Saturday, July 12, 2008

SFSFF: 'The Kid Brother'

The Silent Film Festival opened last night with a screening of Harold Lloyd's "The Kid Brother," the silent clown and filmmaker's second-to-last silent feature, and by some accounts his favorite.

The festival, which has gone from a one-day event to a three-day marathon since I last attended, projects pristine prints of a variety of silent masterpieces, all on the giant screen of the historic Castro Theatre—one of the best places in the world to watch movies. Even Leonard Maltin, who one would assume has been to his share of fabulous screenings by this point in his career, expressed his amazement at the size of the screen and the clarity of the newly restored Buffalo Bill short that played before the main feature.

Before "The Kid Brother" screened, Maltin interviewed Lloyd's granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd, who has devoted her life to the preservation and promotion of her grandfather's work. Lloyd shared her memories of her grandfather while Maltin demonstrated his passion and knowledge.

Maltin attributed Lloyd's diminished stature compared to contemporaries Keaton and Chaplin to his refusal to let his work be shown on television. (Personally, while Lloyd's films are always packed with clever gags and exciting comedic action, I find his everyday bozo to lack some of the magic of Keaton.) Suzanne remembered Harold saying that if all these people took the time to get together and create gags and shoot and edit and re-work a movie, it shouldn't be chopped up and interrupted by car salesman. She credited channels like Turner Classic Movies for allowing Harold's work to be widely seen on television without betraying his wishes.

The festival screening revealed, as it always does, the stunning image quality that the silents had when they were first shown. Lloyd's best moments, like the tree-climbing shot, feel all the more magical when you can see them with the detail and attention that was intended.

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