San Francisco Silent FIlm Festival Report

Announcements of upcoming theatrical silent film exhibitions.
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rudyfan

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San Francisco Silent FIlm Festival Report

PostMon Jul 19, 2010 9:32 am

Okay, much more coming soon since my festival weekend won't end until Wednesday.....

Highlights:

The Shakedown, The Woman Disputed and George O'Brien in The Iron Horse.

I LOVED the restored Metropolis with Alloy playing an awesome score. It was AN EVENT and a fully packed house.

I thoroughly enjoyed A Spray of Plum Blossoms.

The Daughters of Naldi were out in force and woe betide anyone who crossed our path. Photos coming soon.

It was great to spend time seeing loads of people that I'd met online but not really in person.

The Sunday breakfast ended up at my place and I think a good time was had by all. Danny, next time I will ensure there is something vegetarian for you. Lokke you now know you were not meant to be snubbed. Ill timing on a cell phone failure tied up the house phone. It's because you were not here that I have so much bacon leftover. Anyone want some, I think there is another 2lbs cooked in the fridge.

The weirdest moment for me of the weekend? To have Kevin Brownlow ask me to inscribe my book. That was a very cool mind twist to have, bizarre, but what an honor! More later.
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milefilms

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PostMon Jul 19, 2010 11:03 am

And Donna's book is really beautiful! It was one of only two items I had inscribed along with Pete Doctor signing a bluray of UP to Adam, so I fully expect Donna to win an Oscar next year.

I wasn't around much (sorry, everybody!) due to sightseeing with the family and relations but for me the highlights were

1) three short comedies (The Cook -- though I wished Eastman House would combine their 35mm with EYE's footage in Amsterdam like we did on video-- Big Business and Pass the Gravy) I've told Amy and Adam about PTG for years and we had to stitch up their sides after they split them. Dennis James did a very good job on the scores.

2) The Shakedown. I saw the 16mm print years ago at Syracuse and didn't really remember it as that good, but this time around, I was very impressed! It was also a nice interview before the film with Leonard M. and the three Wyler daughters. Rumor has it that another archive in Spain has footage.

The Iron Horse is not my cup of tea but there are some splendid moments. And though I've always liked THE MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA, it's always struck me as much better in theory than in viewing. I just don't see the images as interconnected as most do. However, it has lovely moments, beautiful imagery (especially the coincidence of all those streetcars while viewing the film in San Francisco) and comedy and the film is MUCH better with the Alloy Orchestra's score. The Woman Disputed was WAY over the top, back again, and then WAY over the top again, but Stephen Horne did a fantastic job of keeping the film within the bounds of melodrama and away from high camp which it could easily have descended. It was said before the screening that Henry King quit because he had a miserable time with Norma Talmadge. Seeing her roll, I can see why she was in a bad mood.

For those I saw, it was great to see you, albeit briefly, and for those I missed, we'll try to make it back next year!
Dennis Doros
Milestone F&V
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Rodney

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PostMon Jul 19, 2010 1:51 pm

milefilms wrote:
1) three short comedies (The Cook -- though I wished Eastman House would combine their 35mm with EYE's footage in Amsterdam like we did on video--


Okay! That explains it. I was waiting for Buster to drop the ice-cream down someone's back, and he never did.
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missdupont

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PostMon Jul 19, 2010 6:31 pm

The highlight of the festival for me was getting to meet many of the people that post on Nitrateville, and putting faces to names. I wish the meal breaks were longer so that there was more time to get to know one another and chat about movies. That said, here were my highlights:

My favorites were THE SHAKEDOWN and L'HEUREUSE MORT. THE SHAKEDOWN was beautifully lit and composed, featured fine acting and comedy chops, and contained an involving story. William Wyler showed great talent for someone directing his second picture, with either he or the cinematographer having examined George Bellows and his boxing paintings before filming. James Murray and the boy were moving, so sad to see what promise Murray possessed.

L'HEUREUSE MORT was extremely entertaining in a lighthearted, understated way, a precursor to Rene Clair perhaps. Nicely lit, fine characterizations by Rimsky and Bianchetti, with a beautiful, spare score by the Matti Bye Ensemble.

