Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Yes, the San Francisco International Film Festival program was announced yesterday with tickets going on sale to the general public today, and there's plenty to say about it that hasn't already been covered in Susan Gerhard's sf360 piece. But I'm going to hold off for a bit, other than to mention my three favorites of the eleven films and videos the festival has selected that overlap with what I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall: The Mysteries of Lisbon, A Useful Life and Meek's Cutoff.

What I'm really surfacing to say is that tomorrow evening at SFMOMA I'm participating in an SF Cinematheque screening of all four of the films directed by 1950s San Francisco Beat poet & filmmaker Christopher Maclaine, as well as two films he contributed artistically to, Ettilie Wallace's Moods In Motion and Lawrence Jordan's Trumpit. Maclaine's the Man Who Invented Gold and the absolutely delightful Scotch Hop are particularly rare, not having screened in a Frisco Bay cinema in several years. The program, curated by Brecht Andersch, will also include in-person appearances by both Jordan and Wilder Bentley II, both of whom appeared as actors in Maclaine's films.

Andersch & I, as I have mentioned on this blog before, have spent over a year doing a kind of field research on Maclaine's first film The End, by visiting sites where the film was shot and re-photographing them. Andersch has been documenting some of the results of our research as part of his Fifteen-part analysis of the 1953 masterpiece. Our project has been augmented by tips and comments from other Maclaine-appreciators including Konrad Steiner and Jim Flannery, both of whom are expected to be at tonight's Pacific Film Archive presentation of other great Frisco Bay experimental films (including the superb Permian Strata by Bruce Conner!) On Thursday I'll be involved in presenting a slideshow of images culled from our research. I'm very honored to be involved in a public discourse around Maclaine. If you have any interest in San Francisco geography, architecture, the Beats, experimental film titans, Scottish music & dance, the Atomic Age, poetry, the history of SFMOMA, or what I might look like in person, I highly recommend that you make your way to SFMOMA by 7PM Thursday. But don't take my word for it- take Max Goldberg's; his feature article in today's San Francisco Bay Guardian is an insightful and fresh look at Maclaine's importance.

Another, completely unrelated, event that I'm involved with in the next week or so is Pigeon Dealers, a variety show happening April 8th at the Berkeley Art Museum (BAM), just few minutes walk from the Pacific Film Archive Theatre. Amidst live music and comedy at the event, I've been asked to select a few 16mm prints of unusual animations from the archive collection to screen as part of the evening. A ticket to either of the Claire Denis screenings happening at the PFA that evening will also get you into the BAM for free that night.

And finally, a third, just as completely unrelated event: the San Francisco Silent Film Festival is quite a ways away on the calendar, but has leaked a few of the titles that will be screening at its July 14-17 event: He Who Gets Slapped, stars Lon Chaney and Norma Shearer, and was one of the first Hollywood films directed by Sweden's Victor Sjöström (and the very first Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer film released after that fateful merger). Gunnar Hedes Saga, directed by Mauritz Stiller (who also made Sir Arne's Treasure and mentored Greta Garbo early in her career), will be, after fifteen years of operation, the festival's first showing of a feature film made in Sweden. Both are splendid films that I look forward to re-seeing at the Castro. I have not yet seen the Great White Silence, a documentary about Captain Scott's expedition to find the South Pole, made little over a decade after the event, but word from last fall's London Film Festival screening makes it sound amazing.

All three of these films will be scored at the 2011 Silent Film Festival by the Matti Bye Orchestra, the newest addition to the SFSFF stable of regular musical performers and, judging by their accompaniments for Häxan and L'Heureuse Mort last Summer, a very welcome one. Matti Bye is currently an artist in residence at the Headlands Center For the Arts in Marin, and next Tuesday Bye and his musical partner Kristian Holmgren will perform musical excerpts from these work-in-progress scores, a kind of preview for those who can't wait until July, at a public event at the Center. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it myself to this demonstration, however. I'll be busy doing my own part to prepare for the July festival, researching and writing a 1200-word essay on one of the films set to play, for the program book. Is it one of the three aforementioned films, or another one entirely? I'm afraid I'll have to remain vague for now, but will keep readers posted as soon as I can say more.


  1. I have no interest in San Francisco geography, architecture, the Beats, experimental film titans, Scottish music & dance, the Atomic Age, poetry, or the history of SFMOMA. I'm just interested in BRIAN DARR all the time!!!

    Congrats, man! I'm really happy for you and your little trifecta here.

  2. Thanks, Adam. It was good to see you last night.

    More Silent Film Festival 2011 titles were mentioned in a recent membership mailer I received this week:

    John Ford's recently-rediscovered Upstream
    Il Fuoco, Italian director Giovanni Pastrone's follow-up to Cabiria
    Shoes, Lois Weber's sequel to her Where Are My Children?
    Douglas Fairbanks in Mr. Fix-It, directed by Allan Dwan.

    I've seen none of these. Can't wait.

    In the meantime, Oliver Stone has been confirmed as the SFIFF's Founder's Directing Award recipient. No word yet on which of his films will screen along with his in-person appearance.

  3. But what is that 2nd image all about? is that bull, a deer, a moose? Those are very long atlers by the way. It sort of looks creepy.

  4. It's from Gunnar Hedes Saga: a dog with reindeer antlers tied to its head. Real reindeer play a large role in the film, but this particular image comes from a dream sequence, so I think 'creepy' is an appropriate response.