Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shahn Only Has Two Eyes

It's impossible for any pair of eyes to view all of Frisco Bay's worthwhile film screenings. I'm so pleased that a number of local filmgoers have let me post their repertory/revival screening highlights of 2011. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from a future film archivist known in the blog world as Shahn. She blogs at Six Martinis And The Seventh Art

These two eyes got to see a lot more films on the big screen this year than last year. On-going proximity to the Pacific Film Archive Theater and the ever-expanding San Francisco Silent Film Festival both helped a great deal as well as a less-demanding school schedule for the second half of 2011

I saw:

Razor Blades (1965-68) PFA: Absolutely amazing double projection. With the order/disorder of images and the color changes amid flashes within the flicker effect, I really felt Paul Sharits was training my eyes to see his film in a different, unique way. Giving in completely to his manipulation felt like a gift of a new way to experience film.

T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G, (1968) PFA: Once he'd trained my vision with the preceding film, this became a full-body experience. At times the film was dripping off the screen, at others it was bouncing off the walls. Any further explanation would be like hearing someone describe their LSD trip, so enough from me. This was probably the greatest film screening I've attended, like, ever. It was most amusing to watch audience members give up and walk out, like participants who drop out of the spell at a hypnotist's performance.

Mademoiselle (1966) PFA: I had seen this before but only on DVD and in the company of francophones who didn't think to turn the english subtitles on for me until a good way into the film. Learning that the screenplay was written by Jean Genet also changed this viewing experience. The film makes so much more sense now.

Badlands (1973) PFA: The audience shaped this experience for me. A large portion, possibly viewing this as "camp", laughed heartily at Martin Sheen's every line. I thought they would see it differently once the dichotomy between his innocent ramblings and extreme violence came up, but they were just quiet through the killings and resumed guffawing once he started speaking again. I wish at these times that I could request an audience Q&A after the screening. I'm still thinking about their reaction.

Kristallnacht (1979) PFA: This was just gorgeous and surprisingly intimate for a blurry experimental film. The lush rhythms were calming, like being comforted and soothed while encased in a bear hug. I can easily imagine this feeling reaching Anne Frank, as Chick Strand intended.

Upstream (1927) Castro Theater: Made me rethink my aversion to John Ford. It's a large cast of characters that he juggles without dropping any of them, and moving in and out of comedic bits all the while.

I Was Born But... (1932) Castro Theater: My first silent Ozu. I love everything of his I've seen, but this one made me realize how he uses "silent movie" techniques all the way through his sound pictures - the pillow shots of course, but also how the characters turn to the camera and pause before speaking. I will always expect a cut-away to an intertitle now.

The Great White Silence (1924) Castro Theater: If you visit my blog any December, you'll notice that I like snow. Seeing so much of it on a big screen was pure heaven, not to mention the documentary aspect showing how they set up camp and ate and kept warm. I'm nuts about that stuff. Including penguins never hurts a film either.

The Woman Men Yearn For (1929) Castro Theater: Made in that golden year of luscious silent film master craftsmanship, Marlene Dietrich just glows like a movie star should. It's no wonder the men keeps whirling around her like moths. And yet no jealousy is ever provoked in the female audience 'cause she's really winning one for the team. Go, femme fatale, go!

Tribune-American Dream Picture (1924) Castro Theater: If T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G, is my favorite this year, this is number two. A local newspaper in Oakland, CA launched a contest for readers to submit a written account of a dream, to be filmed by professionals and starring the readers themselves. It's completely surreal as well as showcasing both East Bay and San Francisco locations as they were in 1924. Absolutely brilliant and here's hoping more of this series turn up. It'll make for more great viewing in 2012.


  1. Thanks for inviting me, Brian. This annual party is so fun! Nice Tribune-American pic, by the way.

  2. I was pleased to find that. None of the other still images I found from the movie seemed to capture the strange atmosphere it exudes. Thanks for your list!