Quiet on the Set

John Ford was an early practitioner of silent cinema’s straight-ahead narratives, moving up as a journeyman in cowboy movies to a respected spot as a staff director at William Fox’s Fox Studios by 1927. But the studio had greater ambitions and hired, with a great deal of publicity, the acclaimed German director F.W. Murnau, who made Nosferatu and Faust. Given carte blanche, Murnau and his largely German staff produced Sunrise, importing moody shadows and mobile cameras direct from Berlin onto the Fox backlot. Young Ford was deeply impressed by Murnau’s explorations, and his next several films absorbed that style, fusing it with his unpretentious training to produce the offhand and unforced poetry associated with the 40 years of sound masterpieces that would follow. Tonight, see Ford’s recently rediscovered Upstreamfrom 1927 as well as Sunrise at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The Sosin Ensemble is on hand to score Upstream (7 p.m.), while Giovanni Spinelli plays the electric guitar to accompany Sunrise (9:15 p.m.). The festival includes films from Japan, Italy, Soviet Russia, and Germany; early cartoons from Walt Disney; a rare American film from Douglas Fairbanks (Mr. Fix-It, Saturday at 6:30 p.m.); and a 1920 version of Huckleberry Finn(Friday at 2 p.m.) by William Desmond Taylor, whose 1922 murder was never solved. The Goose Woman (Saturday at 4 p.m.) is a 1925 film loosely based on another true-life murder case, featuring a moving performance by Louise Dresser as a drunk who had once been an opera star and seeks a return to the public eye.
Thursdays-Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: July 14. Continues through July 17, 2011

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