About a month ago, my boss handed me a list of the films playing at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival because he assumed I’d be interested. He obviously assumed right, because that very night I bought tickets to four of the festival screenings.
I had never been to a film festival before, I had never been to the Castro Theatre, and I had never seen a silent film backed by a live orchestra. The idea of seeing four silent films in a theater that was built during the silent era, and seeing them with live music backing was just about the most magical thing I could think of for a silent film nerd like me. I planned out two flapper-tastic outfits for each day we went (Friday and Saturday), but I ended up just wearing one on Friday and going in my jeans and hoodie on Saturday, since we had to do moving-related things afterward.
The photo above was taken on Friday evening. I am wearing my 1920s-era velvet two-piece set, of course. And I’m wearing it in front of Harvey Milk’s camera shop, which is now an action center and store for the Human Rights Campaign.
Walking around the Castro was great. I even loved waiting outside of the theater, looking up at the deco sign and noticing the little deco details in the theater’s architecture. The theater was built in 1922 for silent film, and it really is a grand theater. I love its frescos and neoclassical-meets-deco style.
The first film we saw, The Wonderful Lie of Nina Petrovna, was our favorite. Brigitte Helm from Metropolis was in it, and she blew us away. We also loved the collection of Felix the Cat cartoons. The Spanish Dancer was a fun one. It was like a silent film-era blockbuster. The Canadian was pretty bleak, and it had some good points, but it was probably our least favorite. What we did love about it was the music. The accompanist played piano, flute, and accordion by himself, sometimes playing two instruments at once to get the right sound. He was incredible!
It was really magical to see silent films the way they were meant to be seen: in a theater with an orchestra. I will definitely want to attend next year’s SF Silent Film Festival.
Amber von Nagel