"The San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) is the biggest and most prestigious event of its kind in the Americas," writes Michael Hawley at the top of his extensive overview, "and it's gonna be even bigger for its 15th anniversary edition which begins Thursday. This year the fest expands from three days to four and will feature a massive 18 programs from seven countries. The line-up includes works by well known directors (Fritz Lang, Frank Capra, GW Pabst) and stars (Laurel and Hardy, Louise Brooks, Norma Talmadge), as well as rarities like The Flying Ace, a 1926 film that features an all African-American cast. And as a special treat, David Shepard and Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films have curated a selection of shorts by George Méliès (the French fantasist best known for 1902's A Trip to the Moon) which will play throughout the festival."
Brian Darr's preview is also a must and opens with links to the SFSFF blog and the fine posters David O'Daniel has designed for the event. David Jeffers has been rousiing up anticipation, film by film, at the Siffblog, while Michael Guillén's concentrated on rounding up a thorough guide to the newly restored version of Metropolis (1927).
In the Bay Guardian, Dennis Harvey takes the screening of Henry King's The Woman Disputed (1928; image above) as an occasion to revisit a career cut short by the advent of sound. Norma Talmadge was "one of the biggest stars of the silent era yet largely forgotten now. Critics howled at her supposed vocal uncouthness in 1930's Du Barry, Woman of Passion. Talmadge took equally famous, already retired sister Constance's advice, quitting while she was still ahead — at least financially, thanks to mama's trust fund setup. Yet clips from the era reveal nothing at all wrong with her voice. Was she a victim of simple out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new media frenzy? Perhaps an affair with actor Gilbert Roland ended the career support of her husband, powerful executive Joseph M Schenck. Was she being punished?" And Dennis Harvey does some more previewing for SF360.
Update, 7/17: Sean Axmaker on The Iron Horse (1924): "John Ford's first American epic is not a birth of a nation, but its physical and symbolic unification in the wake of the Civil War. It is, in many ways, the birth of Ford's essential themes: the meeting of cultures (the Irish, the Italian, and in a rather token way, the Chinese laborers of the West Coast), the sprouting of civilization (at least as defined by the American settlers) in the wilderness, and the building of a community in a shared purpose." Update, 7/19: Michael Guillén has extensive notes on the introductory remarks from Joseph McBride, author of Searching for John Ford, and further linkage.
Update, 7/21: "This year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival provided an opportunity to see how an addition of public space, The Castro Commons, could enhance or detract from the typical experience at the festival," writes Adam Hartzell at the top of his longish report at GreenCine Daily.
Updates, 7/24: Brian Darr looks back on "four tremendous days of cinephilia. So many rare opportunities to see films from the early part of the previous century (and even one from 1898) presented with live musical accompaniment with a knowledgeable and appreciative audience, and to talk to musicians, scholars, offspring of key players in silent filmmaking, and enthusiastic fans, made for a truly overstuffed weekend. I saw every 'full-length' film shown, and most of the short films and public presentations as well."
More from Michael Guillén: Notes on Kevin Brownlow's introduction to Frank Capra's The Strong Man (1926), on an onstage discussion of Metropolis, a festival founder's speech and Mike Mashon's remarks preceding the screening of The Flying Ace.
"The Miners' Hymns is an homage in film and music to the coal mining history of North East England, for which Forma initiated a first time collaboration between renowned American filmmaker Bill Morrison and acclaimed Icelandic musician and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson." Tonight and tomorrow at Durham Cathedral.
Update: Nick Bradshaw talks with Morrison and Jóhannsson for Sight & Sound.