Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lincoln Spector 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 Lincoln Spector of Bayflicks. With his permission, I extracted the Frisco Bay repertory events from his previously-published list of Best Movie-Going Experiences of 2011:

Lawrence of Arabia in 70mm, Castro, June 11. Hollywood made a lot of long epic movies in the 50s and 60s. Many of them were shot in large formats, and initially presented in 70mm roadshow presentations—a great way to see a big film. Some of these movies were pretty good. A few were excellent. Too many of them are unwatchable. But only one stands out among the greatest masterpieces of the cinema: David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia—as perfect a blending of medium and story as you can find. Seeing this film this way wasn’t a new experience for me last summer, but an old, beloved one. Had it been my first such experience, it undoubtedly would have made number 1.

Four Noir Features in One Day, Castro/Noir City, January 22. It was dark. It was dangerous. Lust, greed, and fear hung heavily in the air. It was enough to drive you crazy. On one dark and scary winter day, I sat through two double bills of vintage noir, all about people who were out of their minds (a festival-long theme last year). I loved three out of the four movies, but the best was easily Don’t Bother To Knock, which gave Marilyn Monroe one of her first starring roles. She plays a babysitter who really should not be trusted with a child. She shouldn’t be trusted with a grown man like Richard Widmark, either.

Three Charlie Chaplin Mutual Shorts, Castro/Silent Film Festival Winter Event, February 12. Forget, for a moment, the mature Charlie Chaplin of The Gold Rush and City Lights. It was the short subjects he made a decade earlier that won him more populsilarity than anyone could have imagined before he stepped in front of a movie camera. The three shorts presented that day, The Pawnshop, The Rink, and The Adventurer reminded me and hundreds of other people of just how amazing he was in his third year as a filmmaker. The early Chaplin character could be exceptionally selfish and cruel–even sadistic. Yet you root for him. That’s star power. Donald Sosin provided piano accompaniment.

Upstream, Castro/San Francisco Silent Film Festival, July 14. How often do you get to see a newly discovered John Ford movie (actually, this was my second). Thought lost for decades and recently found in New Zealand, Upstream is not the sort of picture you associate with Ford. But this amusing and entertaining trifle about the residents of a theatrical boarding house–a story with a love triangle at the center–showed that he was considerably more versatile than we generally assume. Rather than merely accompanying the film on a piano, Donald Sosin put together a jazz sextet that rocked the house.

Serge Bromberg and the History of 3D, Castro/San Francisco International Film Festival, May 1. In 2011, the Festival gave its Mel Novikoff Award to film restoration expert, distributor, and entertainer Serge Bromberg. After a brief Q&A where he discussed preservation and set some nitrate film on fire, he presented, narrated, and occasionally accompanied some rare, historic 3D shorts. Among the filmmakers whose works were presented were George Mêliés and Chuck Jones. With the exception of the first two-reeler, all of the films were presented digitally.

Kirk Douglas & Spartacus, Castro/San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, July 25. Last year, the Jewish Festival gave its Freedom of Expression Award to Hollywood star, living legend, executive producer, and stroke survivor Issur Danielovitch—better known to the world as Kirk Douglas. The stroke slurred his speech but not his enthusiasm, and didn’t keep him from talking about the importance of free expression in a democracy, and that how without it we are all slaves. Then they screened Spartacus–one of the great roadshow productions of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Like Lawrence of Arabia, this picture requires something like the Castro to make it work its best. My only regret: They screened it in 35mm as no 70mm print is currently available.

runners-up, listed in chronological order by screening date

The Leopard, Castro, February 20
The Battleship Potemkin, Castro, March 18
Screenwriter Frank Pierson and Dog Day Afternoon, Kabuki/San Francisco International Film Festival, April 30.
Days of Heaven, Cerrito, August 11
Elevator to the Gallows, Pacific Film Archive, November 4

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