"In a stroke of fortune for Bay Area movie lovers, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) presents a second 2009 Winter Event this Saturday, December 12 at the Castro Theater," writes Michael Hawley. "The first took place back in February (I wrote it up here) and now SFSFF supplements its summertime fest with yet another extraordinary one-day line-up of classic silent cinema. For the uninitiated, SFSFF is the Western Hemisphere's premiere showcase for silent film exhibition, featuring the best available 35mm prints, live musical accompaniments, program notes, special guests and savvy film intros. The four films comprising this Saturday's line-up - all of which I'll be seeing for the first time- sound like a diverse and rewarding lot."
"First up at 11:30 am is the oddball (by today's standards - in 1927 it was simply thrilling) anthropological docudrama-cum-fancy Chang, whose creators would make King Kong six years later," writes Dennis Harvey at SF360. "Shot on location in Siam (now Indonesia), it's the story of a rice-farming, stilt-house-dwelling family who deal with all the threats of their surrounding jungle.... Next at 2 pm is Abel Gance's 1919 J'accuse, a startlingly original pacifist statement that has probably been more widely experienced in recent years via the director's 1938 talkie remake.... 1924's Sherlock Jr. has Buster Keaton as a projectionist whose dozing daydreams at work turn him into a cinematic sleuth whose Pirandello-goes-slapstick adventures blur with his waking-life pursuit of an ingenue." 7 pm.
Rounding out the event is Tod Browning's West of Zanzibar (1928, 9:15 pm) featuring Lon Chaney. David Jeffers in the Siffblog: "Crippled in a fight with his rival, Phroso (Chaney) discovers his dead wife and the child one year later and takes her to a malarial, booze-soaked sub-Saharan hell infested with society's rejects and bloodthirsty cannibals, where the story picks up 'eighteen years later.' A combination of familiar Chaney themes, West of Zanzibar is noteworthy for the performance of former Ziegfeld star Mary Nolan as Mazie, the ruined girl, and Warner Baxter as Doc, the drunken slob, pulled back from the brink to save her. Lionel Barrymore is sadistically indifferent as the other man, and Chaney delivers a typically earth-shaking emotional performance."
"In 1995, French philosopher Jacques Derrida published Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, a prescient book-length lecture meditating on the concept of the archive," writes Shaun Brady in the Philadelphia City Paper. "Derrida's piece, and its ensuing ramifications, have sparked a fascinating new series devised by Film @ International House curator Robert Cargni, almost a stream of consciousness musing on the subject expressed through a varied and surprising collection of films." Today through Saturday.
"Closing the fall edition of MoMA's once-a-month ContemporAsian series - an ongoing survey of little-seen festival fare - is a marginalized film about marginalized people that is, at best, marginally compelling." Aaron Hillis in the Voice on Sincerely Yours. For Stephen Holden, writing in the New York Times, it's "a collective picture of a people living on hope although there is little chance of their dreams coming true any time soon." Today through Wednesday. More from Steve Erickson in Gay City News.
MoMA's tribute Dino Risi: Comedy With a Twist runs today through Thursday, features eight films and, in the Voice, Nick Pinkerton focuses on one of them: "Il sorpasso (1962) sounds like any old odd-couple comedy; its collected talent and social seismography make it anything but."
"When [Andy Warhol] began making talkies in 1964, he needed lines for his superstars to read (or not)," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "Enter Ronald Tavel, the 28-year-old Brooklyn-born playwright who coined the term 'Theatre of the Ridiculous' and, somewhat ambivalently, adapted his 1965 coffee-house agitprop The Life of Juanita Castro, wrote a dozen original scripts - including Vinyl (1965), a superbly desultory travesty of A Clockwork Orange - and provided two scenes for Chelsea Girls. Tavel died last spring; Anthology is honoring his memory with a retrospective of 10 Factory movies - plus White Savage (1943), a Technicolor vehicle for the writer's favorite star, Maria Montez." Beyond the Absurd: Ronald Tavel & Andy Warhol opens today and runs through Thursday. Earlier: Manohla Dargis in the NYT. More from Amy Taubin for Artforum and Mary Hanlon in the Brooklyn Rail.
"The 39 comedies - screwball, black, musical, and otherwise - in Film Forum's Madcap Manhattan series span the Jimmy Walker through the Ed Koch administrations." Melissa Anderson in, yes, the Voice: "This retrospective is balm, a much-needed alternative to the bloated Oscar bait and other white elephants of December." Tomorrow through January 5. More from Zach Wigon for the L Magazine and Sarahjane Blum in the Brooklyn Rail.
For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @theauteursdaily (RSS).