San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2013: Day Two – “The First Born”

MV5BMjAxMTYyMjc0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODc0MDM5Ng@@._V1._SX640_SY358_three-stars15Day two, and of the four films scheduled, sadly my non-film related agenda only permitted me to see one. I Followed up yesterday’s exciting and nearly pitch perfect melodrama with another film from the same genre, this time it was British director Miles Mander‘s The First Born. And while I still left the theatre having had a good time – after all, how can one not when the incredible Stephen Horne is scoring a picture (this time he added the simultaneous performance of drums and flute to his already flawless piano-based orchestration) – I have to say I was a little disappointed in both the unevenness of the film’s structure, as well as what I thought to be noticeable lulls in the story.

The story is that of Sir Hugo Boycott (Miles Mander) and his wife, Madeleine (Madeleine Carroll), an upperclass couple dealing with the type of baby mama drama usually delegated to daytime talk shows. Neither of the two are particularly likable, though given a choice, my sympathies would lean more towards Madeleine than Hugo, which is fortunate being that Madeleine is the lead protagonist.

I mentioned in the opening paragraph that I was disappointed in the film’s structure. Let me elaborate. In order to be disappointed one has to first have some sort of expectations, and as I took my seat I can truthfully say I had zero expectations as to how good or bad this moving picture (not enough people refer to movies as moving pictures anymore) would be. It wasn’t until the film’s introduction that my expectations began to arise. Damn you, film festival introductions!

As it turns out, and as we were told prior to the start of the moving picture, Alfred Hitchcock‘s wife, Alma Reville, aside from having a solid reputation of being an expert in continuity (she even wrote a book on the subject), also had a big hand in the film’s adapted screenplay. Okay, after hearing this how could one not have anything but high expectations, at least as far as continuity is concerned, right? And even though the movie features a knockout display of a well-edited and effectively suspenseful twist involving an elevator, an umbrella, and the demise of one of the main characters, it still doesn’t make up for the sloppy framing device established at the start of the film and then abandoned for no apparent reason. I suspect this obvious oversight by our continuity expert, Mrs. Hitchcock occurred because she was paying more attention to her studies off set with ole’ Hitchy than she was on set with Mander & Co.

In the end though, this nitpick of mine is nothing more than a magnification of a minor wine stain on an otherwise restored and crisp piece of fabric. And there you have it, a very tired attire-based metaphor from a very tired film blogger who will now retire to his slumber where dreams of celluloid await and so to does the promise of further silent film adventures await upon his awakening come the morrow, Saturday. Could you tell I’m exhausted?

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Categories: Reviews, Silent Film Festival

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