman, Clive Brook, El Brendel
Clive Brook and Florence Vidor are part of an itinerant Russian circus troupe when she falls for a rakish dandy played by Lowell Sherman. This early film by William A. Wellman (Wings) shows his nascent mastery. Musical accompaniment by Philip Carli.

12:00 NOON  $17/$15
Original Language Title: TONKA ŠIBERNICE
Directed by Karel Anton | Czechoslovakia, 1930 | 83 m.
With Ita Rina, Vera Baranovskaya, Josef Rovensky
Tonka (Ita Rina) is a country girl who becomes a prostitute in Prague where an act of selfless generosity—spending the night with a condemned man—marks her as a pariah. Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

2:15 pm  $17/$15
Directed by John M. Stahl | US, 1924 | 93 m.
With Lewis Stone, Florence Vidor, Lew Cody, Dale Fulle, Winter Hall, Edithe Yorke
Lewis Stone is the not-so-doting husband to Florence Vidor’s devoted wife in this splendidly nuanced comedy that features the quintessentially caddish Lew Cody as the other man. Musical accompaniment by Philip Carli.

5:00 pm  $17/$15
Directed by Nino Oxilia | Italy, 1917 | 43 m. (70 m. total)
With Lyda Borelli, Andrea Habay, Ugo Bazzini, Giovanni Cini
The divine Lydia Borelli is the aging Countess d’Oltrevita, who makes a Faustian bargain to regain youthful beauty. The catch: she’s forbidden to ever fall in love. This exquisitely colored film will be preceded by a sample of beautiful Kinemacolor shorts from Cineteca di Bologna’s collection, presented by Gian Luca Farinelli. Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

7:10 pm  $22/$20
Original Language Title: DIE LIEBE DER JEANNE NEY
Directed by G.W. Pabst | Germany, 1927 | 105 m.
With Édith Jéhanne, Uno Henning, Fritz Rasp, Brigitte Helm
Set against Russia’s post-revolution civil war, the story follows Jeanne Ney (Édith Jéhanne) who flees to Paris when her diplomat father is killed after receiving a list of Bolshevik agents from the duplicitous opportunist Khalibiev (Fritz Rasp)—a list that contains the name of Jeanne’s lover (Uno Henning)! Musical accompaniment by the Guenter Buchwald Ensemble.

9:20 pm  $17/$15
Directed by Tod Browning | US, 1928 | 65 m.
With Lon Chaney, Lionel Barrymore, Mary Nolan, Warner Baxter
Revenge consumes Lon Chaney’s paralyzed Phroso the Magician. He swears vengeance on the man he blames for his misfortune (Lionel Barrymore), pursuing him to Africa to extract horrifying retribution. Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius.


10:00 am  $15/$13
Directed by Monta Bell | US, 1925  | 73 m.
With Marion Davies, Conrad Nagel, Frank Currier
Marion Davies plays twins who were separated at birth. One twin (Anne) becomes part of New York society, the other a tough cookie (Fely) who grows up in an Irish slum and takes to the stage. Musical accompaniment by Philip Carli.

12:00 noon  $17/$15
Directed by John Ford | US, 1918 | 53 m. (75 m. total)
With Harry Carey, Duke Lee, Neva Gerber, Vester Pegg
John Ford’s fast-paced western uses the framing device of a writer who gets a complaint that his plots are unrealistic. In response, with a Remington illustration for inspiration, he concocts the story of a man who saves his girlfriend and than sets off across the desert on foot.  Musical accompaniment by Philip Carli  Plus: BROWNIE’S LITTLE VENUS (1921, starring Baby Peggy and Brownie the Wonder Dog, 22 m).

2:30 pm  $17/$15
Directed by André Roosevelt and Armand Denis | Bali, 1932 | 65 m.
With Wyan, Dasnee, Seronee, Ktot, Nonga, Okan, Maday, Rajah of Bali
Two men, one a prince, the other low-born, are in love with Dasnee, a lower-caste girl. The prince cannot have her, but he conspires to drug Dasnee and have his way with her while her husband (his rival) is away. Filmed entirely in Bali. Musical accompaniment by Club Foot Gamelan.

