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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: silent film

Tony Curtis documentary to open the L.A. Jewish Film Festival

May 2, 2012 |  8:30 am


"Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom," a new documentary on the late actor born Bernie Schwartz in the Bronx, opens the 7th annual Jewish Film Festival on Thursday evening at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills.

Several participants in the documentary, including actresses Theresa Russell, Mamie Van Doren and Sally Kellerman, and Curtis' widow, Jill Vandenberg Curtis, will participate in a discussion at the screening. 

The festival, which attracts some 4,000 people, will screen 26 features, documentaries and shorts through May 10 at various locations.

"There is something for everyone and in every area," said Hilary Helstein, executive director of the festival.

She admitted that people often confuse the L.A. Jewish Film Festival and the Israel Film Festival, which took place in L.A. in March.

"The Israel Film Festival showcases works from Israel. Our mission is to showcase works that deal with Jewish subjects, Jewish issues, Jewish culture, Jewish matters," she said. "They can come from anywhere."

But she said her goal is to program films that will be of interest not only to a Jewish audience but also to a broad group of filmgoers.

One of the anticipated films in the festival -- at least for cineastes -- is Michael Curtiz's 1924 silent Austrian epic on the exodus of Jews from Egypt, "The Moon of Israel." The director came to Hollywood shortly after making the film and went on to make such classics as "Casablanca," for which he won the Oscar. Penelope Ann Miller of "The Artist" will introduce the film Sunday evening at the Saban in Beverly Hills.

Other films of note are "Shoah: The Unseen Interview," which features interviews and outtakes not featured in Claude Lanzmann's nine-hour epic documentary "Shoah"; the documentaries "The Price of Kings: Shimon Peres" and "Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story"; and the drama "Wunderkinder," about gifted young musicians during World War II.

There will also be comedies, including 2009's "OSS-117: Lost in Rio," (from "The Artist's" Oscar-winning team of director Michel Hazanavicius and actor Jean Dujardin), and "Dorfman" with Sara Rue and Elliott Gould, which closes the festival.

For more information on screenings and venues go to lajfilmfest.org.


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--  Susan King

Photo: Tony Curtis, left, appears with Sidney Poitier in a scene from "The Defiant Ones." Curtis is the subject of a new documentary opening the L.A. Jewish Film Festival.

Widescreen silent 1927 epic 'Napoleon' to be shown in Oakland

March 19, 2012 |  4:48 pm

Albert Dieudonné  in the title role of Abel Gance's "Napoleon"

Like the great man himself, returning in triumph from exile in Elba, the legendary 1927 silent motion picture “Napoleon” is coming back. But it's not returning to New York, the site of its previous success in 1981 — instead, it will make landfall right here in the great state of California.

For four performances only — March 24, 25 and 31 and April 1 — the most complete version of Abel Gance's masterpiece, now clocking in at a staggering 5 1/2 hours, will screen at one of the most venerable American movie palaces, the Paramount in Oakland. (The 1981 showing at Radio City Music Hall ran a considerably shorter four hours.)

The event is being sponsored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which will celebrate its 17th year this July, but “Napoleon” will not be showing in San Francisco because no theater there is big enough to encompass one of the prime innovations of the Gance film.

That would be a widescreen format known as Polyvision, which involves expanding the screen to three times its normal width. The cost and difficulty involved in this has meant that no other American cities are going to be showing this version of “Napoleon,” and similar obstacles mean no DVD or Blu-ray release is being considered either.

Opened in 1931 and restored to its original Art Deco splendor in 1972, the Paramount not only has 3,000 seats but also the space to accommodate the 46-member Oakland East Bay Symphony that will play the wall-to-wall music written and conducted by Carl Davis.

The man behind all this is film historian Kevin Brownlow, who has been working on finding and assembling all the pieces of “Napoleon” for decades and received an honorary Academy Award in 2011 for his lifetime achievements in preservation and film scholarship.

Performances will start at 1:30 p.m. and include three intermissions, one being a generous dinner break. Tickets are $45 to $120. If you are hungry for the best silent cinema has to offer, this is the place.


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Cannes Film Festival: Michel Hazanavicius takes a gamble on silent film

-- Kenneth Turan

Photo: Albert Dieudonné  in the title role of Abel Gance's "Napoleon." The San Francisco Silent Film Festival will present the 1927 legendary silent epic  in its complete restoration by Kevin Brownlow, in four special screenings at Oakland's Paramount Theatre on March 24, 25 and 31 and April 1. Credit: Photoplay Productions


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