Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jason goes to the SF Silent Film Festival's Silent Autumn

More data dump trying to catch up on my blog. Way back last...September 20, was the SF Silent Film Festival's autumn event. So here we go.

We started with some classic Laurel and Hardy Shorts:
SHOULD MARRIED MEN GO HOME? (1928): Laurel comes by to convince Hardy to go golfing with him, over the objections of his wife (and despite the fact that he insists he's the master of his home.) Once finally on the links, they get into hilarious trouble, ending with a climactic mud-fight.
TWO TARS (1928): Although the title refers to their characters as two sailors on leave, they spend zero seconds of this film on water. In fact, they spend almost all of it in a traffic jam in their rental car with a couple of girls they picked up. And of course, they get in slapstick confrontations with everyone else who is stuck in line.
BIG BUSINESS (1929): A classic, one of their funniest films. They play Christmas tree salesmen. Jim Finlayson wants none of that, but innocent misunderstandings turn into rude encounters and eventually the destruction of his house and their car. A classic "tit for tat" film where one party stands and watches while the other destroys something (while never actually try to stop them) and then the first party destroys something while the second party watches. If you think about it too much, it doesn't make much sense, so don't think and just enjoy the mayhem.

Donald Sosin was brilliant as always accompanying on the piano.

SON OF THE SHEIK (1926): Rudolph Valentino reprising his role from THE SHEIK and also playing his own son. Romance, love, betrayal, revenge, and the revelation that the original betrayal was actually a frame-job., I think I summed that up surprisingly well in very few words. But it's also a great, classic film.

And the Alloy Orchestra (whom, as an aside, were missed at the big Silent Festival back in May) were awesome as always.

Next up was A Night At the Cinema in 1914, celebrating the centennial of...1914, I guess. This program of 1914 films was put together by the BFI, and it was pretty cool,
Looping the Loop at Hendon (March 1914): Movies and flight were emerging technologies at the same time, so early films often had a fascination with flight. Especially with stunt flying.
Palace Pandemonium (May 1914): Footage of Emmeline Pankhurst, a leading suffragette, causing a bit of a stir outside of Buckingham Palace as she delivers a petition to the king.
Austrian Tragedy (July 1914): Footage of the Austro-Hungarian royal family, including the heir to Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination precipitated WWI.
Dogs for the Antarctic (August 1914): Shackleton preparing for his expedition, picking out dogs for the sled teams.
Daisy Doodad’s Dial: "Dial" here refers to her face. Florence Turner is Daisy Doodad, a cheerful gal who plans to win the funny face contest. But too much practicing in public gets her arrested.
Egypt and Her Defenders: The British Consul General reviewing the troops and seeing Egypt's famous sights. In tinted color.
Lieutenant Pimple and the Stolen Submarine: A hilarious little no-budget comedy about a submarine and foreign spies.
Scouts’ Valuable Aid (August 1914): Footage of Sea Scouts keeping lookout from the clifftops for invading foreign ships.
German Occupation of Historic Louvain (September 1914): A historic Belgian city was invaded by the Germans, who destroyed the University library, which provoked international anger. 
General French’s Contemptible Little Army: Fast-sketching and animation makes for soem pretty amusing war propaganda. 
Christmas at the Front (December 1914): More news footage, showing troops being well fed before returning to the trenches.
The Perils of Pauline: An entry in the classic danger serial, this one featuring a balloon ride and an escape from a burnign building.
The Rollicking Rajah: People don't necessarily know that synchronized sound with film was attempted from the very earliest days, well before THE JAZZ SINGER. The sound disc for this one is lost, so instead we were treated to Donald Sosin singing the song about an Indian prince with great riches and a taste for fun that the ladies all adore. 
A Film Johnnie: 1914 was Charlie Chaplin's first year in the movies, working for Keystone studios. In this film, the newcomer to the Keystone sets runs about trying to meet all his favorite stars, but of course reating chaos instead. 

Donald Sosin was great as always accompanying on the piano, and singing The Rollicking Rajah.

THE GENERAL (1926): Buster Keaton's classic! No need, really, to describe it. If you haven't seen it, just go see it. But I will tell you instead about the first time I saw it on the big screen. Which was at the Castro. And with the Alloy Orchestra. This was at the San Francisco International Film Festival in...I think 2004. I had seen a few silent films before, but mostly on DVD at home and it might have been my first experience seeing a silent film in a theater with live music. At the very least, it was the first time I really appreciated what the big screen, enthusiastic audience, and live music can do for a film. It was then that I realized you haven't necessarily "seen" a silent film if you only watched it alone at home. It was a complete revelation, and still one of my favorite film events ever. And it definitely holds up to multiple viewings.

Then I was too tired to stick around for THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI so that was it for me

Total Running Time: 301 minutes
My Total Minutes: 370,316

Jason goes to Niles for a Laurel and Hardy afternoon with THE SONS OF THE DESERT

Ugh. I've officially fallen more than a month and a half behind on my blog.'s a data dump.

Sons of the Desert is the name of the official Laurel and Hardy Film Appreciation Society (don't call it a fan club, but the express wishes of Stan Laurel they do not have a fan club) and the title of the feature last September 14. But, as always, a few shorts first.

MIDNIGHT PATROL (1933): Which happens to be the name of the local "tent" of the Sons of the Desert (all local chapters are "tents" and all are named after L and H films.) Stan and Ollie were chased by the cops in so many of their films, this is kind of a change of pace--now they are cops! They of course still get in plenty of trouble, accidentally helping a jewel thief and harassing the chief of police. Very funny.

SOMETHING SIMPLE (1934): Charley Chase in a beautifully convoluted plot, where he suffers from dizzy spells. So he goes to the doctor, but little does he know he's actually seeing an escaped mental patient who's posing as a doctor. He advises Charley to sit down, relax, and recite something simple like a nursery rhyme. Unfortunately publicly reciting nursery rhymes is the sure sign of the escaped mental patient that everyone is looking for. Obviously, wacky hijinx ensue.

Then intermission, and the feature.

SONS OF THE DESERT (1933): In the interest of time/effort, I'll reuse what I wrote the last time I saw it:
Laurel and Hardy are in a fraternal organization and take an oath to join the national convention in Chicago. Now they just need their wives's permission. Or failing that, they need to get there without their wives knowing. Hilarious, and a great supporting role by under-appreciated comic Charley Chase.
Total Running Time: 108
My Total Minutes: 370,015