A Day of Silents by Ren Weber

San Francisco Art and Film for Teens holds Art Saturday every other weekend, taking Bay Area students to the many galleries, museum exhibits, and art festivals that San Francisco has to offer.

This Saturday we attended A Day of Silents at the Castro Theater. It was a full day of cinema with silent-era films set to live music, put on by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. With Art & Film I had the opportunity to watch The Rat, a 1925 silent film about a man named Pierre Boucheron, otherwise known as “The Rat,” king of the Paris underworld. What really sold the film for me was that it was musical accompaniment by Sascha Jacobsen and the Musical Art Quintet.

Quoting the San Francisco Silent Film Festival website, “Jacobsen is the founder of the Musical Art Quintet, which performs his original compositions, and plays bass in the group, along with Matthew Szemela and Michele Walther on violin, Keith Lawrence on viola, and Lewis Patzner on cello.” The quintet’s accompaniment enhanced the silent film’s excitement and suspense, as the live music, timed to fit each scene’s tone perfectly, filled the theater. During brawls and dramatic sequences, the music had a low, ominous tone, whereas  scenes with romance and intrigue were met with soft, soothing violin melodies that support the silent film stars longing looks.

Many people have perceived silent movies to have lost their cultural relevance and value, yet, in many ways the style of silent films is still being emulated, with modern films imitating the grainy and subdued washes and tints created during the silent-film era to signify a certain mood. At A Day of Silents I learned that with the proper musical accompaniment silent films can be just as gripping and charming (or even more so!) than the films we see in cinemas today.

Ren Weber, class of 2020

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