Sunday, July 25, 2010

Belated Musings On The 15th San Francisco Silent Film Festival

2010 SFSFF posters by David O' Daniel

It turns out every cineaste scribe, his/her brother and Aunt Millie - not a one "way too damn lazy to write a blog" and including a prolific local correspondent and researcher who made stalwart contributions to the program notes - covered the 2010 San Francisco Silent Film Festival at length. Check their detailed accounts out here.

Also deserving of kudos: Michael Guillen's transcriptions of festival events and the review author Leonard Maltin posted on his website.

My favorite films, with full admission that the restored Metropolis and Dziga Vertov's Man With A Movie Camera blew me away (as expected), were the "lovable lug and ragamuffin" boxing flick The Shakedown and Mario Camerini's brooding drama Rotaie, produced in 1928 during the height of Murnau-Borzage-Fox, but more akin to a 1940's neo-realist film or a Monty Clift "tormented young antihero" opus from the 50's.

The Shakedown in particular was a pleasant surprise and demonstrated emphatically that William Wyler had his directorial chops early on. Enjoyed the well-crafted, skillfully edited boxing sequences and comic scenes between "the ragamuffin" played by Jack Hanlon and ubiquitous comedian-character actor Harry Gribbon.

James Murray, who you may recognize from King Vidor's The Crowd, did a fine job as "the big lug"; the extent to which this talented young actor threw a promising career away is nothing short of mind-numbing.

I had a blast at the festival, but by midway through the last day, it was apparent that I'd hit that Roberto Duran "no mas, no mas" point: my eyeballs felt as if they were going to drop out of their sockets, roll around and then look accusingly at me, as if I were starring in a Ren & Stimpy cartoon.

I did, however, get the opportunity to briefly meet Paula Félix-Didier and Fernando Martín Peña, the intrepid archivists responsible for restoring Metropolis to its original length, thank them and say "hey - maybe next time you'll find Murnau's 4 Devils". . . which got a big laugh.


Anonymous said...

Silence is golden, and I wish I could have been there with you.

paul etcheverry said...

Maybe next year, Anonymous! And we'll watch some amazing films from the Murnau-Borzage-Fox DVD box during my next visit.