Sunday, October 3, 2010

Weekend update #20

Here are some brief bits of news - offered on a regular basis - from and about the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and the world of silent film:

1) San Francisco is a rather unique place. It's filled with the lovers of not only early film, but also lovers of literature and books and bookstores. In fact, at one time, San Francisco was able boast the presence of three independent bookstores whose names were derived from the titles of Charlie Chaplin films. There was Limelight (which focused on books pertaining to theater, acting, and the movies before its closure a few years ago), Modern Times on Valencia Street (the oversized gears in its logo are derived from the Chaplin film), and the world famous City Lights bookstore in North Beach. 

It wasn't surprising then that at last night's LitQuake salute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights bookstore - which included everyone from Winona Ryder and Tom Waits to Patti Smith & (past SFSFF attendee) Lenny Kaye - should include not one but two mentions of Charlie Chaplin! The love goes on.

2) It's been a quarter of a century years since Louise Brooks passed away in August of 1985. Before her death, she bequeathed her private journals to the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York with instructions they remain sealed for 25 years. Yesterday, Variety reported that her journals have been unsealed and that "Eastman staffers have been poring over the journals before making them available to the public." In them, Variety noted, she comments on contemporaries including Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Humphrey Bogart. For a bit more on this breaking story, read David Cohen's report at  Should they be published (and let's hope so), a sample of what might be found in the journals can be found over on the Silent Movie Blog, where blogger Christopher Snowden has posted a few letters from Louise Brooks.

3) In the mid 1950s, Henri Langois uttered his now famous pronouncement - "There is no Garbo, there is no Dietrich, there is only Louise Brooks." Reportedly, this quip was in response to a question from a reporter as to why he had hung a huge banner depicting the then obscure actress outside the Cinémathèque Française, which was celebrating the birth of motion pictures. Opposite Brooks was the image of another singular personality from the silent cinema - Maria Falconetti (1892 – 1946).

Falconetti, of course, is best known today for her riveting performance (or rather embodiment) as Joan of Arc in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). As noted in a blog earlier this week, Dreyer’s silent film has a long history here in the San Francisco Bay Area. On Tuesday, the Silent Film Festival announced it would co-sponsor (along with the Pacific Film Archive and Paramount Theatre) a screening of the film which will combine a performance of Richard Einhorn’s acclaimed choral and orchestral work "Voices of Light" with Dreyer’s classic film. That special event is set to take place December 2 at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre. 

One other local screening of the film not noted in the earlier blog took place at the old San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in June of 1975. That retrospect included a pre-restoration print of The Passion of Joan of Arc - which despite it's incomplete nature - was then still "acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of the cinema."


  1. It's worth noting that, in addition to Passion Of Joan of Arc screening at the Paramount, all of the other Dreyer films mentioned in that old article, including the silent Leaves From Satan's Book, will play at an upcoming Pacific Film Archive series along with more Dreyer silents: the Parson's Widow, Love One Another, Once Upon a Time, former SFSFF presentation Michael, Master of the House, and The President. All these silents at the PFA will be accompanied by the great Judith Rosenberg on piano.

  2. Thank you Brian, that is great news!