A Silent Night at the Alamo

Presented on Saturday, November 12, 2016
Alamo Drafthouse at the New Mission


When our friends at the Alamo Drafthouse asked us to participate in the centennial celebration for their San Francisco venue, the New Mission, we jumped at the chance. What silent-era films played the New Mission? Since we couldn't find a record, we let our imaginations run free—what kind of film should have played at the New Mission?

To honor Alamo's beautiful theater restoration and the spirit of San Francisco in the early 20th century, we picked a film that would have appealed to sophisticated and slightly bawdy San Francisco audiences. San Franciscans have always embraced great cinema and G.W. Pabst's 1929 masterpiece would have found its natural audience here. Except that the film didn't find its way to the U.S. until the 1950s!

In 1928, Pabst filmed Pandora’s Box, adapted from two plays by Frank Wedekind. With Louise Brooks as the alluring temptress Lulu, Pabst’s depiction and graphic use of sexual themes provoked moral indignation and was frequently considered too explicit by local censors who often cut or even banned the film. The outrage that greeted Pandora’s Box did not deter Pabst, however, who established his own production company and undertook an even more provocative subject. In Diary of a Lost Girl, Pabst further explored bourgeois hypocrisy and sexual freedom, with Louise Brooks once again portraying his heroine. In the film, Pabst used the main character Thymian, who opts for alienation rather than hypocritical conformity, as a vehicle to attack the self-righteous values of the German middle class. Like Pandora’s Box, Diary of a Lost Girl was ruthlessly attacked by the press and censors, and the film wasn't released in the United States.

SFSFF was pleased to rectify this unfortunate turn of events. The New Mission audience of 1929 would have loved this film!

DIARY OF A LOST GIRL (Germany, 1929, 112 minutes) was accompanied live by The Musical Art Quintet, with score by Sascha Jacobsen. The Musical Art Quintet is made up of Sascha Jacobsen (bass/composer/bandleader), Anthony Blea (violin), Phillip Brezina (violin), Charith Premawardhana (viola), and Lewis Patzner (cello).