A Day of Silents at the Castro

Yes, that’s Silents, not Silence.

On Saturday, December 3, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will have a one-day marathon of silent movies and live music. A Day of Silents will play at the Castro. These days, every time you go to that beautiful theater, you may be watching a movie there for the last time.

Here are the movies:

11:00am: Keaton’s Mechanized Mayhem

DCP This show contains three of Buster Keaton’s shorts. The High Sign was Keaton’s first film as a director. Keaton didn’t like it; I disagree. It has one of the funniest chases ever – all set in a home full of traps. The Electric House isn’t one of his best, but it has some great gags. The Goat is simply the funniest of Keaton’s shorts. Live Music by Wayne Barker.

1:00pm: Forbidden Paradise

DCP Ernst Lubitsch’s’ fourth American movie isn’t as funny as some of his others, but it’s still entertaining. Pola Negri plays a queen dealing with a sexist revolution. But she’s not all that interested in saving her monarchy. What she really desires is the handsome but betrothed officer she would like in her bed (Rod La Rocque). Adolphe Menjou plays the chancellor who deals with the queen’s adolescent desires. I give it a B. Live music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

3:00pm: Pour Don Carlos

35mm! Of all the movies screening at The Day, this is the only one I haven’t seen before. The French actress Musidora stars and directs a historical epic. Musidora (real name Jeanne Roques) played Irma Vep in the famous Les Vampires serial. Live Music by the Sascha Jacobsen Ensemble.

5:00pm: The Cheat

DCP Cecil B. DeMille’s darkly erotic melodrama of lust, greed, and conspicuous consumption was way ahead of its time–especially in its use of evocative and atmospheric lighting. A society wife who spends too much of her husband’s money (Fannie Ward) becomes dangerously fascinated with a good-looking but potentially dangerous Asian (Sessue Hayakawa, who easily gives the best performance in the film). Yes, it’s racist, but not too much by the standards of 1915. I give the film a B+. Live Music by Wayne Barker.

7:00pm: Show People

35mm! We remember Marion Davies mostly as William Randolph Hearst’s mistress and the inspiration for Citizen Kane‘s talentless second wife. But King Vidor’s 1928 backstage-in-Hollywood comedy proves her a considerable talent. The story of knockabout slapstick versus self-consciously arty cinema must have seemed all too autobiographical to Davies, a talented comedienne whose lover and benefactor wanted to show off her class. I give this film a B+. Live music by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

9:00pm: The Toll of the Sea

35mm! The story, stolen from Madam Butterfly, isn’t much, but it gave Anna May Wong a chance to show her acting chops. But mostly, it brought Technicolor to Hollywood – this was the first commercial film to use it – although they couldn’t record blue. But even without that hue, it’s still a beautiful film. It also shows you how mixed-race love stories were handled in 1921. Unfortunately, the end of the film is lost, but we know how it ends. I give it a B+ just for its historical interest. Live Music by the Sascha Jacobsen Ensemble