For more than a few years, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco has made a tradition of screening a silent film, usually on or around New Year’s Eve. This year, the tradition continues on January 26 when the landmark Episcopal Church offers back-to-back screenings of two European classics from the silent era.
On Saturday at 7 p.m., Grace Cathedral will show Battleship Potemkin (1925), director Sergei Eisenstein's dramatized account of a Russian naval mutiny and street demonstration which resulted in a police massacre. This revolutionary propagandistic film, which boldly employed the then avant-garde technique of montage, will be followed at 9 p.m. by an equally striking though very different film, Nosferatu (1922).
A German Expressionist horror film, Nosferatu was directed by F. W. Murnau and stars Max Schreck as the infamous vampire. The film is an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's famous 1897 novel Dracula. Names and other details in the film were changed because the studio failed to obtain the rights to the novel.
As landmarks of European silent cinema, there could not be two more different films than Battleship Potemkin and Nosferatu. Despite their aesthetic differences, each have exerted a profound and long lasting influence on cinema as well as popular culture. Both are compelling, and even at times thrilling films. These thrills come about through the inherent drama found in each story, as well as through its bold and experimental telling.
The cavernous, gothic surroundings of Grace Cathedral and live musical accompaniment on the mighty 7,466 pipe organ should lend themselves to a memorable viewing experience.
Organist Dorothy Papadakos will accompany each film on the Cathedral’s renowned Aeolian-Skinner organ. Papadakos came to international attention as an organist at the world’s largest gothic cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, where she served from 1990-2003. She was the first woman ever appointed to the post.
Papadakos is also a member of the six-time Grammy Award-winning Paul Winter Consort. Her musical, BACCHUS, broke box office records in its premiere in Wilmington, North Carolina. Papadakos is also celebrated for her imaginative improvisations and compositions for theatre, film, television, and ballet - as well as for her silent film accompaniments.
More info: Grace Cathedral is located at 1100 California (at Taylor) in San Francisco. January 26th screenings of Battleship Potemkin and Nosferatu are set for 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., respectivelty. Additional information, including ticket availability, can be found at www.gracecathedral.org/calendar/detail.php?cid=18660
Thomas Gladysz is an arts and entertainment writer and early film buff. He is also the founding director of the Louise Brooks Society, and online archive and international fan club devoted to the silent film star. Gladysz has organized exhibits, contributed to books, appeared on television, and introduced the actress’s films around the world.