Seven Years Bad Luck (1921)
Yet another reason to love the SFSFF: getting to see a differently, possibly funnier version of the famous "mirror scene" the Marx Brothers made popular in Duck Soup, this time with Max Linder and the uncredited guy who played his cook in Seven Years Bad Luck.
Max plays Max, a groom-to-be, who on the eve of his bachelor party, gets inventively drunk and passes out in his rooms. Before Max wakes, his butler accidentally breaks his full-length dressing mirror while chasing the maid round and round. In attempt to fool the groggy master, the butler dresses the cook like Max so that he can pretend to be the other end of the looking glass while the butler runs off to get replacement glass.
It works for the most part, but just as Max starts to suspect, the glass gets replaced while he's in the other room plotting how to surprise his "reflection." In so doing, Max breaks the new glass and becomes convinced he'll have seven years bad luck.
The bad luck then begins. First it's a falling out with his fiancee through the inadvertent soaking of her little Bichon Frise, then a Hawaiian dance with the housemaid. Max decides to lay low in the country and is immediately robbed of his valise and wallet. With no money, he hops a train and spends most of the rest of the movie evading conductors, station agents, and policemen. Meanwhile, his scheming friend, seeing an opportunity in the breakup, starts to woo Betty, Max's girl.
Eventually Max winds up in court on the same day his former fiancee is getting married to his no-good, snake-in-the-grass friend. The two reconcile and get married instead.
You have to love Max Linder. There are both kids and animals in this picture and he seemed to get on with them fine.
Dragnet Girl (1933)
Dragnet Girl was, hands down, the swellest surprise of the festival for me. I already love Yasujiro Ozu like a sensitively observant drunk brother, but this film opened up a whole new chamber of my heart.
Tokiko (the incredible Kinuyo Tanaka) is a secretary whose boss, the son of the company, has a massive crush on. Tokiko, however, is the girlfriend Joji (Joji Oka), a gangster in an unspecified racket that has to do somehow with boxing. There is an amusing collection of thugs around Joji, who used to be a boxer himself, and one day, a featherweight student called Hiroshi (Koji Mitsui) shows up wanting to be part of the gang.
Once in the gang, Hiroshi stops going to school and starts hanging out in the pool hall with other toughs. He also begins to take money from his sister Kazuko (Sumiko Mizukubo), who works in the most amazing RCA Victor phonograph shop I've ever seen. Drool-worthy.
Hiroshi, who looks uncannily like Fred Armisen, also has a pretty obvious crush on Joji, which is clearly one of the reasons Kazuko is worried about him. She goes to Joji one day to ask him to help her brother "straighten out." Joji can't help but fall in love with her and decides to quit the racket (whatever it is). Tokiko, however, is not thrilled about this and goes to check out her competition. Instead of scaring her off, as she intended, Tokiko develops an affection for Kazuko and tries to win Joji back.
Meanwhile, Hiroshi has stolen a good deal of money from the till at the record store, Kazuko has found out and is despondent. Joji and Tokiko have a spectacular reconciliation, decide to go straight, but not before robbing Tokiko's boss (who still loves her) and give the money to Kazuko to make good.
There are scenes in this film that are etched in my memory forever, particularly the opening sequence. With live accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald, whose Peter-Gunn-like rhythms elevated the action, you forget this picture is silent.
Man, I love this festival.
The Girl in Tails (1926)
I had to catch my flight back to DC halfway through Girl in Tails, but I did get to see the beginning of the main conflict in this Swedish comedy (TWO, count 'em two, in one festival) directed by Karin Swanstrom, who also starred as the terrifying town matriarch.
The story is about Katja (Magda Holm) a young student who helps her study-averse friend, Count Ludwig (Einar Axelsson) cram for and pass his final exams. Katja lives with her widowed inventor father and preferred brother. The meager income her father commands goes to the son, for his studies and his clothes, because what would a girl want with a new dress when she has one or two perfectly good ones already?
The fact that the student count has passed his exams baffles everyone in the village, particularly the "learned women" inexplicably living on his country estate. He decides to throw a ball in celebration (even though it is JUNE) and invites all his classmates and their families. But what can Katja wear? Her brother has acquired tails for the occasion, but their father refuses to spend money on his daughter, saying she should be happy with what she has and just stay home.
This, she will not do. Rather than miss out on the ball, Katja dons her brothers tails and waltzes into the affair, scandalizing everyone.
And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is when I had to leave for SFO.
I'm assuming all works out in the end and that Katja marries the count and gets to wear whatever the hell she wants.