Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Larry Chadbourne Has Two Eyes

The Frisco Bay repertory/revival scene cannot be taken in by a single pair of eyes. Thankfully, a number of local filmgoers have agreed to share their favorites from 2009. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from Larry Chadbourne of the Film On Film Foundation:

My 6 favorite Rep/Revival Screenings from 2009
In historical order

1. J'Accuse (1918) I had only seen the truncated American version of Gance's lyrical pacifist epic, so the North American premiere at the Castro of the restoration made a tremendous impression, aided by the skillful transposition from organist Robert Israel of his original symphonic score. And the timing -- the week of Obama's heartbreaking Oslo speech -- added to the emotional impact.

2. Lady Of The Pavements (1929) - Castro. The stand-out entry in this year's SF silent film fest, a rarely shown late Griffith, benefited from the vocals by pianist Donald Sosin's wife Joanna Seaton, in an attempt to reconstruct some of the missing sound discs. Her rendition of Berlin's "Where Is The Song of Songs For Me?", which at one point seemed to match the lip-movements on screen of the lovely Lupe Velez, evoked gasps from the audience.

3. La Tete D'Un Homme (1932) PFA's Duvivier series was the year's archival goldmine, with numerous seldom shown classics revisited and several rare items projected with special electronic subtitles. Of these the Simenon adaptation as well as the later 1957 Pot Bouille, a work of literary craftsmanship made just before such artistry would be overwhelmed by the New Wave, stood out. I single out La Tete D'un Homme for its Sternbergian pictorial texture, its striking use of the Brechtian street singer, and its anticipation of American film noir.

4. Jeanne Dielman (1975) SF Moma's interesting Akerman series allowed me to finally catch up with this modernist landmark.It is the kind of film that changes the way you look at things, if only such mundane matters as cleaning one's bathtub. The showing was enriched by the scholarly introduction by B. Ruby Rich, one of the best intros to a film I've ever heard.

5. Inglorious Bastards (1978) Yerba Buena's clever revival of the inspiration for the Tarantino was (in contrast to J'Accuse) a beautifully colored fantasy flashback to childhood-memories-of playing with war toys. If only for this one film, the supposed schlockmeister Enzo Castellari looks worthy of further scrutiny.

6. Who Will Watch The Watchmen? (2003) PFA's Karel Vachek series offered those with the stamina to spend five Sunday afternoons immersed in Czech history, culture and politics the rewarding-payoff. In Watchmen, Vachek's wandering eye was anchored somewhat by the need to keep returning to rehearsals of a Smetana opera not well known in North America, "Dalibor". This more than made up for the other moments of frustration making-one's way through this massive oeuvre.

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