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The Magnificent March of “Napoleon”—Abel Gance’s fabled silent film masterpiece has been restored and is screening at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre to live music, starting this weekend, March 24, 2012

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is presenting Abel Gance’s legendary masterpiece, Napoleon,  unseen in the U.S. for nearly 30 years—for four performances only—March 24, 25, 31, April 1, 2012—at Oakland’s historic Paramount Theatre.  This marks the exclusive U.S. premiere of silent film historian Kevin Brownlow’s complete restoration of the film and the U.S. premiere of a 5 ½ hour orchestral score by the eminent British composer Carl Davis,  who will conduct the Oakland East Bay Symphony at all four screenings.  The Brownlow restoration, produced with his partner Patrick Stanbury at Photoplay Productions in association with the BFI (The British Film Institute), is the most complete version of Gance’s masterpiece since its 1927 premiere at the Paris Opéra.  The film will screen in the original 20 frames per second, with the finale in polyvision, requiring 3 screens.  The gorgeous Art Deco Paramount Theatre in Oakland is one of the few theatres in the country that could meet the technical, staging and spatial requirements of this enormous undertaking— a proscenium large enough for the Polyvision finale, an orchestra pit, floor space to accommodate a 48 member orchestra, and a seating capacity of 3,000.  And because Carl Davis would have had to work with a different symphony orchestra in every city to deliver the monumental 5 ½ hour score  — that’s at least four solid days of rehearsal—expensive!—there are NO plans for this restored version to travel to any other U.S. venue.  And because the cost of recording the 5 1.2 hour score is prohibitively expensive for the DVD/BluRay market, and the dramatic Polyvision finale in the theatre could not be duplicated— It would be letterboxed onto the television, no matter how large your viewing screen is.—there will be no DVD/BlueRay recording made.  This is it!

What exactly is Polyvision? And what are the technical requirements?  Polyvision was one of Abel Gance’s greatest innovations: for Naploeon’s finale, the screen dramatically expands to three times its normal width, for both panoramic views and montages of images. There has not been anything like it since: even the similar American process Cinerama, first presented 25 years later, never made such virtuosic use of its three screens.

To present Polyvision at the Oakland Paramount, three projection booths equipped with three perfectly-synchronized projectors must be specially installed, along with a purpose-built three-panel screen, which will fill the width of the auditorium.  These technical requirements can only be handled by top technicians and a 3-person team from Boston Light & Sound is being specially brought in for the Paramount’s installation.

In the captivating clip below, Brownlow is captured in an interview discussing Napoleon some 30 years ago.  Brownlow became fascinated with Gance’s film when, as a schoolboy in the 1950s, he ran two 9.5mm reels he had stumbled upon at a street market.  That chance encounter turned into a lifelong fascination with Gance and a quest to restore the film.   Last year, Brownlow became the first film historian ever honored with a special Academy Award and he will feature promnently in the events at the Paramount Theatre, including a special Gala dinner and reception on Friday, March 23, 2012 in Okaland and a talk at Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley on March 30, 2012.

The first major Brownlow/BFI restoration culminated in a screening at the Telluride Film Festival in 1979, with 89-year-old Gance watching from a nearby hotel window.  Under the auspices of Francis Ford Coppola and Robert A. Harris, a version of this restoration, accompanied by a 4 hour score composed by Carmine Coppola, was presented at Radio City Music Hall and other venues in the U.S. and around the world in the early 1980s. This version, with the 4-hour version with the Coppola score, has been shown on television in the U.S. and was released on VHS and laserdisc, but never on DVD in the U.S.   Brownlow and the BFI did additional restoration work to Napoleon in 1983.

The current restoration, completed in 2000 but not previously seen outside Europe, reclaims more than 30 minutes of additional footage discovered since the 1979 screening and visually upgrades much of the film. This unique 35mm print, made at the laboratory of the BFI’s National Archive, uses traditional dye-bath techniques to recreate the color tints and tones that enhanced the film on its original release, giving the images a vividness never before experienced in this country.

Stay tuned to ARThound for an interview with artist Paul Davis who created the spectacular poster for this special event.

Napoleon Event Details: 

What: Kevin Brownlow’s 2000 reconstruction, the most complete possible restoration of 1927   5 ½ hour film in the original 20 frames per second, with the final polyvision.  The Oakland East Bay Symphony will be conducted by Carl Davis, whose score will be the live accompaniment to the film.  This is the U.S. premiere for both the reconstruction and the music.

When: March 24, 25, 31, April 1, 2012

Where: Paramount Theatre, Oakland

Time: All four performances begin at 1:30pm. There will be three intermissions: two 20-minute intermissions and a 1 hour, 45 minute dinner break starting at 5:00pm. View Places to Eat for nearby restaurant recommendations and make reservations in advance.

The film itself is 5½ hours long; with intermissions included, the show will let out at approximately 9:45pm.

Tickets: Buy tickets for all Napoleon performances here.

More Information: San Francisco Silent Film Festival

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March 19, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Petaluma Cinema Series 15 fabulous films on Wednesday Nights through May

In Frederick Marx's Journey from Zanskar, screening at the Petaluma Film Series this Wednesday, a road threatens the indigenous Zanskar's culture and unbroken Budhist traitions children are sent to a special school to preserve the language and culture. Photo: Nick Sherman

The 4th season of the Petaluma Cinema Series is underway.  Bay Area award-winning filmmaker Frederick Marx’s 2010 documentary,  Journey from Zanskar, screens Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 7 p.m. at the Carole L. Ellis Auditorium on Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma campus.  Frederick Marx will be in conversation with Mike Traina, series organizer and SRJC Film Instructor, at 6 p.m. and the community is encouraged to attend. 

