ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

ARThound looks at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s Sunday line-up

Johann Sigurjonson’s classic “The Outlaw and His Wife,” newly-restored by the Swedish Film Institute, screens Sunday at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  Edith Erastoff plays the strong widow, Halla, who falls in love with drifter Berg-Eyvind, played by Victor Sjöström.  Image: courtesy Swedish Film Institute

Johann Sigurjonson’s classic “The Outlaw and His Wife,” newly-restored by the Swedish Film Institute, screens Sunday at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Edith Erastoff plays the strong widow, Halla, who falls in love with drifter Berg-Eyvind, played by Victor Sjöström. Image: courtesy Swedish Film Institute

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival wraps this Sunday with a program worth devoting the entire day to.  The festival’s spectacular historical footage of foreign lands and old customs is always a huge draw.  This year, they have outdone themselves.  Victor Sjöström’s The Outlaw and His Wife (1918), newly restored by the Swedish Film Institute, and German director Friedrich Zelnik’s The Weavers (1927), based on actual weaver uprisings of 1892, are both screening on Sunday afternoon. And just before The Weavers, the festival is gifting the audience with a screening of Aleksander Rodchenko’s newly discovered short trailer for Dziga Vertov’s The Eleventh Year (1928), along with the world premiere of the musical score performed by Beth Custer and Ken Winokur. Sunday afternoon also includes the world premiere of the restoration of Emory Johnson’s The Last Editon (1925), focused around the San Francisco Chronicle and featuring rich historical footage of San Francisco.  The day begins and ends with two classic comedies—in the morning, Kings of Silent Comedy is a delightful pastiche of comedy clips featuring the titans of the silent era and, at 9 p.m., the festival close with Safety Last! (1923) featuring Harold Lloyd, one of the masters of silent-era comedy.

Johann Sigurjonson’s classic “The Outlaw and His Wife,” newly-restored by the Swedish Film Institute, is one of cinema’s great romances.  Edith Erastoff plays the widow, Halla, who falls in love with drifter Berg-Eyvind, played by Victor Sjöström, and gives everything up to run away with him.  Image: courtesy Swedish Film Institute

Johann Sigurjonson’s classic “The Outlaw and His Wife,” newly-restored by the Swedish Film Institute, is one of cinema’s great romances. Edith Erastoff plays the widow, Halla, who falls in love with drifter Berg-Eyvind, played by Victor Sjöström, and gives everything up to run away with him. Image: courtesy Swedish Film Institute

The Outlaw and His Wife (Berg-Ejvind och Hans Hhustru) (Sweden, 1918, ~105 min)

Adapted from a play by Johann Sigurjonson, director Victor Sjöström’s Berg-Ejvind och Hans Hhustru is one of Swedish cinema’s first major films. The 1918 silent drama features dramatic footage of vast expanses of wild nature and is one of the finest examples of Sigurjonson’s life-long exploration of the theme of spirituality’s connection to nature and the elements.  It is also hailed as a work of remarkable psychological complexity, which had a strong influence on the work of Ingmar Bergman and Carl Theodor Dreyer.  It stars Victor Sjöström (Bergman’s Wild Strawberries) as Berg-Eyvind, a drifter who begins working on the farm of a generous and extremely self-sufficient widow named Halla (Edith Erastoff).  The couple falls in love only to have it revealed that Berg-Eyvind is a thief on the run. When a jealous rival alerts authorities to Eyvind’s true identity, the lovers escape together into the mountains of Iceland where they manage to eke-out a rather enviable existence until they are discovered by another fugitive and the story takes a very dark turn.  “The film is incredible love story that takes place in a beautiful vista and it’s based on an old Icelandic tale, with amazing cinematography and story,” said SFSFF director Anita Monga.  “It just had its premiere last week at Il Cinema Ritrovato, the Bologna Film Festival, and now it’s here for its second-ever screening after its restoration.”  The Matti Bye Ensemble from Sweden provides musical accompaniment. (Screens Sunday, July 20, at 1 p.m.)

