San Francisco Silent Film Festival

The International Cinephile Society is proud to be covering the 15th San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the largest and most important festival of its kind in North America, at the majestic silent-era movie palace, the Castro Theatre, this July. The following information is from the festival’s press release.

Since 1996, the Silent Film Festival has dazzled audiences with films from the silent era that exemplify its motto: “True art transcends time.” Bringing to light beloved classics and new discoveries, the festival takes great care to secure the best prints and present the films on the big screen as they were made to be seen. But these films were never intended to be presented in silence, and the Silent Film Festival enlists the talents of an extraordinary collection of musicians from around the world to accompany each movie.

2010 sees the festival expanding from three days to four, with the addition of more films (representing seven countries), more musicians, and a very special program we’re calling Variations on a Theme—a presentation that will highlight the creative process that goes into composing music for silent films—with all the festival musicians participating, moderated by a surprise guest.

Returning musicians include pianists Stephen Horne and Donald Sosin, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, and the master of the Mighty Wurlitzer, Dennis James. The Alloy Orchestra will grace the festival with their composition for the rediscovery of the century—Fritz Lang’s original version of Metropolis! And we are thrilled to present, in their West Coast Premiere, the Matti Bye Ensemble from Sweden. Musician/composer Bye won the Golden Beetle—the Swedish Oscar—for his score for Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments, Sweden’s 2009 submission to the Academy Awards.

The hugely successful free program, Amazing Tales from the Archives, has been so popular over the past four years that the festival will have two presentations—with special guests to be announced. We are thrilled to have among our distinguished archivists, Paula Felix Didier and Fernando Peña from Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires— the team responsible for bringing the lost Metropolis footage to light. When Fritz Lang’s masterpiece debuted in Berlin in January, 1927, the sci-fi epic ran an estimated 153 minutes, but in order to maximize box office potential the German and American distributors cut the film to 90 minutes for its commercial release. For decades crucial scenes form the film were considered lost. In 2001, the Munich Film Foundation assembled a more complete version with additional footage from four contributing archives, and Metropolis had a premiere revival at 124 minutes (widely believed to be the most complete version that contemporary audiences could ever hope to see). But, in 2008, archivists from the Museo del Cne in Buenos Aires made a spectacular discovery – a 16mm dupe negative of Metropolis that was considerably longer than any existing print. That discovery led to this remarkable restoration and Metropolis can now be in Fritz Lang’s original – 25 minute longer – complete version. Digital print from Kino International. Accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra.

Other special guests include Kevin Brownlow and Patrick Stanbury from Photoplay Productions in England, and Leonard Maltin of Entertainment Tonight. Silent Film Festival co-founders Melissa Chittick and Stephen Salmons will return to the Castro’s stage to present the festival’s Centerpiece program.

Executive Director Stacey Wisnia hails Chittick and Salmons with “the extraordinary vision to create such a wonderful event. The Festival has become a must for San Francisco’s film cogniscenti, and a magnet for international movie lovers.”

Leonard Maltin comments, “I enjoy this event because it draws a diverse and enthusiastic crowd of people to the Castro Theatre and presents its films in such a loving way. Live musical accompaniment ranges from piano to theater organ to chamber orchestra, and the atmosphere inside the Castro takes us all on a kind of magic-carpet ride to the 1920s.”

Some other highlights of the 15th Anniversary festival:

John Ford’s silent masterpiece, The Iron Horse, in a glorious print—the only surviving 35mm of the superior American version—will be the Opening Night film, with Dennis James at the Mighty Wurlitzer performing his original score.

One of the most important Italian movies of the late silent period, Rotaie—an exquisite expressionist masterpiece, virtually unknown to American audiences, will be accompanied by Londoner Stephen Horne on the baby grand.

Pianist Donald Sosin will accompany The Flying Ace from Norman Studio in Tallahassee, Florida. This high-spirited adventure features an all African-American cast, an anomaly in the silent era!

Lobster Films’ David Shepard and Serge Bromberg will curate a selection of short films by French fantasist George Méliès to play throughout the festival. Méliès, a pioneer of early cinema is widely credited as the creator of film narrative and an innovator of special effects that still enchant audiences.

For more information, including a complete schedule, please visit the Silent Film Festival website.