Live & Onstage
USA, 1916, 84 minutes
Tue, May 04 / 8:30 / Castro / LEAG04C
A programming highlight and audience favorite of each year’s Festival is the presentation of an epochal silent film accompanied by the live performance of an original score by a leading contemporary music artist. For SFIFF53, the remarkably gifted and prolific tunesmith Stephin Merritt, of the Magnetic Fields, will do the honors in service of director Stuart Paton’s 1916 epic, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Merritt will be joined by an ensemble including Castro organist David Hegarty and frequent Merritt collaborator and author Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemany Snicket) on the accordian. In this gorgeous film adaptation of the 1869 Jules Verne classic, marine biologist Professor Arronax scans the seas from the naval ship Abraham Lincoln, seeking out a mysterious and dangerous sea creature but finding more when the Lincoln is attacked by nothing less than a machine! Arronax and compatriot Ned Land are brought aboard the submarine Nautilus, a new type of sea vessel built in secret. At its helm is the enigmatic Captain Nemo, who roams beneath the waves evading the tyranny of civilization. The film’s grand beauty and wondrous sense of adventure come embellished by a backstory for Nemo as ludicrously campy as it is revealing of the era’s sensibilities. Film and storyline together make a perfect muse for notoriously wry singer/songwriter Merritt, who unveils the world premiere of his original score in live accompaniment to a new 35mm print struck from a nitrate negative housed at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The resulting aural and visual dialogue, spanning a century, promises the audience assembled at the palatial Castro Theatre an experience genuinely rare and—dare we say it?—pretty deep.