4:30 pm  $17/$15
Directed by Marcel L’Herbier | France, 1920 | 75 m.
With Jaque Catelain, Roger Karl, Marcelle Pradot, Claire Prélia, Suzanne Doris
Based on a short story by Balzac, this lyrical film is set on the rugged coast of Brittany where forces of good and evil beset a Breton fishing family.  Musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald and Frank Bockius / Intertitle narration by Paul McGann.

6:30 pm  $22/$20
Directed by Erich von Stroheim | US, 1928 | 116 m.
With Erich von Stroheim, Fay Wray, Cesare Gravina, George Fawcett, ZaSu Pitts
Impoverished Prince Nicki (Erich von Stroheim) is in love with the innkeeper’s daughter, Fay Wray, but his parents want him to wed the wealthy ZaSu Pitts. Director von Stroheim’s affecting tale captures the Vienna of his youth. Musical accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

9:15 pm  $17/$15
Directed by Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan, Giuseppe de Liguoro | Italy, 1911 | 66 m.
With Salvatore Papa, Arturo Pirovano, Giuseppe de Liguoro, Attilio Motta, Emilise Beretta
Based on Dante’s Inferno, this 1911 production is the first full-length Italian feature and it became an international blockbuster! Its depiction of the nine circles of hell is full of wildly inventive scenes that have been heightened by Cineteca di Bologna’s pristine restoration of the original tinting and toning. Musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble / Intertitle narration by Paul McGann.


10:00 am  $15/$13
Original Language Title: MINATO NO NIHON MUSUME
Directed by Hiroshi Shimizu | Japan, 1933  | 77 m.
With Michiko Oikawa, Yukiko Inoue, Ureo Egawa, Ranko Sawa
“A knockout. Shimizu’s stunning tale of passion, crime, and decadence [is an] exhilarating triumph of ... experimental style [and] also a precious portrait of the great port city of Yokohama.”—Village Voice  Musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald and Sascha Jacobsen.

12:00 noon  $17/$15
Directed by King Baggot | US, 1925 | 85 m.
With Alice Joyce, Clive Brook, Billy Kent Schaeffer, George Fawcett, Virginia Boardman, Elaine Ellis
Alice Joyce and Clive Brook are a couple unsuited to traditional husband and wife roles. He’s ineffectual at work and she’s too exacting a housekeeper. And then he gets fired… Musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

2:15 pm  $17/$15
Directed by Franz Osten | India, 1928 | 106 m.
With Himansu Rai, Charu Roy, Seeta Devi, Enakshi Rama Rao
Based on Indian source material and filmed entirely in and around Jaipur, Shiraz tells the origin story of the Taj Mahal. Shiraz is the second of a trilogy by German director Franz Osten and Indian producer and star Himansu Rai that culminated in A Throw of Dice. Musical accompaniment by Utsav Lal.

5:00 pm  $17/$15
Original Language Title: HERR ARNES PENGAR
Directed by Mauritz Stiller | Sweden, 1919 | 106 m.
With Richard Lund, Erik Stocklassa, Bror Berger, Mary Johnson
Mauritz Stiller’s adaptation of Nobel-prize-winning author Selma Lagerlöf’s novel of murder and revenge is set against a harsh, icy landscape perfectly captured by Julius Jaenzon’s painterly camerawork. Musical accompaniment by the Matti Bye Ensemble.

8:00 pm  $22/$20 Closing Night Presentation
Directed by Buster Keaton, John G. Blystone | US, 1923  | 65 m.
With Buster Keaton, Natalie Talmadge, Joe Roberts, Francis X. Bushman Jr., Craig Ward, Joe Keaton
Down South to claim his inheritance, New Yorker Willie McKay (Buster Keaton) meets and falls for the beautiful Virginia (Natalie Talmadge). She invites him to her home for dinner, where it’s revealed that she’s the youngest of the Canfield family, the ancestral feuding enemies of the McKays. Virginia’s brothers have itchy trigger fingers but the Canfield code of hospitality dictates no killing in the house! Musical accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.



  1. I am so overwhelmed with rise and success The San Francisco Film Festival. For me it is in the same class as Pordenone-Oh how can you see more than two films at once and so much more? Here to the guaranteed success of the festival CLINK those champagne glasses!


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