Hey All! So the San Fransisco Silent Film Festival was this last weekend. I saw three films this time and this is more or less what I thought of them.
1) “The Man Who Laughs”: This film was the direct inspiration for the Joker villain in the Batman comics. My least favorite of the festival, it was also the headliner. The film had a strong narrative and plot but almost no point o moral. It is based off of Victor Hugo novel and features a love quadrangle between two carnies (one blind girl and one man disfigured to that it always looks like he is laughing) and two nobles (a duchess and a prince). I more or less waited around for all of these four to die and then NONE OF THEM HAD THE COURTESY TO! Three side characters did, but really only the one in the iron maiden was satisfying. The film had some really excellent shot angles and fades. More or less I appreciated the technical aspects but the gimmick the misunderstood laughing man was over pretty quickly.
2) “Her Wild Oat”: It is official: I am in love with Colleen Moore. This film was far and wide my favorite. As was pointed out, the plot was your standard Romantic Comedy Formula. Poor, normal working girl (Ms. Moore) falls for rich wall street man who was dressed as a day laborer. Hilarity ensues as they court each other in high and low society. However, as was also noted, because of the films age, this tired old format seemed somehow fresher and more genuine. Of course there were comedic differences you have a hard time getting through nowadays. For instance, there was a ton of slapstick as compared to modern films. Moreover, the inter-titles had a group of hilarious puns, eg
“She is a cabaret dancer at the Owl Club. One of those ‘Iowa’ gals. As in, ‘Iowa months rent, Daddy…’”
In retrospect though, the films was eerily similar to “Wall-E”. The male/female gender roles were switched, but the basic plot and humor styles were the same. Perhaps, true art *does* transcend time. But something that really does speak through the ages is the mega-hottness of Colleen Moore. If only she hadn’t died when I was three and a half….
3) “Jujiro”: This is a rather famous Japanese silent film by the same director of “A Page of Madness”. Plot revolves around a very strong female character and her no good brother who keeps getting himself into trouble after he fell in love with a prostitute. It combined traditional Japanese themes (honor, rain, death) with some pretty intense surrealism. My favorite shot in the film is very very similar to one of my favorite shots in Dziga Vertov’s “Man with a Movie Camera”. Here there was a woman’s (the prostitute) laughing head imposed over a spinning pinwheel. A year later Vertov imposed a spinning industrial sewing machine over the head of a laughing peasant woman. Either way it is creepy and enticing. On the surface, combing strong Japanese tropes with surrealism reminds modern viewers of “Tetsuo: the Iron Man.” This might be a slightly unfair comparison, but they are alike in awesomeness. “Jujiro” had a strong narrative structure more similar to Kurosawa than the wacky “Akira”-inspired film.
In summary, nothing was quite as good as the “Godless Girl” from last year. But “Her Wild Oat” was certainly as good or better than “Girl with a Hat Box” from the year before. Moreover, I am “inspired” to go out and watch more Colleen Moore films.
As a corollary, the more I go the more I am convinced that the format of the silent film festival is something that would be perfect for Austin. Both culturally and socially, someone should start this. Hmmm…..