Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Before Bernard Herman: Rediscovering Hitchcock’s Silent Period

The Hitchcock 9
Castro Theatre
June 14-16, 2013

SIFF Cinema Uptown 
July 26-28, 2013 

Ivor Novello as  The Lodger (1926) 

San Franciscans will have a rare opportunity to see the British Film Institute's loving restoration of Alfred Hitchcock's earliest surviving films. The San Francisco Silent Film Festival will present The Hitchcock 9 June 14 through 16 at the historic Castro Theatre. The series illustrates the development of the master of suspense’s directorial style from his first film, The Pleasure Garden (1925), to the one he considered "the first true Hitchcock picture,"The Lodger (1926). While all these films have been on DVD or VHS previously (often transferred from public domain prints and with less than stellar soundtracks), this event provides a chance to see the films restored to their original splendor, in a single screen cinema, and accompanied by specially commissioned scores performed by accomplished silent film accompanist.

Director Alfred Hitchcock and star Anny Ondra have a bit of fun on the set of Blackmail.

The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, a quintet dedicated to authentic silent picture accompaniment, will play for the opening night film, the silent version of the suspenseful psychological thriller Blackmail (1929). Originally produced as a silent film, British International pictures gave Hitchcock the go ahead to film a few sound sequences for Blackmail (a common practice during the film industry’s transition to sound). Hitchcock chose instead to create a second almost entirely sound version. Both were released, accommodating cinemas that had installed sound and those who hadn’t, resulting in a commercial success. Mont Alto will also accompany the boxing melodrama The Ring (1927) on Saturday and the closing night screening of The Lodger on Sunday.

As usual, the course of true love does not run smooth in The Farmer's Wife (1928)

Silent film pianist and composer Judy Rosenberg will perform her own scores for two films: The bubbly romantic comedy Champagne (1928) and the film adaptation of Noel Coward’s dramatic stage hit Easy Virtue (1927). The films play Saturday and Sunday afternoon respectively. The indefatigable composer, musician and BFI house accompanist Stephen Horne will play for the remaining four films, three of which he composed the scores for: Downhill (1927) based on the play co-written by the film’s star, Ivor Novello; the utterly charming romantic comedy The Farmer's Wife (1928); and the dark romantic triangle The Manxman (1929). Harpist Diana Rowan will join Horne for Manxman.  Horne will also accompany the backstage tale of two chorus girls (one bad, one good), The Pleasure Garden (1926).

A bad girl or a good one? The Pleasure Garden (1926)

Full program and ticket information for the SFSFF presentation of The Hitchcock 9 is available on the SFSFF's website. The series will also play in Seattle at the SIFF Cinema Uptown July 26-28. In addition, the series is set to screen in BrooklynLos Angeles Washington, D.C., Berkeley, Chicago, Houston, and Boston.  Each venue will feature differing line-ups of accompanists. The touring festival is a joint venture of the BFI, Park Circus/ITV Studios, and Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal. 

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