San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2018: The Mighty Recap

Now that I’m home from California, here is my recap of this year’s fabulous festival! Fun fact: portions of this post were written while sitting at the bar of the Pig ‘N’ Whistle restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, next door to Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre…not an office I get to use every day!

Opening Night Presentation: Wednesday, May 30

I arrived in San Francisco in the mid-afternoon of May 30th, and after doing a bit of sight-seeing among those windy hills (but no cable car-riding–drat those eternal lines!) I took one of those historic streetcars down to the Castro theater. Ah, beautiful Castro theater, how I’ve missed thee. After missing the 2017 fest, it felt “right” to finally be back.

The 23rd San Francisco Silent Film Festival began with a tribute to the late Frank Buxton, who had a lengthy and busy career in TV, movies, and radio (he was a writer on Happy Days and directed episodes of Mork and Mindy, to name a few things). He had been an indispensable member of the festival board, and it was clear how much he was already missed.

Then the lights went down, the great curtains parted to reveal the screen–I do love that quiet, magical moment of anticipation–and the 5-day festival of beautiful restorations and the world’s finest live accompaniment had begun!

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Thoughts On: “The Passion of Joan of Arc” (1928)

Making most lists of the top ten greatest films ever made is Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). And indeed, you suspect a spot had always been reserved for it. A critic from as far back as 1929 was moved to declare, “It makes worthy pictures of the past look like tinsel shams.”

Passion of Joan of Arc

Those unacquainted with The Passion might not be prepared for it. It doesn’t lead you from plot point to plot point, but throws you into an experience. It’s intensely, harshly realistic, but within a mildly expressionistic setting. We’re meant to contemplate Joan’s ordeal, linked thematically with the most widely contemplated ordeal in history. A critic I admire said it best: “I know of movies more theologically profound or more pious, but none more evocative of what it means to share the sufferings of Christ.” Continue reading