A WOMAN DISPUTED was another gorgeous, beautifully acted film that was saved from going over the top by Stephen Horne's delicate playing. It needed the loopy romanticism, subtle eroticism, and cynical attitude of von Stroheim to be truly great.

METROPOLIS was incredibly dramatic and successful thanks to the energetic, propelling rhythms of the Alloy Orchestra, a huge hit with the full house.

ROTAIE was beautiful to look at, but promised more than it offered. Stephen Horne's playing enhanced the mood for me, but I found it a little flat and with unlikable leads.

Mont Alto Orchestra brought a strong undercurrent of emotion and feeling to DIARY OF A LOST GIRL.

The varied accompanists were spot on and made the festival a richer experience for me. It was great to hear such a diverse roster of performers.

I wish the introductions could be a little shorter and the program notes a tad less pretentious, but I really enjoyed this year's festival.
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Shakedown

PostMon Jul 19, 2010 10:52 pm

Dennis I can't believe you do not remember it from Syracuse. It was amazing and one the great silent film experiences I have ever had because no one had any expectations for it. I am only sorry the collector who found the film and the story behind it never got any attention and the impression was that Eastman stumbled on it and Telluride & Pordenone were where film buffs first saw it. It would have found it's way to video many years ago but for some unfortunate archive politics, hopefully it may yet make it to DVD.
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Re: San Francisco Silent FIlm Festival Report

PostTue Jul 20, 2010 9:25 am

I had a great time again in beautiful San Francisco and I was so glad I got to meet Donna, Frederica, and Greta de Groat and Ray as last year we all missed each other and I was very disappointed. But we made up for it.

Really enjoyed breakfast at Donna's house. She has a beautiful apartment in a lovely area. Unfortunately I didn't get to your book signing. We didn't go to the feature prior to The Woman Disputed, and when we got to the theatre for that one before 4, there was already a huge line all the way around the corner. And in true SFSFF fashion they weren't letting anyone in until almost the last minute.

Now, I'm just trying to get adjusted back to Ohio time and heat.





rudyfan wrote:Okay, much more coming soon since my festival weekend won't end until Wednesday.....

Highlights:

The Shakedown, The Woman Disputed and George O'Brien in The Iron Horse.

I LOVED the restored Metropolis with Alloy playing an awesome score. It was AN EVENT and a fully packed house.

I thoroughly enjoyed A Spray of Plum Blossoms.

The Daughters of Naldi were out in force and woe betide anyone who crossed our path. Photos coming soon.

It was great to spend time seeing loads of people that I'd met online but not really in person.

The Sunday breakfast ended up at my place and I think a good time was had by all. Danny, next time I will ensure there is something vegetarian for you. Lokke you now know you were not meant to be snubbed. Ill timing on a cell phone failure tied up the house phone. It's because you were not here that I have so much bacon leftover. Anyone want some, I think there is another 2lbs cooked in the fridge.

The weirdest moment for me of the weekend? To have Kevin Brownlow ask me to inscribe my book. That was a very cool mind twist to have, bizarre, but what an honor! More later.
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Re: San Francisco Silent FIlm Festival Report

PostTue Jul 20, 2010 1:54 pm

I hope to write a complete report later, but I'm just back from the SF Film Festival and have to get ready to go to another film. Film highlights for me were The Shakedown, The Woman Disputed, and L'Heureuse Mort. There were great scores by all the musicians present, so it's hard to pick a favorite, but I'll plump for Alloy Orchestra's out of the ballpark score for Man with a Movie Camera and Matti Bye's for L'Heureuse Mort. Thanks to Donna Hill for hosting us, and for the great breakfast on Sunday, to Matt Kennedy for the wonderful party on Saturday morning. My photos are up on Flickr, here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
Fred
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PostTue Jul 20, 2010 4:43 pm

I can't stand it, I've got to get there next time!
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PostTue Jul 20, 2010 8:52 pm

It looks like y'all had a great time.
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PostTue Jul 20, 2010 11:54 pm

It was great—definitely worth the trip from SLC. I was a bit disappointed that the Melies shorts were all on DVD and METROPOLIS would have looked better on film or a higher-res digital format, but first-rate accompaniment, selection and venue. Here's my writeup for Moving Pictures Magazine.

