Thursday, July 15, 2010

SFSFF Celebrates 15 Years of Kicking Ass (Silently—gotta include a 'silent' joke)

The 15th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival opens tonight, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world. There are plenty of great film festivals film that provide the rush of new discoveries, and there are other archival festivals that show rarer films than those on display this weekend. But there's something simply magical about watching a pristine print on the giant screen of the Castro Theatre, the city's gorgeous 1922 movie palace, with great live music (orchestral, organ, piano, etc.). The festival has left me with many great memories—the emotional rush of "The Man Who Laughs," Stephen Horne's gut-wrenching, draining score to "Jujiro," The sustained laugher of "Steamboat Bill, Jr.," accompanied by The Alloy Orchestra.

I first attended the festival in 2000, when it was a one-day event. And while I haven't made it every year since, I've happily monitored its growth, which has been remarkable. It's nearly quadrupled in duration, opening on a Thursday night and running through Sunday. There's a mini WInter festival now, too.

Both Horne and Alloy will be back this year. The Alloy Orchestra will debut the extended version of its "Metropolis" score (the band's first, although when they formed the movie was an hour shorter) to fit the newly restored version of Fritz Lang's masterpiece. Sadly "Metropolis" is the only film being projected digitally—thanks Kino. Alloy will perform its legendary accompaniment to Dziga Vertov's playful experimental classic "Man With a Movie Camera." Horne will take on "Rotaie," an expressionistic Italian film that will surely play to his strengths, as well as Frank Capra's "The Strong Man," starring Harry Langdon.

"The Strong Man" will also feature a tribute to Kevin Brownlow, a great writer, preservationist, documentarian and all-around advocate of cinema. Any award you can think to give him, he deserves.

Check out this preview by Brian Darr, the king of San Francisco movie-going. (His Twitter feed alone fills me with envy over San Francisco's reportory film scene. I ought to move!)

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