Monday, January 26, 2015

IOHTE: Lucy Laird

"IOHTE" stands for "I Only Have Two Eyes"; it's my annual survey of selected San Francisco Bay Area cinephiles' favorite in-the-cinema screenings of classic films and archival oddities from the past year. An index of participants can be found here.

Contributor Lucy Laird is the new Operations Director of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
My two eyes were removed in a painful procedure three years ago, but I'm happy to report that they began regenerating in 2014. My doctors predict a full recovery in 15 years' time—i.e., when my daughter turns 18. So forgive me when I list nearly every repertory screening that I attended this past year. And with that caveat, here they are, in chronological order:

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Sunday, July 20, 2014: Lotte Reiniger's Mary's Birthday at the Pacific Film Archive Little did I realize that this would be my last chance to savor the curatorial finesse of Steve Seid at the PFA—now retired from his position there, but, I hope, not from film programming—with the "cheat" addition of this Reiniger short within a series devoted to adaptations of children's picture books. Bonus: The whole family could attend! There is nothing more delightful than a theater full of little kids in good moods, exclaiming at the onscreen wonders of their favorite books and artists come to life. (And no, that certain Disney film with two princesses that shall not be named doesn't count!) And even more delightful is a certain two-and-a-half-year-old proclaiming over the following weeks and months: "That movie with the flies is my favorite movie!" You can see why here.
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Saturday, September 20, 2014: Laurel and Hardy in Two Tars at the Castro Theatre, as part of the Silent Film Festival's Silent Autumn Event Full disclosure: I was working this event and therefore wasn't able to watch the full program of three L&H shorts (the other two were Should Married Men Go Home? and Big Business), but I did manage to duck in and enjoy the gumball machine and traffic jam scenes in Two Tars. (And yes, this was another screening that a toddler could attend, shushing seniors be darned!) But having grown up watching Stan and Ollie's sound films on television, I couldn't believe that I was finally able to watch them on the big screen. Could the traffic jam scene be the first cinematic treatment of road rage? I don't know, but I am pleased to report that in my daughter's wise judgment, "Mama's work movie" slapsticked its way to the #1 spot on her list, knocking out Reiniger's "fly movie."
Image supplied by contributor -- see below
Thursday, November 20, 2014: Leo Esakya's Amerikanka at the Pacific Film Archive The Georgian cinema series runs for a few more months, through Spring 2015. Go. And be sure to see all the silents you can. The one I've listed here, Amerikanka, is a mesmerizing, rhythmic, tension-filled ode to an underground printing press of the revolutionary period. "Amerikanka" or "American Lady"—as explained by Peter Bagrov of Gosfilmofond, who was there to introduce the screening—probably refers to the make of the printing press itself. And print is what dominates this film, from the montage of satirical personal ads at the start ("Light armour, resistant to any revolver, for sale. Tested...Good-looking count in his 30s wishes to meet a rich lady with a view to marriage.") to the revolutionary pamphlets streaming off the press, to the notes and maps of the soil analyst trying to uncover the rebel print factory, to the letter dictated by an unseen Lenin to the typist's clacking keys. It was exhilarating and exhausting for this American lady, as I read the translation of the fast-paced text and intertitles to the audience over a microphone. One of my friends in attendance likened my performance to that of a bid caller at an auction. Oof! Sorry about that, comrades.  (Picture for this blurb: Google Street View of the underground printing press—with a fruit wholesaling business as a front—still in existence today as a museum at 55 Lesnaya St, Moscow.)

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