Springtime in Syracuse

Tue, Mar 27, 2007

There is only one (check that)…there are only two reasons to visit Syracuse in March. The first is Dinosaur BBQ (first-hand research indicates it is possible to have BBQ five times over two-and-a-half days). The second is the annual classic film convention Cinefest, now in its 27th year. Like its sister event Cinevent, held in Columbus each year over Memorial Day weekend, Cinefest is a weekend gathering of film collectors, archivists, and those simply passionate about classic films. The films screened are not available on video and rarity occasionally trumps quality when titles are selected. That said, these were some of the best films I saw this past weekend:

Jennie Gerhardt (1932) An adaptation of the Theodore Dreiser novel and a Paramount release that would have been right at home in the cycle of “women's films” produced later by Warner Bros. The first part of the film is set in Columbus (!!) but the only clues are a shot of a rack of newspapers holding the Columbus Evening Dispatch and a reference to Cincinnati later in the film. Features a nice performance by Sylvia Sydney.

Just Around the Corner (1933) A short produced by Warner Bros. to promote the wonderful line of new GE home appliances and featuring a number of WB's top stars. See Bette Davis loading the dishwasher!

How a Cowboy Makes His Lariat (1917) The title says it all. The film was made to capture real cowboys in action before they completely faded into the sunset. Cowboys comb hair from a horse's mane, whittle sticks into a makeshift loom, and spin the hair into the niftiest lariat you've ever seen. Did you know that cowboys encircle their campsite with real horsehair lariats to keep away rattlers?

A Movie Trip Through Filmland (1921) This short details every step in the production of film stock at the Eastman Kodak company. Cotton is processed into celluloid, silver is combined with nitric acid to produce the light sensitive emulsion, and the two are combined into what would prove to be relatively unstable motion picture stock. Don't worry…the noxious fumes given off during the process were released up into the clouds where they couldn't harm anyone. This was arguably the bit hit of the weekend.

I Was a Spy (1933) Based on the true story of Marthe Cnockhaert, Spy is an espionage romance set during World War I. The first-rate cast (Conrad Veidt, Madeleine Carroll, Herbert Marshall) makes the film. The scene where German-heavy Veidt forces himself on spy Carroll is surprisingly creepy.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. If your curiosity is piqued, check out our screening of the pre-code classic Blood Money on May 24 & 25 (introduced by Guy Maddin) and visit cinevent.com. -- Dave Filipi

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