Many people in town remember Dennis Nyback from the days when he ran the glorious Pike Street Cinema (and isn't it funny how nostalgia can cause you to remember a venue's faults fondly, like the booming bass of the neighboring Nikko Garden Tavern's jukebox?). His was the place to go in order to see visiting underground filmmakers, industrial films, Scopitones, or other oddities. It was the venue of an impatient curator with a different program every night, which made it impossible to write about outside of pure listings.
Dennis has since moved to Portland, but has recently returned to Seattle for a couple of weeks. He's landed at Swansea Espresso (517 E Pike St), where he's up to his old tricks, bringing with him the Dennis Nyback Silent Film Festival, which runs until July 2. Once again he's showing a different program every night, complete with live musical accompaniment.
It's a cinephile's delight. Perhaps you'll want to see a package of shorts featuring "Tough Babes of the Silver Screen" (Thurs June 26), F. W. Murnau's brilliantly melancholy The Last Laugh (Fri June 27), Carl Theodor Dreyer's formalistically groundbreaking The Passion of Joan of Arc (Sat June 28), the little-seen Griffith film Sally of the Sawdust (Sun June 29), some hilarious Buster Keaton shorts (Mon June 30), forgotten comedians of the silent era (Tues July 1), or Frank Capra's silent film The Strong Man (Wed July 2).
For those who want to mix some contemporary animation with their silent classics, 911 Media Arts is hosting an evening of short films by James Duesing and Lewis Klahr (Fri June 27). Duesing's work, particularly his early stuff, lives in the surreal landscape of the mind, with everyday conversations on dating and monologues on loneliness performed by strange bird and fish creatures. Klahr takes cutout characters from comic books and magazines, and animates them on "sets" from '40s and '50s magazine layouts. Like a Kenneth Anger of the animated world, he emphasizes the repressed (and sometimes not so repressed) homoeroticism of his characters, against a background of pop music and opera.
That same night, Friday the 27th, the Seattle Art Museum kicks off its six-film series South Asian Reels, which will run every other week. The first film is Kathapurushan (Man of the Story), which is about a writer, and is said to be directed by one of India's most acclaimed directors. If you like your directors closer to home, check out Warren Etheridge's Distinguishing Features series at SAM on Tuesday, July 1. The latest episode features Chris Matheson's Evil Alien Conquerors, which is about some ruthless but stupid aliens who try to take over the world. Special bonus: Stars Chris Parnell (SNL) and Diedrich Bader (The Drew Cary Show) will be in attendance.