The clouds hung heavily over the district of the Castro as the dark masses meandered towards the line in which they were to queue. As an assembly line drifts towards its next part of creation, the doors opened allowing the poor cinéastes to be led to their ultimate destination – another day of silent film.
I arrived bright and early at noon o’clock and fortified myself mentally for as many films as I could ingest. This ended up being exactly two, as the world called me away from the latter ones. But I did catch the earlier two, and what a treat they were.
Accompanied by Judith Rosenberg
Champagne is an absurd little comedy flirting with genres of Hitchcockian suspense and the more specific sub-genre of the comedy of manners. It centers around a young American heiress eloping to Paris and her father’s subsequent revenge. It is not overly remarkable, but has some moments which are true gems. For instance: at one point, in the hotel dance scene, the bustling crowd of people dancing together dissolves into a flock of sheep – undoubtedly an interjection from the director. There are also very few intertitles, which is a solid choice and one perhaps also influenced by Hitchcock’s experiences with Murnau. One thing notable is that the film keeps hinting at the suspense film that, it is apparent, Hitchcock would have already preferred to have been making. The ending, though, solidifies it in absolute Shakespearian terms in the genre of comedy (In a tragedy, everyone dies; in a comedy, everyone is married). The accompaniment was beautiful and masterful.
Accompanied by Stephen Horne
A very fitting title for the film. Downhill is a story of a young man who took a fall for his friend and was subsequently expelled from school due to a traitorous femme fatale, and his journey as he climbs steadily downwards towards rock bottom. It is a strange film for Hitchcock, and carries many German expressionistic tones to it, with some absolutely memorable scenes. The scene, for instance, in the bar in which he was rented out to older women – it is dark, and he finally feels like he can talk to someone, but then the sunlight is let into the bar. Here we are given a very lucid and realistic view at the absurdity of the people in bars in the light, very well illustrated. The hallucination scenes are also absolutely strange, unsettling, and his delirium is well established.
The accompaniment by Stephen Hill is always dynamic, as he seamlessly switches from piano to accordion to flute to piano and flute at the same time, to glockenspiel, to etc etc etc – if you ever get a chance to see a silent film with his touch, do yourself the favor and do so.