Art, San Francisco

Silent Winter @ The Castro 2013

Shhhhh… Silent Winter

I volunteered at the Castro Theater last weekend for a free ticket to “Silent Winter” the one day silent film festival. While I was there I met a number of silent film geeks who were not lacking in enthusiasm. When I asked “Which film are you seeing?” a few of them answered “ALL OF THEM.” Whaaaaa? It turns out that they were volunteering for the entire day, and watching all 5 movies! If I had known, I would have signed up too! 🙂

Since I’d only committed to working one shift, I chose tickets to “My Best Girl” which was Mary Pickford’s last silent film. I didn’t know much about Mary Pickford,but she was apparently THE silent film IT girl. She had control over her productions and image, which was pretty wild for a woman back then. To have money, power and beauty? Sheesh.

The movie was your basic poor girl meets rich boy who is pretending to not be rich movie (wait, isn’t that the storyline for Coming to America?), but it was so well done. I was really taken with the film’s charm. There were a few transcendent and very clever scenes in the movie (my favorite being the dizzying walk through traffic in the rain). My Best Girl isn’t on Netflix, but you can watch it on YouTube! The music is a little different than what I remember from the Castro, but that’s part of the fun of seeing movies live.

Other movies at the festival looked promising, and I’m kicking myself for not checking them out. Thankfully, a few of them are on Netflix.

The photos and film descriptions are from SF’s Silent Film Fest website. If you click on the movie name it will take you to the Netflix streaming page.



F.W. Murnau’s Faust is the most expressive telling of the old European legend, immortalized by Goethe, of the learned man who sells his soul to the devil. Magnificent in its surreal depictions of heaven and hell and a nightmarishly otherworldly world, Faust is masterpiece of German Expressionism, as boldly distinctive as Murnau’s other horror masterpiece, Nosferatu. When Emil Jannings’s wily Mephisto shows up to tempt Faust (Gösta Ekmann), a man of books and learning, with the ability to cure the plague and a 24-hour return to his youthful body, it seems God may have lost his wager with the devil over pious Faust’s immortal soul. Or has he? Murnau’s use of chiaroscuro effect beautifully contrasts light and dark, life and death; and evil is chillingly limned by Jannings’s brilliantly nuanced, subtly comic performance.

Kind of nervous about watching this one. The organist was practicing the music for Faust while I was volunteering, and it gave me the heebie jeebies.

The Thief of Bagdad


Douglas Fairbanks’s personal favorite, The Thief of Bagdad shows him at the top of his charming, acrobatic game. Directed by Raoul Walsh and adapted from One Thousand and One Nights, the story revolves around a thief (Fairbanks) who falls in love with the daughter (Julanne Johnston) of the Caliph of Bagdad. So overcome with love that he refuses to be deceptive about his true identity, Fairbanks’s thief still has the chance to win the fair maiden by bringing back the world’s rarest treasures. Thus begins a rousing fantasy replete with flying carpets, winged horses, and underwater sea monsters. Exquisite camerawork and lavish sets support early special effects to make Thief a wildly entertaining spectacle.

I’m watching Thief of Bagdad right now and it is epic. Watch this movie!