Left in the Dark at the PFA

I’m trying to get back into the swing of things here, both with movie-going and blogging about movie-going. Saturday night I took the plunge.

I started the evening at the Pacific Film Archive for Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres. I’ve mentioned other events around the book Left in the Dark before (here and here), but this time I finally got to one of them.

Don’t expect a linear history of San Francisco movie theaters, here. The photographs bycopertina-left-in-the-dark X CIANO a filo.indd R.A. McBride are the real stars of the book. These beautiful yet often heart-breaking pictures show theaters in their glory and when the glory has long faded. The photos are supported by essays from various authors, each describing one aspect or another of the City’s cinematic history and culture. For instance, Chi-hui Yang discusses Chinatown theaters, and Eddie Muller covers—what else–the Noir side of things.

One slight digression: In order to get the book published, its true auteurs, editor Julie Lindow and photographer R.A. McBride, had to buy 1,000 copies. So if you want to buy a copy, do them a favor and make the  purchase from their web site. Yes, it costs a little more, but you’ll be supporting the arts.

Speaking over a slideshow, McBride and Katherine Petrin discussed the history of some of theaters involved, including the still-beautiful Castro, the decrepit New Mission (I hadn’t even heard of that one), and the now-gone Coronet. McBride showed several slides of the Coronet’s demolition.

After a brief Q&A, author and UC grad student Laura Horak took the podium to read some excerpts. She started with the section she wrote with Gary Meyer—basically Meyer’s professional autobiography (the section’s byline reads "Gary Meyer with Laura Horak”). It was strange listening to her talk in first person as Gary—especially since he was sitting right next to me. From there she went on to midnight movies (Elisabeth Houseman with Joshua Grannell wrote that chapter), then to the subject of her dissertation: cross-dressing in silent films.

By that time, a program that was supposed to run 60 minutes had passed 90. Since I had other plans for the evening, I had to leave. Unfortunately, I utterly failed to leave my second-row seat discretely. Then I realized that I had left my umbrella in my seat, and utterly failed at leaving discretely again. I feel pretty bad about that.

My plans? Dinner with my wife and on to the Shattuck to see Nowhere Boy. I’ve got another post coming about that.

11/1: I have altered this post to correct an error.  I had incorrectly credited editor Julie Lindow, not Katherine Petrin, with co-presenting the first presentation.