Friedrich Zelnik’s “The Weavers” (1927) (Die Weber) dramatizes a Silesian cotton weavers uprising of 1844 and features intertitles designed and hand-drawn by George Grosz.  Pictured: Theodor Loos (in white shirt), Wilhelm Dieterle (in beret), Herta von Walther (bending), Dagny Servaes (woman on the right).  Photo: courtesy of F.W. Murnau Stiftung

Friedrich Zelnik’s “The Weavers” (1927) (Die Weber) dramatizes a Silesian cotton weavers uprising of 1844 and features intertitles designed and hand-drawn by George Grosz. Pictured: Theodor Loos (in white shirt), Wilhelm Dieterle (in beret), Herta von Walther (bending), Dagny Servaes (woman on the right). Photo: courtesy of F.W. Murnau Stiftung

The Weavers (Die Weber) (Germany, 1927, ~ 97 min)

Friedrich Zelnik’s The Weavers is based on the 1892 play by Gerhart Hauptman dramatizing a Silesian cotton weavers uprising of 1844.  The film was once known as the German Potemkin.  It is a high budget German drama focused on class struggle, a subject matter that resonated closely with epic works of Soviet cinema.  The film has a strong sense of drama and tragedy and shows the poor workers being exploited by the rich manufacturers and the devastation which ensues when the crowd degrades into a mob which destroys the textile magnate’s manor and proceeds to break the textile machines which threaten the traditional livelihood of the weavers. Some of the workers refuse to participate in the revolt but are harmed nonetheless.  Its creators downplayed its radical message, but The Weavers resonated with viewers in 1927 whose social reality reflected a chasm between rich and poor.  “This is a very rousing film,” said Anita Monga. The incident itself had a major impact throughout the world and it was a touchstone for Marx and Engels writing the Communist Manifesto

The excellent 2012 restoration, by F. W. Murnau Stiftung and Transit Film GmbH, showcases the work of the great graphic designer George Grosz, from his animal vignettes in the opening credit sequence and continuing with the animated graphic design of the intertitles which goes further than in Metropolis: there is a 3D mobile approach to certain key sentences which become moving lettrist vignettes.  The standoff scene between the revolutionary crowd and the police and military are epic.  Musical accompaniment is by the acclaimed Günter Buchwald, the director of the Silent Movie Music Company and conductor of the Freiburg Filmharmonic Orchestra, which he founded in 1992. Buchwald has incorporated a very Brechtian folksong into the accompaniment. (Screens Sunday, July 20, at 6 p.m.)

Aleksander Rodchenko’s newly discovered trailer for Dziga Vertov’s The Eleventh Year with the world premiere of the musical score performed by Beth Custer and Ken Winokur

Ken Winokur of the Alloy Orchestra made an amazing discovery while the orchestra was traveling in the Ukraine—a two-minute trailer for Dziga Vertov’s THE ELEVENTH YEAR, created by famed Constructivist artist Aleksander Rodchenko.  As a special gift to San Francisco, Winokur and Beth Custer will perform the World Premiere of their score accompanying Vertov’s trailer on Sunday, July 21, just before the 6 p.m. screening of The Weavers. (For ARThound’s previous coverage of this, click here.)

In 2011, the last surviving copy of Emory Johnson’s “The Last Edition” (1925), whose story is set around the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, was found in the Netherlands.  The world premiere of the new restoration is Sunday, July 21, 2013 at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  Image: courtesy SFSFF.

In 2011, the last surviving copy of Emory Johnson’s “The Last Edition” (1925), whose story is set around the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, was found in the Netherlands. The world premiere of the new restoration is Sunday, July 21, 2013 at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Image: courtesy SFSFF.

The Last Edition (USA, 1925, 105 min)

One of the few surviving films created by Emory Johnson in the mid-1920’s, The Last Edition stars veteran actor Ralph Lewis as a pressman at the San Francisco Chronicle who has been denied a well-deserved promotion by his boss, publisher Jerome Hamilton (Louis Payne).  The film’s last known screening was on November 28, 1930, in Utrecht, the Netherlands, so Sunday’s premiere of its new restoration is a cause for celebration.  This gem is filmed on location in and around the Chronicle pressroom with major footage of Market Street, Civic Center and Mission Street and includes a thrilling car chase throughout the City as newsmen valiantly tackle the forces of corruption.  The film was unearthed in an archive in the Netherlands two years ago and was in poor condition due to having been shot on highly-degradable nitrate film.  Its painstaking two-year restoration was a collaboration between the archive, Eye Film Institute Netherlands and the film festival.  Leading silent film accompanist Stephen Horne will be on piano. (Screens Sunday, July 21, 3:30 p.m.)

