San Francisco Silent Film Festival - Upstream and Sunrise

Opening Night for the 16th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival promises to be a wonderful evening. 

The evening begins with the San Francisco Premiere of the recently re-patriated John Ford silent Upstream.


Accompanied By: Sosin Ensemble

(U.S.A., 1927, 61 mins)
Directed By: John Ford
Cast: Nancy Nash, Earle Foxe, Grant Withers, Lydia Yeamans Titus, Raymond Hitchcock
Screening with the short WHY HUSBANDS FLIRT - new preservation premiere

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival opens on July 14 at the Castro Theatre with this spectacular restoration of a film directed by John Ford that was long believed lost.

UPSTREAM (1927) is one of 75 American films recently discovered in the New Zealand Film Archive. These “lost” films will be preserved over the next several years at five major American archives, including the Academy’s, in collaboration with the National Film Preservation Foundation. UPSTREAM is the first of the features to be preserved and screened for the public. The preservation work was carried out by Park Road Post Production in Wellington, New Zealand, under the direction of Twentieth Century Fox and the Academy Film Archive.

UPSTREAM focuses on a love triangle involving an egotistical actor (Earle Foxe) and a young couple (Nancy Nash, Grant Withers) who partner in a vaudeville knife-throwing act. The film is from an interesting chapter in the career of Ford, as he admitted that during this time he was strongly influenced by the work of German director F.W. Murnau, who had immigrated to the United States to make films for the Fox studios, enabling Ford to study his working methods first hand.

The Donald Sosin Ensemble (pianist/composer Sosin with featured players from the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra) will accompany UPSTREAM as well as another discovery from the New Zealand Archive—a short comedy by Al Christie with Dorothy Dane and Bobby Vernon, WHY HUSBANDS FLIRT(1918). The film has recently been restored thanks to Frank Buxton.

Print courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
WHY HUSBANDS FLIRT preservation funded by Frank Buxton and Cynthia Sears
Print courtesy of George Eastman House

Following Upstream will be the beloved classic, Sunrise directed by F.W. Murnau.  Sunrise is arguably one of the greatest silent films ever made.  It is a film held in high esteem by many historians, archivists and film fans (myself included).


Accompanied By: Giovanni Spinelli

(U.S.A., 1927, 94 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: F.W. Murnau
Cast: George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston
Accompanied by Giovanni Spinelli on electric guitar

Presentation in association with Paolo Cherchi Usai

Silent cinema is the art form that died too young: "Not ripe for replacement," aesthetician Rudolph Arnheim wrote in 1930, three years after THE JAZZ SINGER broke the sound barrier, silent film “had not lost its fruitfulness, but only its profitability.” Indeed, many of the most innovative silent movies were produced in the mode's last days: Dreyer’s THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, Sjöström’s THE WIND, Vertov’s THE MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA, Dovzhenko’s EARTH, and Murnau’s SUNRISE.

Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (1888-1931), a protégé of the great German theatrical impresario Max Reinhardt, was a formidable technician and arguably the supreme cine-aesthete of the 1920s: painter of light, choreographer of camera movement, and maestro of mise-en-scène. Murnau’s 1924 visual tour de force, known in the U.S. as THE LAST LAUGH, was one of the first (and few) silent features made without the benefit of intertitles. Following this international success and Murnau’s ambitious 1926 FAUST, movie mogul William Fox brought the “German genius” to Hollywood and gave him the key to the studio.

SUNRISE was shot silent, with very few titles, and released in late 1927, with a synchronized musical soundtrack. The early reviews were sensational; the grosses were not. Thirty years later, the ultimate cinephile magazine Cahiers du Cinéma declared Murnau’s first American movie “the single greatest masterwork in the history of cinema.” It's an assertion as reckless, romantic, and extravagant as the movie itself. —J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

Print courtesy of Criterion Pictures USA

Individual tickets and festival passes may be purchased online at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival website.


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