San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2013: Day Four – “The Last Edition”, “The Weavers” and “Safety Last!”

safety-lastOkay, so this post is a few days late and the Jewish Film Festival is now about to begin (day of this post, to be exact), but hey, better late than never, right?

On Day Four (the final day of the fest) not only did I see three films, but I met some interesting characters as well. Gotta love those festival crowds. I briefly met a man, who upon eavesdropping on a conversation I was having with fellow Filmbalayan Tom, turned to us and said “Did you guys know that Cynthia Myers was the Playboy centerfold of December, 1968?” The thing is neither one of us were even talking about Playboy, though I do hear they have great articles. We were talking about someone whose name, though similar to this playmates’, is not Cynthia. I just love the fact that this guy felt so inclined to share with us this Rain Man type factoid of his.

Prior to this encounter I met Thomas, a German man who is currently teaching a class on animation in film and whom with in the spirit of a great festival I were to have a great festive conversation. After all, aside from the chance to see great cinema, aren’t festivals supposed to be about being festive? Now as for the films, here’s how that went down.

The Last Edition

LastEdition.3two-stars1I’m quite certain not a single person in attendance Sunday for the sold out screening of Emory Johnson‘s B-movie, The Last Edition, which was filmed mostly in The Chronicle Building on San Francisco’s Market Street, were there expecting to see great classic cinema of yore. If so, surely they were to be disappointed. Heck, it was even mentioned during the film’s introduction that this wasn’t going to be a great film. I believe the intro went a little something like this: Now I’m paraphrasing here “I live in Ireland, where it’s foggy all the time, and can’t understand why you all would want to be inside on such a sunny San Francisco day.”  Then he went on to say, (again, paraphrasing) “This is not a particularly great film.” Now, with an intro like that who would want to stay – – – lovers of San Francisco and/or those wanting a novel experience of transcending time in order to look at their city in all of its ole timey glory – that’s who!

Sadly, the novel moments of historical romanticism fell few and far between those much longer moments of drivelous plotted drama involving Chronicle pressmen and bootleggers. And even though the film’s climax ended on a positive, albeit brief note with a classic Stop The Presses! moment and a fiery collapse of the historic Chronicle Building it still wasn’t enough to warrant either a repeat viewing or a strong recommendation, unless of course you’re manically romantic for this Golden City of ours. Personally, I’d rather see the historical moving images in old news reels than have to sit through a lesser non-fiction film, but hey, that’s just me.

The Weavers (Die Weber)

Weaversfive-starsExceptional acting + exceptional direction, cinematography, script, pacing and most of all, exceptional musical accompaniment will always equal exceptional film! If that’s not already a golden rule of cinema it should be. Oh, by the way, as if you couldn’t already tell from my star rating, I strongly believe that Frederic Zelnik‘s rebel rousing spirited depiction of a revolt that took place in the mountain settlement of Peterswald (now in Poland) in 1844 is nothing less than exceptional.

As long as oppression exists (which I believe has been around since, oh, I don’t know, the birth of man) you can bet your sweet ass revolts will exist too. And with the current string of revolutions to have taken place within just the last three years alone, not to mention the whole 99% movement (by the way, is that thing still happening?) a film like The Weavers is just as topical today as it was upon its opening in 1927.

If ever you have an opportunity to see this film, see it! Also, if by chance you ever come across pianist Günter Buchwald it would definitely behoove you to offer up a ridiculous amount of money to have him sell you a recording, or better yet, have him play for you a live rendition of his score. So fitting and oh so powerful!

Also fitting and powerful were the standout intertitles of artist George Grosz, whose work on this film was his one and only film credit. Hand-painted and expressive, the words jump of the screen, mirroring and heightening the actions of which it is pushing forward. When a film’s intertitles are even noteworthy, you know you have just witnessed a masterpiece.

Safety Last!

HLE102635 Safety Last 1923 dangling from clock-2.tiffive-starsAnd last, but certainly not least, it was time to finally see the motion picture featuring that iconic image (see picture above) of the athletic comedian Harold Lloyd as he hangs to a clock for dear life in Safety Last!. But before seeing that we were treated with a short onstage Q&A with some dude (forgot his name) who works for the Criterion Collection whose job it is to reveal the secrets of movie’s magic moments on some of their supplementary features. When he showed filmmaker Martin Scorsese (you probably heard of him) how the clock hanging scene was done Scorsese replied, “You’ve gone too far.” Thankfully, he didn’t go too far on this night, thus enabling us to enjoy the scene, as well as many other moments of the film just as audiences in 1923 would have.

Also on stage with her own insight into the life of Lloyd, as well as illuminating info on this particular film, was the granddaughter of Lloyd and his co-star/wife Mildred Davis. As it turns out both Lloyd and Davis fell in love while making this movie, making the film’s ending only that much more romantically sweet. Also shared with us was the fact that Lloyd did these stunts without a thumb! That’s right! Dude had no thumb before making this (nor did he have one after, by the way) due to an accident when a cherry bomb blew up in his hand. Let me repeat, A CHERRY BOMB BLEW UP IN HIS HAND! Harold Lloyd, you’re crazy!!! He had a special glove made for him to cover up his missing digit. Were I not told this, surely I wouldn’t have been trying to spot it throughout the screening, which was only noticeable once, and briefly at that.

So, with this fascinating insight in mind I sat back and enjoyed one of the greatest comedies ever put to celluLloyd. Though it’s true that the climb to the top of the department store is no doubt, and for good reason, one of the most memorable and exciting climaxes in all of cinema, let’s not forget that there is still a whole lot of movie featuring a slew of antics that transpire beforehand. Every scene in the Department store, as well as scenes where Lloyd desperately tries to get to work on time are just pure gold.

This is yet another film that I can’t wait to pick up from the Criterion Collection, though I assure you I will not be delving into the revealing special features any time soon.


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Categories: Reviews, Silent Film Festival

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