Harold Lloyd’s romantic silent comedy “Safety Last” (1923) closes the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and includes one of silent film’s most iconic images—Lloyd clutching the hands of a giant clock while dangling from ledge of a skyscraper above moving traffic.  Lloyd’s performance cemented his status as one of the leading figures in early motion pictures.  The film's title is a play on the expression, "safety first," which emphasizes safety as the primary means of avoiding accidents.  Image: courtesy SFSFF.

Harold Lloyd’s romantic silent comedy “Safety Last!” (1923) closes the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and includes one of silent film’s most iconic images—Lloyd clutching the hands of a giant clock while dangling from ledge of a skyscraper above moving traffic. Lloyd’s performance cemented his status as one of the leading figures in early motion pictures. The film’s title is a play on the expression, “safety first,” which emphasizes safety as the primary means of avoiding accidents. Image: courtesy SFSFF.

Full festival schedule—Chronological View and Calendar View

Details: SFSFFruns Thursday, July 12, 2012 through Sunday, July 15, 2012 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (between Market and 18th Streets), San Francisco. Tickets: $14 to $20; $180 to $215 for passes. Click here to purchase all tickets and passes. Information: (415) 777-4908 or www.silentfilm.org

Parking Alert: If you plan on coming by car, street parking is the only parking available. Plan to arrive 45 minutes early to leave sufficient time for parking and walking to/from the theatre.

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July 20, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Francisco’s 18th Annual Silent Film Festival: celebrating the silent era with premieres, restorations and wonderful live music, at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre—opens this Thursday, July 18, 2012

Ralph Lewis (left) and Tom O’Brien (right) are pressmen for the San Francisco Chronicle in Emory Johnson’s newly restored “The Last Edition,” screening for the first time in 83 years at the 18th SF Silent Film Festival on Sunday.  The film was found in a film archive in the Netherlands two years ago.  Originally shot on highly degradable nitrate film, it required two years of dedicated restoration.  Image: courtesy SFSFF.

Ralph Lewis (left) and Tom O’Brien (right) are pressmen for the San Francisco Chronicle in Emory Johnson’s newly restored “The Last Edition,” screening for the first time in 83 years at the 18th SF Silent Film Festival on Sunday. The film was found in a film archive in the Netherlands two years ago. Originally shot on highly degradable nitrate film, it required two years of dedicated restoration. Image: courtesy SFSFF.

The 18th San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) begins Thursday, July 17, 2013 and runs through Sunday, July 21, 2013, presenting films from nine countries and 17 programs celebrating the wonder of silent film, all at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre. Thursday night, the festival kicks off and Friday, Saturday and Sunday each offer a full day of
5-6 film events, all with live music, making every performance unique.  In addition to re-introducing some oft-forgotten talents from cinematic history, the festival brings in experts on film history and restoration to talk about specific issues related to each film so this is a chance to learn about a film’s entire social context while seeing it on the Castro’s big screen.

The annual festival, the largest in the country, is held every July at the Castro Theatre and is sponsored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the artistic, cultural and historic value of silent film.

Thursday: Opening Night Film: PRIX DE BEAUTÉ – France 1930

The festival opens on Thursday with a beautiful new restoration (from the Cineteca di Bologna) of Louise Brooks in her last starring role in Augusto Genina’s Prix de Beauté.  Less known than her work with G.W. Pabst (Pandora’s Box, Diary of a Lost Girl), Prix de Beauté was marred by its less-than-successful foray into early sound (Brooks’s voice was dubbed). The San Francisco Silent Film Festival presentation is the superior silent version recently restored in Bologna. Brooks is stunning as Lucienne, the “every girl” typist who enters a beauty contest and is introduced to a shiny world of fame and modernity.  But Prix’s script, a collaboration between René Clair and G.W. Pabst, doesn’t leave Lucienne in a fairy tale bubble but leads to a powerful, moving denouement. Cinematographers Rudolph Maté and Louis Née make beautiful use of Brooks’s glorious face. Accompanying the film will be world-renowned pianist (and festival favorite) Stephen Horne who has a special musical surprise in store for viewers at the end of the film.

