Saturday, June 3, 2017

Jason goes to Silentfest--Day 2

I missed the matinee shows because I had to work my day job, but I was up for the 7:00 show, BODY AND SOUL (1925.) It's a strange film from the super-independent African American director Oscar Micheaux, and featuring the imposing Paul Robeson in dual roles. Primarily, he's a fiery preacher...kinda. Really an escaped convict posing as a preacher and strong-arming the owner of the local speakeasy. He also plays the con/preacher's honest and good twin brother, Sylvester. And that can be confusing. Among his many evil deeds, the central one is tricking a trusting mother into leaving him alone with her daughter. And since it's the 1920's, the only explicitly shown misdeed is stealing their savings and making the daughter take the blame for it. Which eventually leads to her complete ruin. And then a strange extra ending, because the original ending was too dark. Like I said, a strange movie. I'm not sure I completely got it.

DJ Spooky made his SF Silent Film Festival debut with a cool jazzy mix and Guenter Buchwald on the violin.

And then we ended the night with THE INFORMER (1929.) It was introduced Bryony Dixon from the BFI, who described it as a proto-noir. But forget that, there's nothing "proto" about this. For my money it's full on noir, even if it's a decade early and on the wrong continent. A meeting of Irish revolutionaries (known simply as "The Party") turns into a shootout and unfortunately ends with the accidental killing of the chief of police by one Francis McPhillip. Now the Party has to denounce him and he has to leave or he'll endanger them all. But he sneaks back to see his mother. Which results in Gypo Nolan thinking he's come back to see his girl Katie (lovely Lya de Putti.) So a misunderstanding and romantic jealousy leads to Gypo becoming an informer and getting Francis killed. So now the party turns on him.

This was one of those films made at the start of the talkie era, and a sound version exists (it was also remade by John Ford in 1935, and now I have to see that version.) In the introduction, Bryony Dixon talked down the talkie version, and it seems like it's just as well. Because the silent version was excellent, with style, deceit, and danger, like all good noir.

And equally excellent were the trio of Stephen Horne, Guenter Buchwald, and Frank Bockius providing the score.

Total Running Time: 191 minutes
My Total Minutes: 428,476
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