I met a lot of great people, but didn't think to ask who was on the board. I was the guy with the long brown hair and beard who usually sat between the second and fifth row.
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PostWed Jul 21, 2010 5:23 am

nsps wrote:It was great—definitely worth the trip from SLC. I was a bit disappointed that the Melies shorts were all on DVD and METROPOLIS would have looked better on film or a higher-res digital format, but first-rate accompaniment, selection and venue. Here's my writeup for Moving Pictures Magazine.

I met a lot of great people, but didn't think to ask who was on the board. I was the guy with the long brown hair and beard who usually sat between the second and fifth row.


There's an online board listing here: http://www.silentfilm.org/about-board.php

I seem to remember a more complete advisory board in their printed material, including the organist Dennis James. (We did have a bit of a disagreement about original scores... but we're not as far apart as all that, really, and both very much respect each others work...)

Thanks for the review.
Rodney Sauer
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PostWed Jul 21, 2010 7:07 am

Didn't get to meet as many of y'all as I'd have liked, but the overall experience was overwhelming. Love your book, Donna!. L"Heureuse Mort, A Spray Of Plum Blossoms, and a Woman Disputed are all films I was unfamiliar with that were a WOW! Don't agree with those who disliked end of the Talmadge film. Just a personal opinion, but a little Melies goes a long way with me. Hope to meet more of you next year because I'm going back. Perhaps a temporary "N" tattoo on my forehead. Now I know how it feels to be in a religious cult, because I felt like I was among believers. I also thought Leonard Maltin gave a lovely speech before L"Heureuse Mort.
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Derek B.

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PostWed Jul 21, 2010 11:02 am

Like those above, I had another great time at the festival. The added day this year was a bonus; the festival started as a single film, was one day by the time I first attended in 2000, added a second day around 2002, a Friday evening film in 2005, and this year the full program Friday and one film Thursday. I skipped most of the common films and was sorry that I had to miss L'heureuse mort on Sunday. (I've also yet to see either His Double Life, with Roland Young and Lillian Gish, or Holy Matrimony, with Monty Wooley and Gracie Fields, American talkies based on a similar story.)

Of the films that were new to me, my favorites were the two I was most looking forward to. Pass the Gravy, in the short comedies program, was hilarious (and as I expected The Cook and Big Business worked better for me than on video). And The Shakedown was a sweet little film. Films in which a character starts off as unpleasant in one way or another and reforms often fail for me but I didn't have any problem accepting it here.
Image
This herald wouldn't have led me to expect much from the film but I had remembered reading about it on a.m.s and so had high expectations that were met.

A Spray of Plum Blossoms, based in part on Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona, was a lighter film than the two other Chinese silents I've seen and a pleasant change of pace. And the Italian Rotaie was moving. By the way, did Maurizio D'Ancora remind anyone else of Charles Farrell?

I was happy to see The Woman Disputed, with a fine performance by Norma Talmadge, though I was one of those who thought it went one scene too far. I wonder whether this is a rare case where I might find the ending better on video as perhaps the big scene at the end would work better for me when seen in a smaller setting. I wasn't sure what to expect of the "race film" The Flying Ace but I enjoyed it too (though it is the film I would be least likely to rewatch given the opportunity).

As always, there was a varied group of accompanists. And the program where they discussed their varied methods of scoring, with excerpt examples, was very interesting.

With the extra day there were two free "Amazing Tales from the Archives" programs discussing various aspect of film preservation and restoration. The main feature of the first was the presentation of two restored Kodachrome (?) fashion reels with Hope Hampton modeling the clothes. In the second, Mike Mashon discussed a project to determine which American silents survive where, to aid in decisions regarding future repatriation and restoration, with a focus for the presentation only on Paramount. And Annette Melville discussed the recently publicized discoveries in New Zealand and the work involved in their restoration. She also presented the first restoration, a 1912 Vitagraph short The Better Man (for which, IIRC, the funds for restoration came from the For the Love of Film blogathon earlier this year) and the animated Mutt and Jeff in On Strike repatriated earlier from Australia.

