Restored Louise Brooks Film to Open 21st San Francisco Silent Film Festival

The 21st San Francisco Silent Film Festival will open this year on Thursday evening June 2nd with a restored version of the 1928 film Beggars of Life starring perennial favorite, Louise Brooks, Richard Arlen and a scene stealing Wallace Beery.  Having seen this in a beat-up 16mm, it is my understanding from one who knows, this will be an eye-opener.  It is also sure to be a very hot ticket, so order your festival passes now.  The screening will be followed by the annual opening night party hosted at the McRoskey Mattress Company.

Friday, June 3

The first day of the festival will open with my perennial favorite program, Amazing Tales From the Archives.  This year's presenters will be Georges Mourier who is working with the Cinemathèque Française on a new restoration of Abel Gance’ 1927 masterpiece Napoleon vu par Abel Gance.  As you may well recall, I can never forget, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival screened the epic film at Oakland's Paramount Theater in 2012.  My recap of that memorable experience is here.  Peter Schade and Emily Wensel of Universal Pictures will be talking about Paul Leni's 1929 film The Last Warning (screening on Saturday, June 4th).  Bryony Dixon of the BFI will be back to present with treasures from the BFI, she's always a delight and I am looking forward to her talk.  SFSFF Board President and Archivist-in-Chief Rob Byrne will be speaking about the restoration of the 1917 film Mothers of Men, filmed almost entirely in Santa Cruz.  I'm not sure at this point if he will talk before the film, or during Amazing Tales. 

Next up will be a delightful film starring tempestuous Pola Negri, A Woman of the World.  In this film, Negri shows how much of a sense of humor she did have about her famed screen image. This is not to be missed!

Great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu is represented with another of his "gangster films" That Night's Wife (Sono Yo No Tsuma).  I adored Dragnet Girl a few years back, so really looking forward to this.

Sheet Music from the film

Of local Bay Area interest is the 1917 film Mothers of Men, a suffragette film starring Dorothy Davenport Reid (Mrs. Wallace Reid) shot almost entirely in Santa Cruz (and Berkeley).  Rob Byrne will also be an entertaining speaker when it comes to chronicling the discovery and restoration of the film.

German actor Emil Jannings makes his return to the festival in E.A. Dupont's fantastic Variete.  Lya de Putti is cast as the young trapeze artiste.  Great camera angles and perspective from the trapeze artist vantage point.  Not for the squeamish in that regard. 

I know absolutely nothing about Behind the Door, this tag line from the Cinefest 33 screening should be considered fair warning, "One of the most gruesome and bizarre of the atrocity films made in the United States between 1917 – 1919." 

Anita Monga declared in her announcement of the film at the press event on April 6th, That Behind the Door would be "the Sleeper Hit" of the festival.  It involves taxidermy, I am already creeped out.  Rob Byrne will be giving a talk and hosting a slide show on the restoration of the film (a project with Moscow Film Archive, the Library of Congress and other unnamed entities) at the Presidio Officer's Club on May 26th. This event is free, but, you need to register.

Saturday, June 4:

Laurel and Hardy's The Battle of the Century has long been half a movie.  The second reel had been missing all my life, until recently, that is.  Local historian, film collector and cracker-jack accompanist Jon Mirsalis located the elusive second reel.  So, who is ready for pie (in the face)?  Also on this bill of fare are two Buster Keaton short, Cops and The Balloonatic.  We will also be treated to the uber creepy 1907 Pathe film The Dancing Pig.  Once seen, it cannot be unseen, you will never view bacon in quite the same fashion.  Jon will also tinkle the ivories for this screening.

We will be treated to Anthony Asquith's directorial debut with the film Shooting Stars.  I adore backstage musicals and movies about movies being made (Footlight Parade, etc.) and this looks promising.  Asquith's A Cottage on Dartmoor, screened some years back and is an absolute favorite of mine.  Maud Nelissen will be accompanying. 

Oscar Micheaux is a familiar name to many who attend the festival.  Within Our Gates is a political hot button of the day by showing the Jim Crow and the resurrection of the ghastly Ku Klux Klan.  A luminous Evelyn Preer stars.  A not to be missed film as this is the earliest complete feature produced by African American, Oscar Micheaux. 

Rene Clair's The Italian Straw Hat is a classic and one I've never seen on the big screen.  This is a new restoration and I am looking forward to Clair's light touch and hilarious comedy.

Director Paul Leni is not a name that may be too familiar to your average Joe.  Another European import (like Lubitsch), his flair for comedy and terror in The Cat and the Canary never ceases to amuse and terrorize me.  The Man Who Laughs is one of the greatest of all silent films.  I am so looking forward to seeing the newly restored The Last Warning starring Laura La Plante.

Sunday June 5:

We will get a treat of hand colored wonders with the program Fantasia of Color in Early Cinema, not to be missed.  The films presented come from the collection of our friends at the EYE Filmmuseum.

Ernst Lubistch's 1918 delight I Don't Want to be a Man was a huge hit as the San Francisco International Film Festival many years ago when I first saw it.  Starring the hilariously funny Ossi Oswalda, this is certain to be another surefire hit for the weekend.  This program is a double feature with a Clyde Cook comedy What's the World Coming To?, a futuristic comedy when men have become more like women, and women more like me.

The grandfather of all "documentary" or "docu-dramady" films, Robert Flherty's 1922 Nanook of the North is a must see for anyone who need to tick films off their bucket list.  While it is not a strict documentary, the family portrayed are appealing and shows us a world nearly gone from the planet. 

Another newly restored film will be Fritz Lang's Destiny (Der Mude Tod).  Will love conquer all, even death?  Lili Dagover stars in this deeply visual travelogue of love over space and time.

To continue with the theme of restoration, Les Deux Timides is a repeat of the Festival from 2008 (like Beggars of Life was in 2007).  I was not blogging back then, but, I do remember enjoying it quite a lot.  Looking forward to a new print.

The 21st Festival weekend will close with a film that promises to send us all home on a light, high note, Douglas Fairbanks 1919 film When the Clouds Roll By.  One of Fairbanks' last straight comedies before becoming firmly entrenched as a swashbuckler (and who among us would complain?).  I love Doug and make no bones about it.  Looking forward to this!

Hope to see some of you there! 

Fairbanks predates the more famous Fred Astaire walking on the ceiling!


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