Silent Film Fest coming in early June

Let’s step away from the Festival opening next Wednesday, and take a look at a very different one that opens in early June.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival provides an intensive, four-day immersion into the first decades of the cinema. The festival brings rare prints and new restorations of classic and obscure silent movies, and matches them with first-class musicians.

It all happens at the Castro.

Here are some of the events I’m most looking forward to:

The Freshman

Here’s a nearly perfect introduction to silent films. Harold Lloyd’s college comedy is a masterpiece of the genre, with a compelling story built almost entirely on great, extended gag sequences. You can read my Blu-ray review. The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, an excellent ensemble, will provide the accompaniment.

Get Your Man

The Library of Congress recently reconstructed this romantic comedyfrom various recovered materials. It stars the bubbly and sexy Clara Bow (“the IT girl”). In other words, no one has seen anything like the full movie in decades, but we can see it now. Also on the program: a newly discovered section of a mostly-lost feature starring the incandescent Louise Brooks. Bow and Brooks in one show! Stephen Horne will provide the music on piano.

Body and Soul

Pioneering African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux made a lot of movies, but few have survived. This film stars Paul Robeson (still powerful without his voice) in a dual role of good and bad identical twins. It’s a slight melodrama, but historically important. And to make things really interesting, rapper DJ Spooky will provide what I expect will be a very unconventional score.

The Doll

I haven’t seen this early (1919) comedy of manners directed by Ernst Lubitsch. But…it was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, and it’s exactly the sort of thing that he did better than anyone else. Musical accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald and Frank Bockius.

The Lost World

Based on the Arthur Conan Doyle novel, this was probably the first feature-length movie with men fighting dinosaurs. Like today’s digitally-enhanced blockbusters, it’s silly but fun, and depends entirely on its special effects (by the great Willis O’Brien, who would make King King eight years later). You can read about the last time I saw it at the Castro. The film has recently been reconstructed to create something closer to its original form and length. The Alloy Orchestra (really a trio) will provide the music.

Altogether, the festival has 17 separate programs over four days. There’s a lot here worth catching.

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