San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2018

Moving pictures from the days when they didn't need sound, May 30-June 4.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that even if the world wouldn’t necessarily be a better place if people would just stop talking, silence couldn’t make things worse. So, thank goodness the San Francisco Silent Film Festival is returning to the acoustically sound Castro Theater for its 23rd year of presenting boffo flicks that were mostly made before Al Jolson’s big stupid mouth ruined everything.

The opening night to-do is one of the more subtly influential silent films ever, Paul Leni’s 1924 The Man Who Laughs. Conrad Veidt from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari stars as a sideshow performer whose face is stuck in a rictus grin, and Batman creator Bob Kane has acknowledged that Veidt’s visage influenced the Joker. The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra accompanies the screening, which is doubly good considering the soundtrack to Universal’s 4K restoration includes human voices in the crowd scenes. (Seriously, Universal?) Just as exciting is the Silent Avant-Garde shorts program, one of the highlights being Robert Florey’s 1927 impressionistic nightmare The Life and Death of 9413 – A Hollywood Extra. But the festival’s real gem is 10 minutes of footage Sergei Eisenstein shot for his unfinished ¡Que Viva Mexico! in 1931 — a period covered in one of the best films of 2016, Peter Greenaway’s Eisenstein In Guanajuato. Everything comes around.

Starts Wednesday at the Castro Theatre.

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