San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2013: Day Three – “Gribiche”

photo-Gribiche-1925-6three-stars15Day three of silent film watching and my hopes of seeing more than one film today turned out to be just that – hopes. Truth is I was exhausted from only haven gotten a few hours of sleep the night before and having already worked a morning shift at my part-time coffee bar job prior to this early afternoon screening. Now, as comfortable as the Castor Theatre’s seats may be for a double, or even triple feature, lets face it, when it comes to nap time they simply will not do. Besides, I’ve been told, though I don’t really believe it, that I’m a snorer. If that is true, the Silent Film Festival is not the place where I want to find out. Besides, nobody wants to be that guy, right? So in order to be well rested for a slew of films tomorrow  (I’m hoping for three) I heeded to my body’s call and made a B line for my bed, but before doing so I watched director Jacques Feyder‘s Gribiche. Now I will tell you about it.

Gribiche is without a doubt one of the strangest coming-of-age stories I have ever seen, and while it does have its share of flaws; jokes used more than once, questionable character motives, and stretched out scenes, it is not without its share of noteworthy moments either; flashbacks, flashforwards, set designs, including a sweet merry-go-round, and my favorite part of the film, an hour-by-hour account of what a day in the life of a boy with a “rationale, inflexible schedule” (quoting the title card) looks like.

There are a lot of family dynamics taking place here, so many in fact that I’m sure upon a re-watch – whenever that rare occasion presents itself – that I’ll be better suited to have a deeper appreciation for them. To name just a few of these dynamics, there’s the pressures of being the only child, the guilt of a mom not being able to provide a good enough upbringing, and the lonely sadness of the wealthy childless woman who is full of embellishments. I’m not even going to begin to delve into the two father figures in Gribiche’s life, that in itself could be a 5,000 word essay.

From a first time viewing, my impressions of these complex characters were that they seemed to have presented themselves in a rather shallow way. Maybe that’s because the film was never aiming to be loaded with such fleshed out character complexities and simply had them in the story as a way of getting the central character, Gribiche, to show how he has matured. Or perhaps this reluctance to delve deeper into each character was the fault of the scriptwriter. Or, even more so, perhaps blame should be placed on the director, but being that in this case the scriptwriter is the director, I think I know whose ultimately to blame – me, the viewer. I guess it’s my fault for reading into characters more than I should have. Silly me. Oh well.

I should mention that this was the first movie I saw in the festival that wasn’t accompanied with that one-man orchestra called Stephen Horne. This screening had a full – okay, more like a mini – orchestra, The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, to be exact. And, even though I slightly prefer the musical stylings of Mr. Horne thus far in the festival, key word here being slightly, I have zero complaints from the talented bunch that I shall now refer to as MAMPO.

One more day left of Silent Film watching tomorrow, and I’ll be damned if I don’t see at least three of them!

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Categories: Reviews, Silent Film Festival

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