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Filmed on Thursday December 16, 02010

Rick Prelinger

Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, 5

Rick is founder of Prelinger Archives in San Francisco, whose moving image holdings may be found online at www.archive.org. Rick co-founded Prelinger Library (www.prelingerlibrary.org), a publicly-available collection of historical periodicals, books, print ephemera, maps and government documents.

Rick Prelinger, a guerrilla archivist who collects the uncollected and makes it accessible, presents the fifth of his annual Lost Landscapes of San Francisco screenings. You'll see an eclectic montage of rediscovered and rarely-seen film clips showing life, landscapes, labor and leisure in a vanished San Francisco as captured by amateurs, newsreel cameramen and industrial filmmakers.

New material this year will include test flights over the unbuilt dunes of the Sunset District, Prohibition-era libertines partying in Golden Gate Park and drinking in their cars, lost travelogues and scenes from San Francisco countercultures.

Suzanne Ramsey, aka Kitten on the Keys, will be back to open for Rick again this year; she will regale us with vintage tunes and a vivacious style that has entertained crowds from here in San Francisco to the Cannes Film Festival.

Lives of San Francisco

"You are the soundtrack," Prelinger told the capacity audience at the Herbst Theater, and they responded to his mostly silent archival films by calling out locations, questions, comments, and jokes.

They saw footage of a 1941 Market Street parade of allies---floats representing Malta, Russia, France, Britain---and Kezar Stadium hosting a ferocious mock battle/demonstration of Army cannon, troops, and tanks in 1942 and huge naval ships parked at the waterfront piers in 1945.

Sailors cruised the Barbary Coast in 1914 and amateurs piloted gliders from the vast beach dunes of the Sunset district in 1918 (looking just like the hang-gliders of 90 years later). There was a sky tram at the Cliff House and four sets of streetcar tracks busy on Market Street. Impromptu hula dancers drew a crowd on Market in one decade, and flower stands adorned it in another. Artists filled the Montgomery Building.

All of Treasure Island could be seen burning, and no one present could remember when it was or what caused it or what happened afterward.

"Fictional narratives push out actual narratives," Prelinger said. We remember stories, and what isn't in them, we forget. It takes large archives like his, diligently collected and made public, to free us from selective memory. Constantly reunderstanding the past goes best when grounded in the true strangeness of what used to go on.

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