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Friday, July 13, 2012

Playboy Hugh Hefner Sticks His Hands in Pandora's Box

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2012 at 1:24 PM

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When Angela Holm attended the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) years ago, she became totally hooked on the genre.

"I love the mystery of them," she said. "They're so sophisticated and beautiful with no digital effects or dialogue. And the live music makes it an event."

Holm was so entranced that she went to Rochester, New York to attend the L. Jeffrey Selznick School for Film Preservation. Now, Pandora's Box -- a 1929 film she restored with her friend David Ferguson, a music producer and activist who heads S.F.'s Institute for Unpopular Culture -- is the centerpiece film at this year's SFSFF.

(Read our picks for the S.F. Silent Film Fest)

Holm remembers seeing the movie, which stars Louise Brooks setting the standard for femme fatales, at San Francisco's El Rio. Even with all the scratches, she was captivated.

"I don't think there's another story like this one," she said. "She's so innocent, yet erotic."

At a silent film festival in Italy, Holm met Martin Koerber, the man who restored Metropolis. He had already done years of research to find out where the best prints of Pandora's Box were. "Even with all that, the process of restoration was complex and challenging," said Ferguson. "Not to mention expensive. That meant bringing in the big guns."

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Anita Monga, Artistic Director of the SFSFF, connected them with one of those big guns -- Hugh Hefner. "Hefner loves silent film," Ferguson said. "And he even executive produced a documentary about Louise Brooks."

"Working with Hefner was a delight. I've been in business about 45 years. I've never dealt with anyone as straightforward and decisive."

Along with the expense, the restoration of Pandora's Box was difficult technically, said Ferguson and Holm. To find the best print, people went through the prints frame by frame.

"It was madness," Ferguson said. "If anyone had warned me what it would be like, I never would have done it."

But both Ferguson and Holm are delighted by the results.

"The detail is incredible," Ferguson said. "It makes you look at film with a new eye."

Pandora's Box screens July 14 at 7 p.m. at Castro Theatre, 429 Castro (at Market). Admission is $20.
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Emily Wilson

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