I only got to view one film during the TCM Film Festival so i had to choose wisely. See movies I'd already seen but never on the big screen, see something educational, selfishly pick a romantic musical and make my boyfriend suffer? Tough choice, and at 20 bucks a ticket after waiting in a standby line hoping pass holders aren't going to max out the theater, kind of a nerve wrecking one.
I picked "A Trip to The Moon and Other Trips through Time, Color, and Space" - It was at the Egyptian Theater which I'd never been in before, I'd never seen Trip to The Moon, and it was early enough on a Sunday to where hopefully there would be enough room for us single ticket buyers to get in. We made it, and were pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a whole lot more than what we expected.
Serge Bromberg, a french film historian who restores found films with his company Lobster Films, narrated between scenes and accompanied his restored clips on piano. You can feel the love he has for the whole process, the scavenger hunt to find the films, bringing them back to life - he has spent years searching for rare or lost silent film clips, some his company has even hand tinted frame by frame to match missing scenes (one of the films had 3200 frames!), reproduced from negatives, some combined from various sources and qualities of neglected reels, all to piece back together lost works of art.
The theater gets dark, a spot light shines, Serge takes the stage and tells us about the time intensive and painstaking restoration process he and his company go through to restore near disintegrated films they have found all over the world in forgotten theaters, grandmothers attics, and discarded movie reel tins. It begins with 6 minutes of a camera mounted atop a street car going down a busy street in early 1900's San Fransisco, the horse drawn carriages mixed with Model-Ts, pedestrians in almost Victorian garb dodging bareback riders galloping by, delivery trucks weave around the tracks, no stop signs, no right of way, organized chaos! Kids jump in front of the camera for their 15 seconds of fame, people stare into the lense in curiosity, it's funny how their reaction is identical to how we act today. Next is another clip from San Fransisco, it's the same part of town, but has recently been demolished by the 1906 quake and fires. People wade thru the wreckage, the once busy street now full of plaster and piles of fallen concrete. An amazing glimpse over 100 years into the past.
waiting for it to start!
The shorts they have found demonstrate human curiosity and ingenuity, the creative process and trial and error of discovering what all could be captured by the new medium of film, what effects they could create with lighting, film angles, and costumes. "Chinese" acrobats, insect aerobics, the first trials with color, a 1 minute striptease (or what was considered a tease in the early 1900's), a Buster Keaton short once thought destroyed found in pieces and put back together, and a colorized version of A Trip to The Moon (Which gives Metropolis a run for it's money in the "trippy films" category).
Ever since I've started trying to see more silent films in theaters there is just something that makes them seem larger than life viewing them with live music and a theater full of people. I'm really glad I chose this one (and got in!) And now its settled - Next year, even if I have to sell everything I own, I am getting passes to the festival.