I was very happy to meet many more Nitratevillians and others this year than at previous festivals and had a great time outside the films. Thanks to all who made this a great festival. (I also enjoyed seeing my name on the Castro screen, even though it was only for providing a few scans for the Talmadge slide show one of which might have been familiar to readers here as I posted it in the recent Production Photos topic.)
- Derek B.
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PostWed Jul 21, 2010 12:35 pm

Hi. I'll add my enthusiastic thumbs up for the festival, as well. Even having never been to San Francisco and knowing that there is a great deal of the city that I would have liked to see/do but that I'd be in a darkened theatre most of the time, I would easily do it again. It's very well run, with a solid selection of films, a beautiful venue and very enthusiastic crowds. (I did often walk a good part of the way to or from my hotel in the financial district to the Castro, so was able to see some of the Mission, where I stopped in at Mission Dolores but couldn't find Kim Novak, and along Market, where I was propositioned outside a strip club. I passed.)

ROTAIE, L'HEUREUSE MORT and Stephen Horne (who for some reason I had never heard before) were the highlight discoveries for me and I was really very happy to see the enthusiastic response to WOMAN DISPUTED. I am in the camp that thinks the ending is over the top, but find the rest of the film strong and some of those close ups of Norma are devastating. My fingers are still crossed that this will see the scanned light of a DVD release at some point.

I had planned on skipping DIARY OF LOST GIRL, as I had seen it a number of times, but changed my mind at the last minute and scored a seat in the middle of the very last row on the first floor behind a rather tall guy. Even though I had to keep dodging around the back of his head to read the titles, I'm really glad that I did because it was a great place to see the film and the Mont Alto score was first class. Likewise, I had planned on skipping the shorts (which I love, but had seen) and the music panel in favor of seeing some of the city, but opted for a leisurely breakfast in the Mission and then caught the panel, which was really enjoyable and interesting, as were the archive programs.

And, of course, it was a pleasure to see old and new friends. Following the scent of absinthe and domination, I was happy to finally meet the DONs. An intimidating but very friendly bunch indeed!

All the best,
Tim Lanza
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PostWed Jul 21, 2010 2:45 pm

A bunch of snapshots and further thoughts regarding the 2010 San Francisco Silent Film Festival at the SFSFF blog at

http://sfsilentfilmfestival.blogspot.com/
For the latest, check out the LOUISE BROOKS SOCIETY blog
http://louisebrookssociety.blogspot.com/
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Gagman 66

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PostWed Jul 21, 2010 4:12 pm

:o Wow, this is impressive and incredibly in depth coverage of the event. Sure wish that I could have been there.

So apparently, THE SHAKEDOWN stole a little of the thunder away from THE WOMAN DISPUTED, and was the surprise hit of the event? Speaking of James Murray, I thought I might bring up IN OLD KENTUCKY (1927) in which He starred opposite of Helene Costello. This is not a lost film and seems to have gotten very good reviews back in the day. And thought to screening this in the future? was there any indication of a potential DVD release for SHAKEDOWN, THE WOMAN DISPUTED or both? or maybe a Photoplay Productions presentation of the latter being hinted at?
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PostThu Jul 22, 2010 12:51 am

Whew--finally getting my head together after a fabulous but exhausting weekend. Glad i was able to actually hook up with friends this year, and great to meet long-time correspondents like James and Tim Lanza and Lokke Heiss face to face after all these years.

