Tuesday, July 10, 2012

'Wings' - 1st Gay Kiss Movie -
Plays SF's Silent Film Festival

The 2012 edition of the cherished San Francisco Film Festival unfolds this Thursday and through the weekend at the Castro Theater, and like other fans of this festival and silent cinema, I'm jazzed to see a number of films starting with the opening night feature "Wings".

Directed by William Wellman, the movie received the Most Outstanding Production Academy Award in 1929, a forerunner to the best film award and includes amazing aerial acrobatic scenes and is also notable because of the same-sex kiss between the leading men Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen, pictured.

What else interests my cinematic eye?

An Ernst Lubitsch film made before he left Germany, "The Love of Pharoah", screens on Friday at 4 p.m. and stars Emil Jannings. Labeled a big ham by his "Blue Angel" co-star Marlene Dietrich, his overacting is always fun. I've seen one other silent Lubitsch, "I Don't Want to be a Man", a comedic look at a cross dressing woman that made a modern audience laugh at the bending of genders before World War II. It was visually stylish as I'm sure so is "Pharoah", an epic with a cast of thousands.

Speaking of fun, I hope to see the 10 a.m. showing of Felix the Cat cartoons and hosted by critic Leonard Maltin, who's always a genial host at these silent screenings. Felix the Cat is one of my most-beloved animated animal creatures and his spunkiness always entertains me.

On Saturday at 7 p.m. is G.W. Pabst's enduring classic "Pandora's Box" starring the fabulous Louise Brooks. It's not enough to see this work twice. I need to have a third look at it and study Brooks' face some more, as her character laughs at the cruelty and violence around her and heads down an erotic path toward her ruin.

The closing night film is Buster Keaton's "The Cameraman", in which he performs his own virtuoso stunts in story about a photographer desperate to win the girl and being a career in the newsreels. Keaton's genius will follow a screening of Georges Melies' landmark early French film "A Trip to the Moon".

Those are my top choices at the festival, and practically every program over the four-day run would be a treat to see if time allowed. The festival might have larger attendance figures this year thanks to Martin Scorsese cinematic homage to silents and Melies with the Oscar-winning "Hugo", so get your tickets early and avoid the long lines.

Click here for all the details on purchasing tickets and other info on this unique and always enjoyable film festival. 

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