San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2014 – Day 1, “Song of the Fisherman” and Dreyer’s “The Parson’s Widow”

Song of the Fisherman

SongOftheFishermenBeing the first Chinese silent film I have seen, I couldn’t resist the urge to check this one out. It was certainly an interesting film. Immensely tragic, it is a downward spiral of poverty multiplied by misfortune and capitalized by more poverty. At times it seems as though pieces of the film are missing which lead from one point to another, but after some reflection I was not certain if these pieces were another part of the wide use of the ellipsis that this film makes. If so, it shows a level of faith in the visual understanding of the Chinese audiences, at a time when the average American and German counterparts would very likely use strong-armed visual queues or verbose intertitles explaining what was happening. In this, on the other hand, suddenly the father is gone, then suddenly the mother is blind; later on they are suddenly on a boat with the wealthy child they group up with. And so forth. It makes sense, and there were only a few points in which I felt lost, but these were due to some jarring cuts which very likely were precious frames lost in its 80 plus year life. Also notable are some pretty fantastic moments of juxtaposition, such as when a young bourgeois couple has fun smearing each other with makeup, while below them the poor children are smearing each other with filth so they fit in more with the scavengers.

The musical accompaniment was by Donald Sosin, who played an original score which blended well with the use of the actual Chinese “Song of the Fisherman” superimposed into the score.

The Parson’s Widow

ParsonsWidow.1An early film by Carl Theodor Dreyer, “The Parson’s Widow” is a surprisingly funny film, with many of Dreyer’s more morose, pious elements still contained but with a much lighter portrayal.  It is, essentially, about a new parson having to marry an old parson but wanting to marry his fiancée, and the antics they do in order to try to be able to be together.  The print was from the original in-camera negative.

The musical accompaniment was by a solo Mattie Bye, who played a very nice score and kept playing even when the projectors had some difficulties, certainly saving the momentum.

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Categories: Chinese American, Reviews, Silent Film Festival

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