Opening Night Party: After the film, at 9 p.m., the SFSFF 2013 kicks off with its fabulous opening night party at the McRoskey Mattress Company, a short walk from the theatre.  There will be drinks, hors d’oeuvres, dancing to the Frisky Frolics, and the first-ever SF Silent Film Festival Beauty Contest and a raffle for a chance to win a $3000 shopping spree! (Drawing will be held on Closing Night.)  Wear your best 1910s – 1920s-inspired Glad Rags and parade in front of a panel of Celebrity Judges for fabulous prizes including the Grand Prize of a Styling Consultation with Artful Gentleman! Whether you raid your closet or arrive in your newest acquisition, everyone is eligible.

Actor, writer, and producer Miles Mander plays British politician Sir Hugo Boycott and Madeleine Carroll is Lady Madeleine Boycott in “The First Born,” 1928.  The film touches on the very adult themes of infertility and adultery and the disintegration of a marriage in a wealthy British upper-class milieu.  Image: courtesy BFI.

Actor, writer, and producer Miles Mander plays British politician Sir Hugo Boycott and Madeleine Carroll is Lady Madeleine Boycott in “The First Born,” 1928. The film touches on the very adult themes of infertility and adultery and the disintegration of a marriage in a wealthy British upper-class milieu. Image: courtesy BFI.

Friday:  Into the 1920’s bedroom, THE FIRST BORN –UK 1928

Miles Mander, famous for his moustache, has his directorial debut and stars in a film that was adapted from his own play The First Born, a tale of philandering politician Hugo Boycott (Mander), and his young wife Madeleine (played by Madeleine Carroll).  Unable to have a child, their marriage is strained, so in desperation Madeleine attempts to dupe him into believing that someone else’s baby is his own.  Set in a British upper-class milieu and touching on morality, politics, and the disintegration of a marriage, the film present’s a fascinating glimpse back in time as well as exceptionally rich characters.  The screenplay was co-written by Alma Reville, most known today as Hitchcock’s wife, but someone who had already established herself in the industry before her husband picked up a camera.  Musician Stephen Horne, who has accompanied the film several times before and wrote a full score for the BFI’s restoration gala screening in London in 2011, will perform.   The film screens Friday, July 19, at 2 p.m.

Saturday: A Brand New Restoration of THE HALF-BREED – USA 1916

On Saturday, July 20th at Noon, the Festival will premiere a brand new restoration of a “lost” Douglas Fairbanks film, The Half-Breed—the result of a partnership between the Cinémathèque française and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  The great Allan Dwan directed this western drama set amongst the redwoods and filmed in part near Boulder Creek (with Victor Fleming behind the camera). Based on a story by Bret Harte and adapted by Anita Loos, The Half-Breed stars Douglas Fairbanks as Lo Dorman, a half-Indian outcast from society, who lives in the forest and makes his home in a hollow tree. The coquettish pastor’s daughter (Jewel Carmen) toys with his affections, but it is Teresa (Alma Reuben) on the run from the law, who shares Lo’s status as an outsider. Founder and conductor of the Freiburg Filmharmonic Orchestra, Günter Buchwald will accompany The Half-Breed on the Castro’s Mighty Wurlitzer.

In G.W. Pabst’s “The Joyless Street” (1925), two women from the same poor neighborhood try to better themselves during the period of Austrian postwar hyperinflation.  Marie becomes a prostitute while Grete (Greta Garbo in her final European film before she was snapped up by MGM in Hollywood) does not.  Photo: courtesy Filmmuseum München

In G.W. Pabst’s “The Joyless Street” (1925), two women from the same poor neighborhood try to better themselves during the period of Austrian postwar hyperinflation. Marie becomes a prostitute while Grete (Greta Garbo in her final European film before she was snapped up by MGM in Hollywood) does not. Photo: courtesy Filmmuseum München

