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article image'Silent Winter' film fest will impress; they are masterpieces Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Feb 5, 2013 in Entertainment
San Francisco - The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is eager to present a "mini" film festival at San Francisco's Castro Theater on Feb. 16. The festival's artistic director Anita Monga met and talked with members of the press this past Feb. 1.
She was pleased to announce the one-day program of what she described as "masterpieces."
She spoke with this reporter individually on that Friday after the press conference, saying,"the five programs we will be showing for our 'Silent Winter' film festival will begin at 10 in the morning with one of the earliest film versions of 'Snow White' from 1916," she said. Monga noted that it is said that this film Walt Disney saw at age 16 while in Kansas City and was the inspiration for his animated version of 1937. The SF Silent Film Festival worked in conjunction with the Walt Disney Family Museum to bring this to the festival. "Many thought this film was lost, when a fire destroyed archive vaults at Universal Studios back in June of 2008," said Monga.
Yet, amazingly and perhaps miraculously, materials of the film were found in The Netherlands. "It was rushed to the National Film Preservation Foundation here in San Francisco and extensive restoration work was done," said Monga. A celebration of the creation of the Disney animated classic is currently featured at the Walt Disney Family Museum, where the 1916 silent film version is included as part of the exhibit now on display.
At 12 Noon the mini-festival offers three Buster Keaton short films, each about 20 minutes in length. From about 1920-21 when Keaton left the Fatty Arbuckle cast to work on his own, "The Scarecrow," "One Week" and "The Playhouse" are sure to delight comedy fans of all ages. "We are really encouraging families with kids to see this part of the festival programing," said Monga. These shorts are considered some of his best work ever recorded on film.
At 2:30, following the Keaton comedies, "The Thief of Bagdad" staring the original swashbuckler of the screen, Douglas Fairbanks presents one of the earliest "blockbusters" of its time from 1924. "This was a huge-undertaking of a film for its day, and one of the most costly," said Monga. Contemporary audiences will recognize the similarity of the story line to yet another Disney animated feature, "Aladdin." In this silent film spectacle audiences will see some of the most exquisite examples of early special effects on film, with flying carpets, horses with wings and monsters lurking underneath the sea.
In the evening "we will have our "Pick-Fair" moment," said Monga. at 7:00 is the film "My Best Girl" staring "America's Sweetheart" of the era, Mary Pickford. Monga, noted that in this film Pickford is playing a grown up and not "the child-woman, she was often cast as in most of her movies." Monga also thought it appropriate that a Mary Pickford film should follow the "Thief of Bagdad" because in real life the two silent era stars were married and as Monga said, "together they were the Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt of their day." They were early Hollywood's superstars. "My Best Girl" was the last silent film Pickford made and while she did go on to star in movies with sound, "she only made about three 'talkies' and then she retired from movies," said Monga.
 My Best Girl  was Mary Pickford s last film of the Silent Film Era.
"My Best Girl" was Mary Pickford's last film of the Silent Film Era.
Courtesy of Larsen Associates and the SF Silent Film Festival
The mini film fest concludes into the late night with the legendary tale of "Faust." This 1926 film version is the last of director F.W. Murnau's films made in German. Perhaps, most well-known to audiences for his silent film "Nosferatu," Murnau soon left Germany for Hollywood after making "Faust." He was among many of the European filmmakers who fled the coming onset of the Nazi regime, to find work in Hollywood during the 1930's and World War II. "This work of Murnau's, said Monga, is an example of German Expressionism at its best."
F.W. Murnau s version of  Faust  a silent film from 1926  expresses the classic tale of being tempte...
F.W. Murnau's version of "Faust" a silent film from 1926, expresses the classic tale of being tempted by the forces of darkness. This was Murnau's last film made in German before leaving Europe to make movies in Hollywood.
Courtesy of Larsen Associates and the SF Silent Film Festival
Monga also pointed out that German Expressionism is a precursor to "Film Noir" which the Castro Theater just recently hosted with the Noir City 11 film festival for 10 days.
Donald Sosin on piano and and Chris Elliot on the Wurlitzer organ will be the accompanists for the film fest. And, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra will provide the background music for "The Thief of Bagdad." One of the challenges of presenting silent films is the music, noted Monga.
Yes, it is true, film quality is very important. Yet as Monga pointed out, the selection of music and how it is played is perhaps more vital now for today's audiences because silent films must be understood and appreciated in their proper context. In today's movies of intense special effects, high definition and 3-D, modern audiences might easily miss the subtle nuances that many of the silent film era movies have. "Few of the silent films can be fully appreciated on the small screen," noted Monga. Keaton's works as well as much of Charlie Chaplin's antics is easily recognized because of the universal physical comedy. Yet more detailed or epic films, the audience must see them as they were intended to be seen. "Silent films are much more thrilling and magnificent when seen on the big screen with the proper accompaniment of music," said Monga. It helps the audience understand the dramatic impact.
"The Artist" which won best picture in 2011 was a wonderful surprise for silent film fans, when asked what the is on-going appeal? Monga replied, "why does Shakespeare endure?" "Of Course, some silent films will have more appeal than others, but we feel that silent films are art forms and when we select films for our festivals, we choose the best," she said. "What we are offering for our "Silent Winter" festival are masterpieces." For more info visit web site.
More about San Francisco Silent Film Festival, silent film, San Francisco, Castro Theater
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