Given how well the classic song "Where Is My Mind?" worked at the end of Fight Club (1999) and given his "loudQUIETloud" (see Karina's review of the 2006 documentary) method of crafting songs, Black Francis (a.k.a. "Frank Black," a.k.a. Charles Thompson) would seem the perfect candidate to compose a fantastic new score for a classic silent film. And so an eager, sold-out crowd of fans lined up at the 51st San Francisco International Film Festival for a Friday night screening of Paul Wegener and Carl Boese's silent-era, German Expressionist horror film The Golem (1920), hoping for just that. Francis -- deliberately billed with his Pixies-era stage name -- set up underneath the screen at the Castro Theater with his seven-man band (strings, horns, keyboards, etc.) and started the proceedings with a blast of guitar (the "loud" portion of the evening).

Surprisingly, Francis' raspy, yowling vocals also emitted from the darkness; he has composed an album of songs to go with the film, rather than a traditional score. The trouble is that they don't always seem to go. The effect is rather like synching Pink Floyd to The Wizard of Oz. Sometimes some magical cohesion happens between image and music, but most times the two forms are battling for your attention. The most distracting thing of all was a snarky commentator/narrator whose job was to make fun of the film between songs. ("There has to be a 12-step program for this!") At least once he spoke over the film's intertitles, and so viewers were forced to choose between trying to read or listen.

categories Features, Cinematical