Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Wind (1928)

WHO: Victor Sjöström directed this.

WHAT: On a first viewing, I must admit, this film didn't do much for me. But seeing it for a second time at the 2009 San Francisco Silent Film Festival made me realize just what a masterpiece it is. Here's an excerpt from Benjamin Schrom's excellent essay for that festival's program book:
The Wind marked the end of an era. It was the final silent major motion picture released by MGM, the final silent film by one of the era’s great directors, Victor Sjöström, and the final silent film for of one its greatest stars, Lillian Gish. It was also a box office failure, simultaneously panned and hailed by critics, called an “American western” as well as a “European” film, loved by those who worked on it and hated by those who produced it. 
WHERE/WHEN: The Wind screens as part of a two-film Pacific Film Archive screening of Sjöström films that begins at 7:00 PM. The other film was made by the director in 1917 when he was still working in his home country Sweden: Terje Vigen.

WHY: Singling this film out today is my not-so-subtle way to draw attention to the SFSFF's recently-redesigned website. There's lots to explore there, but I'm most interested in pointing out that for the first time, all of the program essays about past festival films and musicians, are easily readable (and share-able) online. Schrom's essay on The Wind is a fine example. If you'll allow me to toot an old horn, I'm excited that seven essays I wrote for the festival are now archived there as well, so if you're interested in reading about Yasujiro Ozu's I Was Born, But..., Dziga Vertov's Man With A Movie Camera, Tod Browning's West of Zanzibar, Douglas Fairbanks as The Gaucho, F. W. Murnau's Sunrise, Teinosuke Kinugasa's Jujiro, or William de Mille's Miss Lulu Bett, I've just provided handy links to each article I've written for a SFSFF screening. 

I'm excited to see the films playing at the festival's upcoming (February 16th) Silent Winter, including a 1916 version of Snow White, a selection of Buster Keaton comedies, Raoul Walsh directing Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad, Mary Pickford's final silent film My Best Girl, and Murnau's final film before coming to Hollywood, Faust. Nearly as exciting as that are the live musical accompaniments planned for the day, with the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra handling the Fairbanks, organist Christian Elliot tackling the Murnau, and pianist Donald Sosin taking on the rest. But nearly as exciting as that, is reading the essays on these films by the current SFSFF stable of researcher/writers. The souvenir program books the festival produces get better and better every year.

HOW: Both films at the PFA tonight will run in 35mm prints, Terje Vigen imported from Sweden and The Wind from the PFA's collection. The Wind will feature Bruce Loeb's live accompaniment on piano, while Terje Vigen will feature a live string quartet score.

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