EPIC Films for the 20th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival

It's hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the first San Francisco Silent Film Festival!  Who would have believed the festival could have grown so much and thrived?  Yeah, we all thought so!  Congratulations to the San Francisco Silent film Festival, from the earliest days to the present Board members and staff, it's been a great ride!  This year, looks like a great ride, as well.  Start off by buying your fesitval pass here, do it now.

The program is varied, interesting and has a nice balance of foreign delights as well as some truly fabulous warhorses! 

All Quiet on the Western Front
The program opens with the silent version of Lewis Milestone's incredible All Quiet of the Western Front starring Lew Ayres and Louis Wolheim and Ben Alexander. Rarely seen in the silent version, this is a not to miss opener for the Festival.

We start the weekend proper with another episode of Amazing Tales from the Archive, the festival free program I always enjoy.  The first Friday film will be a Chinese silent film Cave of the Spider Woman from 1927 recently repatriated to China from Norway.  The few stills and frame grabs I've seen look great!

Cave of the Spider Woman

San Francisco Board President Rob Byrne and EYE restored a 1913 Lubin film When the Earth Trembled, set in San Francisco at the time of the great earthquake in 1906.  It should be interesting to see a take on the disaster and tragedy so soon after the actual events.

Italian Poster for When the Earth Trembled
The great German actor Emil Jannings returns to San Francisco (virtually) in one of his great silent films directed by F.W. Murnau, The Last Laugh.

Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh

Another highly anticipated film (for me anyway) will be the 1927 German/UK film The Ghost Train.   Stranded travelers in a haunted train station, I am all about that!

This year we see the return of Harold Lloyd in one of my favorite of his comedies, Speedy. It is speedy so be preapred for a whirlwind!

Those who remember Gribiche from a few years ago will be pleased to see another Jacques Feyder film on the schedule.  This one also starring the remarkable Jean Forest in Visage D'Enfants.  I won't be missing it!  

Frank Capra is represented by not one of his silent films, but a talkie that is missing the soundtrack entitled The Donovan Affair.  I know this will be a crowd pleaser with the live actors and live sound effects, but, it's not a silent film!  Just silent by virtue of a lost track.  Oh well, I'm robbed of hearing Agnes Ayres real voice.  This also reunites Ayres and Jack Holt as they co-starred in Paramount's lost film Don't Call it Love (with Nita Naldi).  I know I will enjoy this, too, just being a curmudgeon at the moment!

Clarence Brown's 1927 Flesh and Devil is the film that started one of the most torrid affairs in Hollywood, at least for the 1920's.  Starring John Gilbert and Greta Garbo, you can really see them fall in love on screen and it does smoulder! The film also stars Lars Hanson, who is also fabulous in this film. 

Director Clarence Brown and Greta Garbo pose for a gag shot during the filming of Flesh and the Devil.
Then we are treated to a Norwegian film, Pan, "a story of simple overwhelming attraction."  I do not know anything about this film or anyone in it.  Going on faith here!

Day 4 (Sunday) starts with four shorts by The Amazing Charlie Bowers, presented by Serge Bromberg, I am NOT going to miss this! Serge Bromberg is a great showman himself, so this you get two for the price of one kind of entertainment.

After the amazing comedies of Charley Bowers, we get to relax with Avant Garde Paris, Man Ray and Dimitri Kirsanoff.  I am looking forward to Stephen Horne playing for these in particular.

Colleen Moore, popular in the past in Her Wild Oat also returns for the 20th festival in the recently restored Why Be Good? Should be good! 

Trade Advert for Why Be Good?
Also in the line up is a Swedish comedy Norrtullsligan about female office workers who share a flat and work in a man's world. 

Then comes the most anticipated film of the weekend, William Gillette in the 1916 Sherlock Holmes.  Long thought to be lost, recently and miraculously rediscovered.  Now we can see the man who really brought Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes to life.  How I wish Benedict Cumberbatch (pant pant) or Mark Gatiss would be joining us to introduce it, but, I know we will be all the better and happier because the esteemed Russell Merritt will be!

The Swallow and the Titmouse lay dormant for 60+ years, restored and recreated in 1979 this will be a non-missable.

The final day begins  with another free program which will be a silent film quiz "So you think you know silents."  I will play and likely not win anything, but it will be fun!

I've seen Blanche Sweet in only a few films, so The Deadlier Sex (1920) is going to be a real treat.  Looks like a riff on Smoldering Fires (1925) or Female (1936) and the added bonus of a cameo/bit with Boris Karloff early in his career.  I love Boris!

Next to Sherlock Holmes one of the most exciting and significant finds is the Bert Williams 1913 unfinished feature Lime Kiln Field Day.  Preserved and reconstructed this will be a one of a kind opportunity for the geekiest of film geeks.  Bert Williams was a huge star in his day and this formerly lost and forgotten footage is going to be a real eye opener.  I am very much looking forward to this. 

Finally, to close out the festival Kevin Brownlow will be interviewed "in conversation" with Serge Bromberg prior to the screening of Ben-Hur.  The print is Photoplay Productions restoration, so I expect Patrick Stanbury will be on hand as well.  The screening of Ben-Hur will be a trademarked Photoplay Productions "Live Cinema" presentation with the recorded orchestral score by Carl Davis.  I welcome this!  The score is fabulous, well suited to the film and the fact it is recorded detracts not one iota from the enjoyment of the film.  I know this is a precident being broken by the SFSFF and I hope that this happens every now and again if it brings back Kevin and Patrick and their beautifully restored prints.  (PLEASE, I know you did 2 Valentino's last year, but Photoplay's print of Valentino's 1925 The Eagle IS from a nitrate negative, best possible print) Looking forward to seeing Kevin and also a nearly naked Ramon Novarro if I must be shallow (and I must).  With the restored two color technicolor sequences, this film is simply fabulous on the big screen.  A fitting bang on epic to end a long weekend of fabulous silent films.

Throughout the weekend the fesitval will be screening bits, shorts and newsreels about the PPIE, Panama Pacific International Exposition which is celebrating it's centenary in 2015.  According to Anita Monga, we'll be seeing rare films, many which have not been seen for decades. 

Live musical accompaniment for each film and we will see many familiar faces, Donald Sosin, the Matti Bye Ensemble, the Mont-Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Guenter Buchwald, Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius.

Don't miss the holiday weekend and celebrate the art of the universal language of silent cienma.  True Art Transcends Time!

See you there!


Caftan Woman said…
What an outstanding line-up! The Bert Williams film is truly exciting.

I prefer the silent version of "All Quiet on the Western Front" and would love the chance to see it on the big screen.

Congratulations to the San Francisco Festival.

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