Saturday, July 7, 2012

Special Programs at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival

Here are two special programs, and two more reasons, not to miss this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The Festival takes place at the historic Castro Theater July 12 through July 15.  More info at

Amazing Tales from the Archives

The Festival continues its popular Amazing Tales from the Archives program with "Into the Digital Frontier." Every year the Silent Film Festival searches the world’s archives for 35mm prints of films from the silent era. Two years ago, however, a major discovery in a Buenos Aires cinema museum, Fritz Lang’s original cut of Metropolis, was restored digitally and not available on 35mm. We felt that it was important to present this landmark restoration with live musical accompaniment and our audience was wildly appreciative. Today, technological advances have made it possible for studios to transfer more and more classic films to Digital Cinema Packages (DCP) making them available to the public. The best DCPs scan original negatives at such a high rate that all of the attributes of a photochemically-produced 35mm—detail, color, density, film grain—are vividly re-created. 

A scene from William Wellman's Wings

Is the experience of watching a DCP truly comparable to watching a film print? We invite two eminent film professionals from venerable Hollywood studios to discuss. Grover Crisp, head of Film Restoration and Digital Mastering at Sony Pictures will present a side-by-side comparison of a title on film print and DCP restoration, and Andrea Kalas, VP of Archives at Paramount Pictures will talk about her studio’s restoration of Wings (which opens the Festival the night before, in DCP).

Short and Silent

The Festival has two very special short presentations at this year’s festival—one a rare title unseen for 95 years, the other one of the most famous titles in film history! Twin Peaks Tunnel, a cinematic San Francisco time capsule was recently chosen for preservation by the National Film Preservation Foundation and its restoration was carried out by David Kiehn and Rob Byrne. It will be screened on Friday night preceding Mantrap.

A scene from Twin Peaks Tunnel, set not far from the Castro Theater
The other title, George Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon, will be shown in a beautiful restoration by Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange that recreates the exquisite hand-colored tinting of the original print. It will be screened before The Cameraman on closing night. Both films will be accompanied by piano. Actor Paul McGann, who will be narrating South on Saturday, has just been added as the narrator for A Trip to the Moon.

A scene from George Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon

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