Saturday: sensational restoration THE JOYLESS STREET – Germany 1925

Not only one of the most important films of Weimar-era Germany, The Joyless Street (Die freudlose Gasse) is also one of the most spectacular censorship cases of the era. The story from the inflationary period in Vienna in the years immediately after World War I was considered too much of a provocation with its juxtaposition of haves and have nots and its frank sexuality. G.W. Pabst’s film was twice shortened by the German censors and other countries made cuts or outright banned the film. This painstaking restoration, supervised by Stefan Drössler for Filmmuseum München, has reconstructed the film as close as possible to Pabst’s intention.  “Tons of research went into trying to figure out what the original film actually was,” explained Anita Monga.  “It is not completely clear because this film was circulated around to different countries that received different parts and versions due to censorship, so the issues of continuity and what belonged and what didn’t was a huge challenge.  The Munich archive did extensive research and gathered materials from around the world and put together what they  feel is the most comprehensive restoration of the film, making it longer but also what we feel is the most complete version.  In terms of the acting, the film has the Danish actress, Asta Nielsen, who was huge, an international star who made over 70 films in Germany but she’s not well known in the States because her work was considered too erotic and was heavily censored in the U.S.   And there’s Garbo.  Her performance in Gosta Berling’s Saga (1924), which really launched her career, caught the eye of Pabst who then brought her in to this film, where she is wonderful.  This was just her second feature performance which occurred just before she left Europe for Hollywood in 1925.”  The Joyless Street will play Saturday, July 20th at 8:30 PM. The extraordinary Matti Bye Ensemble will perform their original score to accompany The Joyless Street.

Sunday: a story set around our own San Francisco Chronicle THE LAST EDITION – USA 1925

One of the few surviving films created by Emory Johnson in the mid-1920’s, The Last Edition stars veteran actor Ralph Lewis as a pressman at the San Francisco Chronicle who has been denied a well-deserved promotion by his boss, publisher Jerome Hamilton (Louis Payne).  The film’s last known screening was on November 28, 1930, in Utrecht, the Netherlands, so Sunday’s premiere of its new restoration is a cause for celebration.  For those with an interest in history in San Francisco history, this gem is filmed on location in and around the Chronicle pressroom with major footage of Market Street, Civic Center and Mission Street and includes a thrilling car chase throughout the City as newsmen valiantly tackle the forces of corruption.  The film was unearthed in an archive in the Netherlands two years ago and was in poor condition due to having been shot on highly-degradable nitrate film.  Its painstaking two-year restoration is a collaboration between the archive, Eye Film Institute Netherlands and the film festival.  Leading silent film accompanist Stephen Horne will be on piano to accompany the screening of this film Sunday, July 21st at 3:30 PM.

Sunday:  Aleksander Rodchenko’s newly discovered trailer for Dziga Vertov’s THE ELEVENTH YEAR with the world premiere of the musical score performed by Beth Custer and Ken Winokur

Ken Winokur of the Alloy Orchestra made an amazing discovery while the orchestra was traveling in the Ukraine—a two-minute trailer for Dziga Vertov’s THE ELEVENTH YEAR, created by famed Constructivist artist Aleksander Rodchenko.  As a special gift to San Francisco, Winokur and Beth Custer will perform the World Premiere of their score accompanying Vertov’s trailer on Sunday, July 21, just before the 6 p.m. screening of THE WEAVERS.

Winokur describes his find:

In May of this year, while traveling in the Ukraine with Alloy Orchestra, I had the great pleasure of visiting the National Oleksandr Dovzhenko Centre (the Ukrainian National Film Archive). Located in a building that once, during the Soviet Era, housed a massive film processing lab, the archive has rapidly developed into an impressive collection of films, particularly films of the Ukraine. The curators at the archive seem to have a special interest in silent films, and also run the Mute Nights, Silent Film festival, every June in Odessa Ukraine.

Shortly before leaving the archive, curator Stas Menzelevskyi, beckoned me to look at a film he had on his computer.  He explained that it was a trailer for the Dziga Vertov film THE ELEVENTH YEAR, and that it is believed to be animated and directed by Aleksander Rodchenko, a noted graphic designer and one of the founders of the Constructivist movement in the Soviet Union.  I was stunned! This 2 minute film is like nothing I have ever seen from the silent era. Swirling circles, and dancing stick figures—the film looks more like something from the summer of love in San Francisco than a film from the 1920s.

Stay tuned to ARThound for more festival coverage

Full festival schedule—Chronological View and Calendar View

Details: The 18th San Francisco Silent Film Festival is July 18-21, 2013 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (between Market and 18th Streets), San Francisco.  Festival passes are available at McRoskey Mattress Company (1687 Market St., S.F.) and online at www.silentfilm.org.   Tickets: $15 to $25 for parties; $185 to $220 for passes. Click here to purchase all tickets and passes. Information: (415) 777-4908 or www.silentfilm.org

Parking Alert: If you plan on coming by car, street parking is the only parking available. Plan to arrive 45 minutes early to leave sufficient time for parking and walking to/from the theatre.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment