Goings On

Silent Revivals

Mary Pickford in Rosita (1923)

Silent-film aficionados in the Bay Area, Berlin, and the UK are being treated to a wide range of classics and obscurities this weekend. The preeminent event of the moment, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, is already well underway, having opened on Wednesday with a new restoration of Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs (1928), an Expressionist melodrama starring Conrad Veidt. The festival, which runs on through Sunday at the glorious Castro Theatre, began over twenty years ago as a single-day affair, a labor of love whose aim was to screen the finest prints available, with every presentation featuring live musical accompaniment. It has since grown, as the nonprofit organization now puts it with understandable pride, “into the largest and most prestigious silent film festival outside of Pordenone, Italy.”

This afternoon sees a presentation of another new restoration, Ernst Lubitsch’s Rosita (1923), accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Mary Pickford stars as a street singer in Seville who catches the eye of the Spanish king and, as Dave Kehr, a curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, points out in the video below, audiences and critics alike embraced her comic turn. But there’s something about Rosita that didn’t sit well with Pickford, and it wasn’t long before she was referring to it as failure. Kehr has a theory as to why:

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