The Shakedown was the sleeper hit for me as well, a really well-made and engrossing little picture. I'm afraid that Rotaie didn't do a lot for me either--it did get off to a good start, but by the time the young man started gambling, i was thinking "Girl, your mama was right--this guy is a loser." L'Heureuse Mort was mildly amusing, if over-long. I didn't like it as much as the Roland Young/Lillian Gish version. George O'Brian was nice to see in The Iron Horse, but i confess that not much else in the film interested me. I loved the comedy shorts program, and Pass the Gravy did not disappoint. A Spray of Plum Blossoms was interesting, if again a bit long. I kept wondering about those girl guards

The highlight of the Archives shows was two great color fashion reels with Hope Hampton modeling many great gowns by big-name designers. Unfortunately, the guy commenting on the restoration had no interest in the subject matter and kept telling us at great length about the grain and stuff like that while we oohed and ahhhed at that dresses. Also in the Archive program was an interesting little Vitagraph film that was clearly shot in California. I think it was called "The Better Man" or something like that, and I didn't recognize any of the actors.

Metropolis
is not my favorite film, but it was very impressive--i guess i'd never seen it on a big screen. The difference between the newly rediscovered footage and the previous footage was quite apparent. I didn't think it added a great deal to the plot, but it did add a few minor points. And the robot Maria dance is hilarious. The Alloy score was completely appropriate, but my husband and i are just not used to sitting through loud music for that long--it gave us headaches.

Having only seen Woman Disputed on a Steenbeck, i wasn't sure how it would go over with an audience. Hearing the audience collectively gasp at one of the plot points, it was clear that they found it engrossing. I do find the ending over the top, but thought that Steven Horne did a great job of keeping it from slopping over too much (which i'm sure would have been the case had they played the theme song (http://www.box.net/shared/static/ycz9jcjte5.mp3) at that point in the proceedings. And the camera certainly did love Norma, and Gilbert Roland too for that matter.

greta
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PostThu Jul 22, 2010 6:53 am

greta de groat wrote:The highlight of the Archives shows was two great color fashion reels with Hope Hampton modeling many great gowns by big-name designers. Unfortunately, the guy commenting on the restoration had no interest in the subject matter and kept telling us at great length about the grain and stuff like that while we oohed and ahhhed at that dresses. greta


Greta, to be fair, even though I recognized the quality of the clothes and a few of the designers, it was Amy who pointed out to me the historic importance of the films. We later had a lovely chat with Kyle and he was very receptive to learning (obviously, you and the DoN had also talked earlier to him) and Amy had some great suggestions on how GEH can use the films. It's one of the great joys of the archival field that your work can lead to education in areas outside your own expertise. Right now, I'm reading dozens of books on lower Manhattan history since we're releasing ON THE BOWERY.
Dennis Doros
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PostThu Jul 22, 2010 7:25 am

milefilms wrote:
greta de groat wrote:The highlight of the Archives shows was two great color fashion reels with Hope Hampton modeling many great gowns by big-name designers. Unfortunately, the guy commenting on the restoration had no interest in the subject matter and kept telling us at great length about the grain and stuff like that while we oohed and ahhhed at that dresses. greta


Greta, to be fair, even though I recognized the quality of the clothes and a few of the designers, it was Amy who pointed out to me the historic importance of the films. We later had a lovely chat with Kyle and he was very receptive to learning (obviously, you and the DoN had also talked earlier to him) and Amy had some great suggestions on how GEH can use the films. It's one of the great joys of the archival field that your work can lead to education in areas outside your own expertise. Right now, I'm reading dozens of books on lower Manhattan history since we're releasing ON THE BOWERY.


I was sitting next to Greta during the screening of the fashion shorts, and was just as excited about the clothing (and as frustrated with the commentary) as she was. It was an archival presentation, so I get that Kyle needed to talk about his restoration work, but...Poiret! Callot! SHINY! These shorts would be great subject matter for a fashion design history lecture.
Fred
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Helen B. (Penny) Chenery
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PostThu Jul 22, 2010 9:25 am

Frederica wrote:Poiret! Callot! SHINY! These shorts would be great subject matter for a fashion design history lecture.


I'm more of the Adidas and Under Armour kind of guy, but I will occasionally foray into the couture fashions of the great Sergio Tacchini and Lacoste -- especially the shorts. Just saying that I understand and it looked like after this weekend, Kyle was going to be far more involved with the history of 1920s women's fashion. Sometimes the forest DOES lead to seeing the trees.
Dennis Doros
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PostThu Jul 22, 2010 10:18 am

milefilms wrote:
Frederica wrote:Poiret! Callot! SHINY! These shorts would be great subject matter for a fashion design history lecture.


