San Francisco Silent Film Fest About Much More Than The Movies

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Author and Hollywood Forever Cemetery tour guide Karie Bible meets historian Kevin Brownlow.

I will preface everything that follows by staying this: the programming at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival was, in a word, extraordinary. A balance of genres, countries of origin, and artistic styles meant that each day remained stimulating and unexpected (we at SFQ will be reviewing the specific titles in the forthcoming issue of the magazine). As much as it sounds like a cliché, there truly was something for everyone.

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Five Decades Later, “The Parade’s Gone By…” Is Still the Most Important Book on Silent Film

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2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Kevin Brownlow‘s The Parade’s Gone By…, the first of many books he would write on his way to becoming the preeminent name in silent films. With Brownlow’s 80th birthday celebration at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival just a few days away, I felt it was worth revisiting a book which, in my opinion, has done more to advance the study of silent film than any other.

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“The Round-Up” (1921) – A Review

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by Silent Film Quarterly contributor Lewis Walker

In 1920 Roscoe Arbuckle made his first feature film for Paramount. Making the move from two-reel comedies to feature length pictures preceded any of his contemporaries—Chaplin and Lloyd did it in 1921 and Keaton in 1923—but for Roscoe this was more than elongating his twenty odd minute films. He also made the switch from comedy to drama, and in particular the western. Cinemuseum has recently released Arbuckle’s The Round-Up on Blu-ray for the first time ever, and hopefully offers the start of a re-evaluation of Roscoe’s career.

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Buster Keaton Weekend In Los Angeles: An Interview with the Damfinos’ VP

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Recently, the International Buster Keaton Society announced a “Buster Keaton Weekend” in Los Angeles, which will be held from June 15 to 17. The schedule of events is a dream come true for fans of silent comedy, with movie screenings, a visit to Keaton’s grave, and walking tours of filming locations all on the agenda.

Silent Film Quarterly plans on spending the entire weekend with the Damfinos, but we’re so excited for the event that in the meantime we spoke to Keaton Society Vice President Alek Lev. Lev’s impressive resume runs the gamut from acting and directing to serving as a sign language interpreter for three US presidents. He is also the co-host of Talking Buster Keaton, one of the best classic film-related podcasts.

From the way Alek describes it, this certainly sounds like an event you will not want to miss if you’re a fan of Buster. Stay tuned for more coverage of the Buster Keaton Weekend both here and in the magazine!

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San Francisco Silent Film Fest 2018: Ranking the Films

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The 2018 San Francisco Silent Film Fest is quickly approaching, and Silent Film Quarterly editor Charles Epting is thrilled to be attending for the first time. Over the next few weeks we will be running several preview blog posts out of sheer eagerness and anticipation.

I have gone through the schedule of the festival and (subjectively) ranked all 20 feature films in order of how excited I am to see them. I will come clean and admit that it was impossible to keep personal biases out of mind in some instances (looking at you, People On Sunday), but I have tried to be as fair and diplomatic as possible. I am certain that some movies will be unexpected treats, and others will be comparative letdowns. I will of course provide post-festival coverage both here and in the magazine, and we can see how my rankings hold up.

So without further ado, my way-too-early ranking of the SFSFF’s 2018 offerings…

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A Trip to the Moon (Flicker Alley, 2018): Review

Note: This review originally appeared in the Winter 2017-18 Issue of Silent Film Quarterly.

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A Trip to the Moon, in its original hand-tinted glory.

I was introduced to A Trip to the Moon in a somewhat unconventional manner. In 1996, the Smashing Pumpkins released a music video for their song “Tonight, Tonight” clearly inspired by the work of Méliès. The first time I saw the video, I was captivated—the period costumes, the vaguely Victorian instruments the band plays, and the phantasmagorical story of a couple transported to the moon on a zeppelin. I was not surprised to learn that lead singer Billy Corgan, a pop-culture enthusiast who constantly incorporates references into his work, was emulating the style of a pioneer filmmaker (an earlier concept for the music video featured a Busby Berkeley-style production). In fact, it was after listening to the first Smashing Pumpkins album—titled Gish—that I became aware of the work of Lillian (who Corgan recalled was a favorite actress of his grandmother). It was clear to me that Billy Corgan had a fondness for silent cinema, and as a fan of his I felt compelled to explore the works of Georges Méliès.

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SFQ Website Relaunch

After several years of inactivity here at SilentFilmQuarterly.com, I’m excited to announce that our website will once again be updated on a regular basis, both with updates on future issues and excerpts from the magazine. Issue 9 is currently at the printer, while Issue 10 is about 90% complete (and Issue 11 is already coming together nicely!). These next couple of issues will feature some of my favorite content yet: interviews with the wonderful author Sherri Snyder (her Barbara La Marr book is available here), Roger Miller of the Alloy Orchestra, and much more.

If you are interested in purchasing the first eight issues of the magazine, they are now available from our Etsy Store. We are also looking into producing hardcover omnibus editions of the first two years; stay tuned for more information!

There are more announcements coming soon–thank you to everyone who has supported the magazine through its first two and a half years, and I can guarantee there are some exciting things on the horizon!

-Charles Epting, editor