Happy New Year

Happy New Year! May your 2005 be as joyful as a dance with Fred and Ginger, and may your spirit and zest for life last like old-time Technicolor.

It’s another slow week for the revival and art houses, probably because there’s so much worth seeing in the first-run houses, right now. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been able to get to much of it. I was hoping to catch The Aviator yesterday, but family, rain, and a late start on the day kept me home.

But things are heating up. Next week will see the launch of the 3rd Annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival in its new home at the Balboa Theater (more on that next week) and the reopening of the Pacific Film Archive after it’s usual Holiday Season shutdown. More on that next week.

While I’ve been staying at home, I’ve been slowly working through the More Treasures of American Film Archives DVD set, and I can’t recommend it enough. The three discs contain 50 films, ranging in length from a few seconds to 89 minutes, from the birth of the medium until 1931. Not everything is intrinsically entertaining, but it’s all fascinating history. And much of it is very entertaining. So far, my favorite find is a 1925 Rin-Tin-Tin feature called Clash of the Wolves. It’s a silly melodrama, of course, but it’s a fun silly melodrama. And Rin Tin Tin is absolutely the best non-human movie star I’ve ever seen. He emotes, he follows the action, he does his own stunts. And he’s charismatic as all hell.

Rin-Tin-Tin was a real movie star. I’m not talking Lassie, here, who was actually a character played by multiple dogs. Like human stars, he played a different character, with a different name, in each film (although, like many human stars, his character didn’t change much from picture to picture). And like any great movie star, his very presence turns a mediocre movie into a great one.

I don’t think there’s a commercial print available, but I’d love to see Clash of the Wolves in a real theater, with live music, and an audience of enthusiastic children. The best I could do was showing it to my own 12-year-old girl, who laughed and cheered and cried “Aww, that’s so cute” at all the right times.