Monday, June 30, 2008

Linking Feller: June

June has been a busy month for me, but a rewarding one. At the Film of the Month Club, where we've been discussing the 1915 Cecil B. DeMille meller the Golden Chance, I've put up a second post, this time a consideration of an uncredited side character. Is he played by Utake Abe, the Japanese film director who took a several-year sojourn in Hollywood where he appeared in films directed by DeMille, Frank Borzage, Frank Lloyd and others? One source says yes, but one source is hardly enough to confirm something in the often-murky history of the silent era; check out my post and see what you think.

Though I'm quite happy with my contribution to the Film of the Month Club, both my Utake Abe query and my first post on DeMille's theatrical origins and his continuity editing, I'm also happy to have been shown up by a pair of other contributions, namely Marilyn Ferdinand's comparison of the Golden Chance to another DeMille silent, the 1918 Don't Chance Your Husband. In her piece and the ensuing comments, she turns up the intriguing idea that the scenario for the Golden Chance was at least partially autobiographical for DeMille. And Film of the Month Club founder Chris Cagle's piece, which asks what the Golden Chance might have to say about the usual "Griffith narrative" of the origins of classical Hollywood. I can't wait to find out what next month's topic is going to be, but I'll continue looking in at the comments for June in case anyone else wants to join in.

I certainly didn't expect that delving into the Golden Chance would, in this investigation of Utake Abe, connect so neatly to the research and writing I've finally completed on Japanese director Teinosuke Kinugasa and the silent cinema of Japan for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which is showing Kinugasa's Jujiro at the Castro Theatre in less than two weeks. The trend of Japanese film professionals spending time in Hollywood as part of a concerted effort to bring American film practices back to Japan is just one of many fascinating stories I was unable to fit into my contribution to the festival's educational materials. This blog will provide some room for spillover. I plan to put a new factoid or image on this blog every day for the week leading up to the festival. That's very soon; I better start working on the formatting! In the meantime, Dan has a preview of the festival, and more.

As Dan notes, there's a lot of film stuff happening here on Frisco Bay. I haven't mentioned all of it on this blog yet. For example, the Castro begins its annual 70mm series tomorrow with Blue Thunder, and will include the 1986 musical version of Little Shop of Horrors (apparently unavailable in 35mm prints, so this is your chance to see it on film), Sam Peckinpah's director's cut of the Wild Bunch, and three films I've already seen in 70mm, but would gladly see again that way (in fact, I'd be wary of seeing them any other way, so eye-popping they are in that format): Lawrence of Arabia, Tron and Jacques Tati's masterpiece Playtime.

Other upcoming Castro screenings include a July 15-23 tribute to Sydney Pollack and an August 1-7 booking of Kent Mackenzie's the Exiles.

The Roxie, like the Castro, is coming off a week and a half of screenings for Frameline. It's now playing two current films that might not be on your radar screen: Yoji Yamada's samurai film Love and Honor and Ramin Bahrani's Chop Shop, the diretor's follow-up to his closely-observed character study Man Push Cart. The historic Roxie's in trouble once again, so support it while you can!

Across town a the Lumiere Theatre you'll find Werner Herzog's new Antarctica documentary Encounters at the End of the World this week. I attended on Friday, when producer/composer/foraminifera research diver Henry Kaiser was on hand to introduce the film and handle audience questions. It's another piece in the Herzog puzzle, it's subject matter makes it a feel even a bit more apocalyptic than usual for the director of Fata Morgana and La Soufrière.

Another in-person appearance at the Lumiere occurs the evening of July 5th, when animators from the Animation Show's fourth incarnation drop by.

The SFFS Screen at the Sundance Kabuki is currently home to the lovely Romance of Astrea and Celadon by Eric Rohmer. I hope you're not so smarting from kicking yourself for missing Woman on the Beach last week (oh, you saw it? good. did you like it?) to get your sore butt over to Japantown before it's gone. I've remarked on the July bookings here before, but now the first film to play there in August has been announced: Jacques Nolot's Before I Forget opens August 1st. Good thing too, since apparently it only screened digitally at Frameline last week.

Before I forget, may as well mention some blogs I newly noticed in June. You may already know about these, but in case you don't:

Georges Méliès: an in-depth look at the cinema’s first creative genius I covet that new DVD set.

Annie Got Gun Written by a friend, and not strictly a film blog- ok not much film on it, but some great art you won't see elsewhere and more.

Moazzam Sheikh. Another friend, and he's literally just staring out in the blogosphere, but perhaps my enthusiasm for his posts on Boutique, an Iranian film I have not seen, and La Notte, an Italian film I have seen, will help encourage him to continue!

As perfect as it can be... Reviews of two disparate, under-sung masterpieces Quick Billy and Day of the Outlaw make me hope there's more to come.


  1. Thanks for the mention, Brian. It looks like you and I were the only ones who really got into The Golden Chance on the FOTM Club site. I wish I could have answered your question, but I have no idea about the actor at hand. Perhaps Peter Nellhaus or Danielle Gordon (Lady Wakasa's Journal) have some ideas. They're both Asian specialists.

    As for The Exiles, I'm a huge fan and wrote about it for Bright Lights Film Journal ages ago in their "Distribute This" column. I'm so pleased someone finally got the hint I and, I'm sure, a lot of other people put out there. If you haven't seen it yet, you're in for an enormous treat.

  2. I have not seen the Exiles, Marilyn, but after reading your piece I'm all the more certain that I absolutely have to.