San Francisco Silent Film Festival
I must begin with a word of gratitude to the wonderfully generous Michael ("Maya") Guillen of The Evening Class, who invited me to the festival, offered his fabulous pad for me to stay in, and arranged for my press credentials.
A highlight of my trip was meeting up and spending time with Darren, who flew in from Tennessee. Michael threw us a party and invited the San Francisco film/cinephile community to it (thanks again, Michael!). It was fun to meet and hang out with fellow film-bloggers like Brian Darr of Hell On Frisco Bay, Ryland Walker Knight of Vinyl Is Heavy, The House Next Door, and Free Nikes, Shahn of Six Martinis and the Seventh Art, Michael Hawley of The Evening Class, Miljenko Skoknic, and Adam Hartzell.
I was startled by the high level of quality of the films at the festival (both the terrific prints and the films themselves). My favorites were: Dreyer's Mikael (rich, delicious mise-en-scene, and a knockout, transcendent ending); Kinugasa's Jujiro (expressionist avant-garde Japanese film packed with nonstop formal experimentation); William Desmond Taylor's The Soul of Youth (a moving social problem melodrama that is included in the DVD box set Treasures III, Social Issues in American Film, 1900–1934); Harold Lloyd's The Kid Brother (a good analysis might be written about the imaginative way in which geometric thinking not only drives the film's gags but also becomes fused with its mise-en-scene and camera movement); Tod Browning's The Unknown (while containing no overtly 'fancy' composition or cutting, every frame of this film is imbued with an audacious perversity); Rene Clair's Les Deux Timides (all those wonderful split screens and speculative flashbacks); and H.P. Carver's The Silent Enemy (save Nanook, the only silent ethnographic film I've seen--it makes me want to go exploring about in this genre).
I should make particular mention of the festival program book, which contains a specially commissioned scholarly essay for each film. (In a perfect film-world, every festival would do this.) Brian Darr's piece on Jujiro, for instance, enormously helped my appreciation of this movie.
-- At The House Next Door, Ryland writes in detail about his festival experience and also helpfully collects links to other coverage.
-- I reecently realized that Jonathan Rosenbaum's website has an entire section called "Notes" that I'd been unaware of: lots of good reading there. Also, he has an informative report from the Bologna Ritrovato at Moving Image Source.
-- David Bordwell has a terrific, must-read post that begins with this 1927 H.L. Mencken quote: "The first moving-pictures, as I remember them thirty years ago, presented more or less continuous scenes. They were played like ordinary plays, and so one could follow them lazily and at ease. But the modern movie is no such organic whole; it is simply a maddening chaos of discrete fragments. The average scene, if the two shows I attempted were typical, cannot run for more than six or seven seconds. Many are far shorter, and very few are appreciably longer. The result is confusion horribly confounded. How can one work up any rational interest in a fable that changes its locale and its characters ten times a minute?"
-- Andrew Tracy opens his Reverse Shot piece on Hellboy II thus: "Talking faux-seriously about juvenilia has become a marvelous way to avoid talking seriously about the serious."
-- Exciting news from the Toronto International Film Festival: the avant-garde program will include work by Jean-Marie Straub, Nathaniel Dorsky, James Benning, Jim Jennings, Jennifer Reeves, and Pat O'Neill, among others.
-- Craig Keller: "If we have to classify the films of Louis Feuillade — and we don't, because there are no rules in cinema or criticism (love or war) — ...we'd do well to stop deferring to the contemporary marketing that announced them as adventure serials, and start referring to these (un-/)determinedly recursive five-plus-hour sagas by what they really are, which are extended psychodramas — dangerous, occult, quasi-cathartic manipulations of the spectating psyche."
-- A commenter at Dan's place indicates that a Murnau/Borzage DVD box is imminent from Fox. (Wow.)
pic: The Danish director Benjamin Christensen (of Haxan and The Mysterious X) plays a painter in Dreyer's Mikael.