Friday at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival

Another busy day at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival .

You Never Know Women

William  Wellman directed this  entertaining tale set an acrobatic troupe. Problems come up when a wealthy cad sets his sights on a beautiful acrobat, who doesn’t realize that the head of the  troupe loves her. Much worse, she doesn’t realize that she doesn’t love him. But I couldn’t figure out why the heroine, a trained acrobat, couldn’t beat her pampered, would-be rapist to a pulp.

I give You Never Know Women B.

The DCP was fine. Philip Carli helped the story with his piano accompaniment.

Tonka of the Gallows

This Czech drama was easily the best of the day. Tonka is a prostitute who wants to marry the boy back home, who doesn’t know how she survives in the big city. But an act of mercy – marrying a condemned man so she could comfort him before his execution – destroys all of her hopes.

I give Tonka of the Gallows a A.

The 35mm print was acceptable, and Stephen Horne’s music helped me cry at this very sad story.

Husbands and Lovers

Silent comedy doesn’t always mean slapstick. This romantic comedy has no pratfalls, chases, or food fights. Florence Vidor plays an unhappily married woman. Her husband (Lewis Stone) doesn’t help. When she changes her looks, he’s appalled, but his best friend falls in love with her. You know how it’s going to end. Very funny early on, but becomes less funny as it goes along.

I give Husbands and Lovers a B-.

The 35mm print was fine, and Philip Carli’s piano accompaniment did everything you would want.

Rapsodia Satanica

This program was all about color. It started with ten minutes of kinemacolor shorts, mostly involving flowers in slowly turning vases. The feature doesn’t have much of a story. It’s a variation of Faust where the devil gives an old woman her youth, but she loses the ability to love. Lyda Borelli chews up the scenery in the starring role. But the colors are fantastic. Not only is every scene tinted, but the film makes extensive use of stencil colors.

I give Rapsodia Satanica a D for the movie but an A .for the color.

As it should be for such a visual treat, the DCP was terrific. And so was the music, provided by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

The Love of Jeanne Ney

A big, fun thriller, made in Germany by G.W. Pabst, with a Bolshevik hero and an apparently apolitical heroine, mostly set in Paris. There’s a blind young woman, her money-grubbing detective father, and a comedy relief character. The one big problem: No matter what evil things the villain does, everyone continues to trust him. The fact that he’s played by Fritz Rasp, the Wiener Republic’s all-purpose bad guy, should tip everyone off.

I give The Love of Jeanne Ney a B+.

The DCP was excellent. It didn’t have English subtitles, so the Castro provided them via a second digital projector (the things you learn talking to the projectionist).

The Guenter Buchwald Ensemble provided an exciting score that pushed the story along and added appropriate sound effects.

I didn’t stay for West of Zanzibar, but I can tell you it’s a lot of fun.

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