Sunday, January 16, 2011

Margarita Landazuri's Two Eyes

Since my own two eyes were not nearly enough to see and evaluate all the repertory/revival film screenings here on Frisco Bay, I'm honored to present local filmgoers' lists of the year's favorites. An index of participants is found here.

The following list comes from writer/educator Margarita Landazuri, whose articles appear on the Turner Classic Movies website and elsewhere. She decided to focus her contribution specifically on the 15th San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which she says was "probably the best ever":

Introducing Rotaie, Anita called it "the discovery of the festival," and said it ranks right up there with Sunrise. To audible gasps from the audience, she said, "I know...but it's true." She was right. Visually stunning, emotionally satisfying, wonderfully acted, and with a gorgeous, lyrical piano score by Stephen Horne, it was my favorite film of the festival. I also loved Horne's score for The Strong Man, which was comical but not over-emphatic, lilting and delicate, and perfect for Harry Langdon's rather fey style. Not a big fan of the "Little Elf," but the film was sweet and funny.

Overall, the music for this year's festival was sublime, making so-so films good, good films better, and great films unforgettable. Among the standouts, Mont Alto's music for Diary of a Lost Girl, very Berlin 1920s, with appropriate touches of darkness; Matti Bye's score for L'Heureus Mort, very French and whimsical; and Alloy's for Man With a Movie Camera. Seeing it with Alloy's music was like seeing it for the first time. It was the perfect combination of sound and picture -- not music, really, but the sounds and rhythms of the city. I also liked Alloy's score for Metropolis, a marvel of percussive machine sounds that I think suit the film better than the original melodic score. I didn't make it to Häxan, but would have been interested in seeing what Matti Bye did with it.

Finally, I must mention The Shakedown. Not a masterpiece, like some of the other films in the festival, but as the second feature film directed by William Wyler, it's a wondefully exhuberant, confident work of a master at the beginning of his career. He fills the frame to overflowing. There's something going everywhere. Like most novices, he probably does too much, but it mostly works. The audacity of it is charming. And I loved seeing a big, brash, joyful performance by James Murray, who was so poignant in The Crowd, and whose star-crossed career and life were tragedies.

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