The Film Noir Foundation will be co-presenting Yasujiro Ozu’s 1930 proto-noir Sono yo no tsuma (That Night’s Wife), Friday, June 3, at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival running June 2-5 at the historic Castro Theatre. The Japanese director’s love for American crime pictures is on full display in this taut thriller. Over the course of one night, the fate of a Japanese family is radically altered when the father commits a robbery to pay for the medical treatment which may or may not save his daughter’s life. A good-hearted detective finds himself physically and emotionally entrapped by the family’s drama. This late-era Japanese silent will be accompanied live by composer and concert pianist Maud Nelissen. Co-presented by CAAM (Center for Asian American Media), BAMPFA, the Film Noir Foundation, and the Asian Art Museum.
Another remarkable crime drama, William A. Wellman’s Beggars of Life (1928), kicks off the festival on Thursday night. The chronically overrated Louise Brooks gives a good performance as a runaway girl who unsuccessfully disguises herself as a boy when she goes on the lam. She finds companionship on the road with a handsome vagabond (Richard Arlen) with whom she develops a tender relationship. However, the real standout of the film is Wallace Beery, who is both charismatic and terrifying as the leader of a homeless encampment where the pair find danger instead of refuge. Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra will provide the live musical accompaniment and film preservationist Rob Byrne will introduce the film. The screening is sponsored by McRoskey Mattress Company, underwritten by Friends of the Silent Film Festival, and co-presented by California Film Institute and the San Francisco Film Society.
The SFSFF’s crime spree continues on Saturday night with a screening of Paul Leni’s final film The Last Warning (1929). Laura La Plante, who previously starred in Leni’s Cat and the Canary (1927), once again finds herself in the middle of a paranoia inducing mystery set in a creepy location, this time an old Broadway theater. Universal Pictures restored the film, the first of 15 in their projected four year silent restoration project, a collaborative effort involving the Library of Congress, The Film Foundation, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, George Eastman House, UCLA Film & Television Archives, Association of Moving Image Archivists, and Hollywood Heritage. SFSFF favorite Donald Sosin and world trotting silent film accompanist Frank Bockius will accompany the film. Co-presented by 42nd Street Moon and MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS.
The first of the SFSFF’s two closing night films takes a lighter look at crime. In René Clair’s last feature-length silent, Les deux timides (Two Timid Souls), a young attorney attempts to defend a client accused of beating his wife and then later becomes romantic rivals with him when they fall for the same woman. The Mont Alto Picture Orchestra will provide the accompaniment. This film was restored by the SFSFF in partnership with the Cinémathèque Française; the Cinémathèque’s curator Céline Ruivo will introduce the film. The screening is co-presented by the Alliance Française de San Francisco and Center for the Art of Translation, with special support from the French American Cultural Society, Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States and underwritten by Kenneth and Marjorie Sauer.
Visit the SFSFF’s website for the full schedule and to buy tickets.