I'm more of the Adidas and Under Armour kind of guy, but I will occasionally foray into the couture fashions of the great Sergio Tacchini and Lacoste -- especially the shorts. Just saying that I understand and it looked like after this weekend, Kyle was going to be far more involved with the history of 1920s women's fashion. Sometimes the forest DOES lead to seeing the trees.


EXCELLENT! Learning is way good.
Fred
"Screw the men. I've got the horse."
Helen B. (Penny) Chenery
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PostSat Jul 24, 2010 1:03 pm

Okay, finally got enough sleep to gather my thoughts.

I posted my report here http://strictly-vintage-hollywood.blogspot.com/2010/07/2010-san-francisco-silent-film-festival.html

I still need to clarify some points, but overall I had a great time. On a personal note it was a wonderful treat to spend some good face to face time with both Kevin Brownlow and Patrick Stanbury. I did not get as much face time with Rodney or Ken Winokur as I would have liked. I sadly missed Mont Alto playing due to bacon. I ask you, Louise Brooks or bacon, what would your choice be? :wink:

It was great to host my fellow Daughters of Naldi Frederica and Missdupont. Also great to finally meet Karie Bible of Filmradar.com. I barely got to say hello to Greta and Ray. Must schedule a dinner for more close face time. It was great to finally meet James B and Danny F. Dennis and Co. from Milestone, too! Seeing and signing the book with Emily Leider was a thrill and it was a thrill to sell out! It was a great weekend and I am already planning for next year. Big party at my place, plan on it!
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PostSun Jul 25, 2010 2:15 pm

:o Since a couple Milestone folks were there, any update on if we will finally see POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL, THE HOODLUM, and the new edition of SPARROWS before the end of the year? We have been waiting at least a couple years now already.
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Rodney

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PostWed Jul 28, 2010 6:23 am

Report on the festival by Leonard Maltin:

http://blogs.indiewire.com/leonardmalti ... live_again
Rodney Sauer
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Re:

PostWed Jan 11, 2012 1:52 am

nsps wrote:It was great definitely worth the trip from SLC. I was a bit disappointed that the Melies shorts were all on DVD and METROPOLIS would have looked better on film or a higher-res digital format, but first-rate accompaniment, selection and venue. Here's my writeup for Moving Pictures Magazine.

I met a lot of great people, but didn't think to ask who was on the board. I was the guy with the long brown hair and beard who usually sat between the second and fifth row.

I am glad you enjuyed it, as I did too. I thought it was fine that the Melies shorts were on DVD, it really didn't bother me much, but I agree that it would have been super cool to see them on a big screen. I read your piece, and think it is great! really captures the emotion that is evoked from this type of nostalgia. :) There is another film festival coming up soon in San Francisco, and I think anyone interested in making San Francisco Hotel Reservations they should check out San Francisco Hotels. I have stayed in both Boutique San Francisco Hotels and San Francisco Downtown Hotels. I would recommend the hotels in downtown to anyone interested in coming out to SF.
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Re:

PostSat Oct 14, 2017 1:05 pm

greta de groat wrote:Whew--finally getting my head together after a fabulous but exhausting weekend. Glad i was able to actually hook up with friends this year, and great to meet long-time correspondents like James and Tim Lanza and Lokke Heiss face to face after all these years.

The Shakedown was the sleeper hit for me as well, a really well-made and engrossing little picture. I'm afraid that Rotaie didn't do a lot for me either--it did get off to a good start, but by the time the young man started gambling, i was thinking "Girl, your mama was right--this guy is a loser." L'Heureuse Mort was mildly amusing, if over-long. I didn't like it as much as the Roland Young/Lillian Gish version. greta


L'HEUREUSE MORT sounDs promising, but I think HIS DOUBLE LIFE was based on the similarly-themed 'Buried Alive' by Arnold Bennett, a novel which was also the basis of John Stahl's stylish HOLY MATRIMONY.

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