Tuesday, September 20, 2011

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) partners with San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF)


Free silent film screenings held at A.C.T. before Friday performances of Once in a Lifetime.

Director Mark Rucker participates in a postshow conversation with
SF Silent Film Festival Artistic Director Anita Monga on Friday, September 23.

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) is excited to partner with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) to present screenings of short silent films before select Friday night performances of its season opener, Once in a Lifetime, the madcap Kaufman and Hart comedy about how the movies learned to talk. On September 30, October 7, and October 14, the SFSFF will host screenings of such silent short classics as Life and Death of 9413, A Hollywood Extra,and The Cameraman's Revenge, starting at 7:15 p.m. at the American Conservatory Theater before the 8 p.m. performance of Once in a Lifetime. The 30-minute screenings are free for all ticket holders. Additionally, on Friday, September 23, A.C.T. will host a conversation between A.C.T. Associate Artistic Director Mark Rucker (who directs Lifetime) and SFSFF Artistic Director and local film luminary Anita Monga following that night's performance. 

For more information on these events and Once in a Lifetime, please visit  act-sf.org/once.

"The San Francisco Silent Film Festival has long been one of my favorite events of the entire year," said Rucker. "It's a real thrill to get a chance to partner with this organization for this show and to get a chance to have a conversation with Anita for our audience." Monga, who programmed San Francisco's famed Castro Theatre for 17 years, added: "A.C.T. has a long history of adventurous, high-caliber productions, and Mark Rucker's innovative approach to Once in a Lifetime is an ideal opportunity for us to collaborate. We are thrilled to be part of this production."

A.C.T. opens its 2011-12 season with the George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart comedy Once in a Lifetime. In this "a delicious Hollywood sendup" (The New York Times), a trio of down-on-their-luck vaudevillians head west to pull off the ultimate con: posing as vocal coaches to help Hollywood stars make their speaking voices as beautiful as their glamorous mugs as silent films evolve into "talkies." This witty satire by the Broadway greats behind such comedy classics as The Man Who Came to Dinner and You Can't Take It with You will be directed by A.C.T. Associate Artistic Director Mark Rucker and will feature an enthralling ensemble cast of 15 who will take on 70 roles. This unique production will incorporate period film clips and dynamic cinematic backdrops that meld the worlds of theater and film, redefining audiences' experience with "moving pictures." 

Once in a Lifetime performs September 22-October 16, 2011, at the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco). Press night is Wednesday, September 28, 2011, at 8 p.m. Tickets (starting at $10) are available by calling the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228 or at act-sf.org .

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pola Negri mania sweeping Europe!

Pola Negri mania is sweeping Europe! As the Guardian (UK) notes, the rediscovery and restoration of the silent film, Mania: The History of a Cigarette Factory Worker, gives modern audiences the chance to be mesmerised by the melodrama of its Polish star. The restoration will premiere in Warsaw on Sunday, September 11th. It will then be shown in five other European capitols including Paris, Madrid, London, Kiev, and Berlin.

As the Guardian reports, "Made in the legendary Ufa studios in Berlin by director Eugen Illés in 1918, it has never been seen since its release. Mania – which is nothing to do with madness but the heroine's name – wasn't lost after all; a copy turned up in a Czech film collection. The Polish Film Archive has now repaired and digitally restored it, and presented it as a 're-premiere' in Warsaw on Sunday night, accompanied by the Wroclaw Chamber Orchestra."

The film - produced in Germany, directed by a Hungarian, and starring a Pole - tells a story of Mania, a cigarette factory worker, and her love for a talented composer named Hans – a love which springs from the girl’s fascination with music; it is a love strong enough to make her capable of the greatest of sacrifices. Mania’s beauty and enthralling dance incite passion in an art patron named Morelli, who wants to make her his mistress. In return, he promises to put Hans’ new opera on stage. Faced with a difficult choice, Mania decides to help her love make his dream come true, a choice that leads to a tragic finale.

As the Guardian also reports, "Mania is a gem, a tightly plotted melodrama of the kind they really don't make any more, but the real value of the film lies in its leading lady – Pola Negri, the first of many silent stars to be plucked from the European film industry and transplanted to Hollywood. Negri's Paramount years are Hollywood legend: marketed as a diva, 'all slink and mink', she was said to walk her pet tiger up and down Sunset Boulevard when she wasn't feuding with the studio's other queen bee, Gloria Swanson. And then there were the romances with Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino – marvellous gossip-column fodder, but when she was said to have flung herself, swooning, on the coffin at Valentino's funeral, it was clear she was too highly strung ever to be America's sweetheart."

So how did Negri catch Hollywood's eye ? The films that got her noticed were those she made at Ufa in her late teens and early 20s – including Mania.

Read the Guardian (UK) article here. Even more about Pola Negri, Polish silent film, and the restoration of Mania: The History of a Cigarette Factory Worker can be found on the Filmoteka Narodowa website. It is well worth exploring.

[Interested in early Polish film? Check out this September 1st article, Pictures and sounds of a gone world, on the SFGate website. Also, check out this 2010 article, Discovering a Polish Lulu, on examiner.com.]