SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL OPENS TONIGHT

13th Annual Festival opens with Harold Lloyd in “Kid Brother” (1927)

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL is foremost among celebrations devoted to Classic cinema and top-drawer among The City’s annual cultural events. The Opening Night festivities are a Black & White dream come true beginning with Harold Lloyd’s critically acclaimed masterpiece and personal favorite, THE KID BROTHER (1927, co-starring Jobyna Ralston), accompanied by the MONT ALTO MOTION PICTURE ORCHESTRA, and followed by a Harold Lloyd themed party packed with culinary treats, high spirited drinks and live music by the FRISKY FROLICS on the mezzanine of the Castro Theatre

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THE KID BROTHER, 1927 – Walter James (as Sheriff Jim) and
Harold Lloyd (as Harold Hickory)

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Leading Lady – Jobyna Ralston & The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Throughout the three-day event the festival combines a multitude of art forms during each of the twelve presentations – a claim once exclusive to the rarified halls of Grand Opera. Ranging from screwball comedy to the darkest of suspense, from the Gay tease of Walter Slezak and the unrequited passions of Joan Crawford and Lon Chaney to the avant-garde goings-on in a red-light district of Tokyo – the Festival selections are international in scope, are accompanied by an array of brilliant musicians, and – similar to the luxury of supertitles over at the Opera House – all program introductions are ASL interpreted and a live translation (with much savoire-faire) will highlight the Saturday matinee presentation of Rene Clair’s 1928 farce, LES DEUX TIMIDES (Two Timid Souls) starring Pierre Batcheff.

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Pierre Batcheff, Lon Chaney & Joan Crawford, and Walter Slezak

“In regard to music,” says Artistic Director Stephen Salmons, “we’ll welcome back many of the performers who were a hit at the 2007 festival. The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra will accompany both the Opening Night presentation of Harold Lloyd’s 1927 comic masterpiece THE KID BROTHER, and the ethnographic drama THE SILENT ENEMY (1930), which is set in the time before Columbus and depicts the struggle of the Ojibway Indians to survive hunger.”

Pianists Donald Sosin and Stephen Horne, who brought down the house at last year’s festival, will also return. “Donald Sosin will accompany Carl Theodor Dreyer’s MIKAËL (1924), an emotionally charged drama considered to be a landmark in gay cinema, and Lotte Reiniger’s dazzling THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED (1926) not only the earliest surviving animated feature but the first made by a woman” Salmons reported. Stephen Horne will play for the gritty, humanistic THE SOUL OF YOUTH (1920), THE UNKNOWN (1927) with Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford, and the Japanese avant-garde tragedy JUJIRO (CROSSWAYS), directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1928.

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THE SILENT ENEMY (1930) – HER WILD OAT (1927)

Also returning will be pianist Michael Mortilla to play for the fast-paced Colleen Moore comedy HER WILD OAT (1927) and Clark Wilson to make the Mighty Wurlitzer roar for the THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928), a macabre love story whose disfigured protagonist provided the visual inspiration for Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker in the soon-to-be-released The Dark Knight. Wilson will also play for the uproarious Marion Davies comedy THE PATSY (1928) directed by King Vidor, which will close the festival.

Bay Area ensemble the BAGUETTE QUARTETTE, who specialize in Parisian dance hall music of the 1920s, will make their festival debut with comedy provocateur René Clair’s LES DEUX TIMIDES. “The combination of Clair’s innovative visual comedy and Baguette Quartette’s high-energy tangos and fox trots is a match made in heaven,” Salmons said.

The festival will also present the third edition of its free-admission spotlight on film preservation, AMAZING TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES, and, throughout the weekend, screen shorts preserved by students of the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation through the Haghefilm Conservation Fellowship. Titles include: LES FROMAGES AUTOMOBILES (The Skipping Cheeses, 1907) by George Méliès; an expedition to the Swiss Alps in LOST- A YODEL (1920); and detective Nick Carter solving the mystery of THE LAST CALL (1922). “We’re delighted to present these rare shorts, saved from extinction by students of the Selznick School, as part of our ongoing effort to promote the importance of preserving world film heritage,” Salmons said.

Last year’s popular raffle will once again occur at select programs throughout the festival weekend, culminating in a Grand Prize $5,000 Shopping Spree at San Francisco’s own McRoskey Mattress Company.

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, 1928 – Conrad Veidt & Olga Baclanova

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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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