The Petaluma Cinema Series offers 15 films in 15 weeks every fall and spring in conjunction with the SJRC’s fall and spring semesters.  The series mixes community and guests with film students in a cinemateque environment and is sponsored by the Petaluma Film Alliance, a strategic partnership between the SRJC, community businesses, and private individuals dedicated to film awareness within the community.  The Ellis Auditorium is a spectacular film facility, offering HD, full surround sound and new seating.  

Mike Traina has organized both the series and the alliance and is excited about its potential. The overriding objective is to showcase a balanced blend of foreign, classic, and independent films and to create a progression that showcases film techniques for the students who are taking it as a class.  The first third of the films are about the filmmaker’s journey and a broad introduction to film appreciation at a more advanced level.  In the middle block, each film is selected to showcase a particular aspect of film aesthetics–production design, cinematography, sound, or acting.  The last third is special topics– animation, film noir, surrealism.  And because the college emphasizes special calendar events—black history month, so forth–I try to create some overlap within the cinema series.  In March, all of the introductions will have some focus on women in the industry.  I’ve got two directors–Jacqueline Zünd will be in conversation about Goodnight Nobody and I’ll screen Mira Nair’s film Monsoon Wedding which I’m also using to highlight its cinematography.  I’ve got two icons too— Elizabeth Taylor and Marlena Dietrich.

Fredrick Marx’s Journey from Zanskar, screening Wednesday with Marx in the pre-film discussion, was very popular with audiences at the Mill Valley Film Festival last October.  The 90 minute documentary tells a moving and important story about the heroism of monks and children who are trying to preserve Tibetan culture.  Like many documentaries in this genre, the film is also controversial and has been criticized (Zanskar Resource) for its role in creating a situation that will popularize Zanskar and thereby accelerate the destruction of its untainted culture and traditions.

For Mike Traina, including the film in the series was an easy choice “Marx is a long time Bay Area filmmaker and I like to showcase work that is produced in Bay Area and filmmakers who try to work outside the industry and he has done this quite successfully.  His Hoop Dreams, about boys and basketball, was nominated for an Oscar in 1995.   He’s also trying to raise awareness about Zanskar and has a nonprofit related to roads and schools in the region.  Anytime we can bring a filmmaker of this caliber in and provide the community with direct access, we try to do it.”

Petaluma Cinema Series line-up:

February 9: Journey from Zanskar (Frederick Marx, 2010, USA)

February 16: Moolaadé (Ousmane Sembene, 2004, Senegal)  Moolaadé tells the extraordinary tale of a brave West African woman who decides to shelter four little girls from the torturous (and sometimes fatal) procedure of female circumcision, a traditional rite of passage in her village. This sumptuously shot and thought-provoking film, directed by the African continent’s most internationally acclaimed filmmaker, elegantly addresses one of the most controversial issues of our age. 

February 23: Y Tu Mamá También (Alfonso Cuaron, 2001, Mexico)  Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna star in this sexy coming-of-age road movie. Acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron explores the sensual and chaotic relationships between the three central characters as well as the socio-political changes taking place in Mexico itself, ultimately offering the viewer powerful lessons concerning life, love, and growing up.

March 2: The Blue Angel (Joseph von Sternberg, 1930, Germany)  Joseph Von Sternberg’s 1930 expressionist classic uses memorable performances and extraordinary visual design to tell the story of a pretentious professor (Emil Jannings) and the seductive cabaret singer (Marlene Dietrich) who manipulates him into despair and shame. A relentless, twisted tragedy of repression and moral degradation, The Blue Angel is a milestone in the expressionist canon and a portrait of crumbling Weimar Germany.

March 9: Monsoon Wedding (Mira Nair, 2001, India)  Cultures and families collide in Mira Nair’s exuberant Bollywood tale of five interweaving love stories set against the background of an arranged Indian marriage. Cathartic and colorful, this entertaining crowd pleaser has warmed the hearts of audiences around the world and become one of India’s biggest global box office sensations.

March 16: Goodnight Nobody (Jacqueline Zünd, 2010, Switzerland)

March 30: A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951, USA)

April 6: Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980, USA)

April 13: The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974, USA)

April 20: The Big Animal (Jerzy Stuhr, 2000, Poland)

April 27: Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944, USA)

May 4: Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009, USA)

May 11: You, the Living (Roy Anderson, 2007, Sweden)

May 18: Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977, USA)

Details: Wednesday evenings from February 9 through May 18, 2011.  Pre-film lectures at 6 p.m.  Films at 7 p.m.  Theatre seats 257 persons with handicap accessibility.  General Admission $5, Seniors and PFA members $4, Individual Series Pass $40, Students with ASP card free.  Box office is open from 5:30-7:15 p.m. on Wednesday nights.

Parking: On campus parking is $4 and visitors to the campus will need $4 in change or crisp bills to purchase a dashboard parking pass from the yellow machines in the parking lots. The machines do not give change.  The pass is good until midnight.

Special Cinema Series Parking Passes:  Those attending the series can purchase a $20 series parking pass at the box office at Carole L. Ellis Auditorium to display on their dashboards which will cover parking from 5 p.m. onward on evenings that films are screening thus avoiding SRJC’s yellow parking machine experience altogether.  

For additional information email:  info@petalumafilmfest.org  or http://www.petalumafilmfest.org/home/Petaluma_Film_Alliance.html

February 7, 2011 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment