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. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Blurry Pictures of Dynamic Directors, Pt. 3

All taken by me at the 39th Seattle International Film Festival.

Click here for part two (from SIFF '12).

B. Ruby Rich moderates the New Queer Cinema panel on 5/18. 


I've only attended one panel at this year's SIFF. Fortunately, it was quite good. At this event, author B. Ruby Rich and her panelists talked about the New Queer Cinema of the past (Derek Jarman, Sadie Benning, etc.), its legacy, and its influence on their work. Rich also shared footage of a similar panel from the Sundance Film Festival in the early-1990s.   

Yen Tan (Pit Stop), Stacie Passon (Concussion), and Alan Brown (Five Dances).

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to see any of the panelist's films, though I heard particularly positive things about Five Dances. In discussing their approaches to filmmaking, Alan Brown said that he enjoys working with theater actors more than those from movies and TV, while Tan and Passon tend to work with more recognizable performers, like Amy Seimetz (Pit Stop) and Robin Weigert (Concussion).

Stan Shields, Tess Martin (They Look Right Through You), and Amy Finkel (Furever). 

Furever was one of my favorite documentaries at SIFF '13. Tess Martin's short, which preceded it, proved a perfect fit. I found both quite moving.   

Greta and her freeze-dried pom, Rudy, from Furever

Endnote: For more on Furever, click here for my Line Out post.