As part of their ever-expanding lineup of broad-interest events, the San Francisco Film Society has been bringing these film + music events to the Castro Theater for a few years now. A silent film accompanied by a live score just makes sense as a way to honor historically significant cinema while making it more accessible to a modern audience. So, it's important not to over think it even if the Film Society has been bringing in indie powerhouses like Stephin Merritt to score 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and more recently John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats to provide a soundtrack to Sir Arne's Treasure. This year though, the festival took a more modern approach by placing British Chamberpop band Tindersticks in front of a selection of scenes from French director Claire Denis' oeuvre.

In trying to get a sense of the crowd at last night's screening/concert at the Castro theater, we noticed more than a few people leaning in towards the stage from their seats on the balcony - not really the typical posture at a film screening, but it seemed indicative of a crossover crowd that had an interest in both the Tindersticks' performance and the work of Clare Denis. But the air under the Castro's ceiling still smelled like movie theater butter rather than pot smoke, so we'd hardly call it a concert by San Francisco standards. ("Performance" would be allowable though, we think.)

The band, which we weren't familiar with before last night, has scored four of Madame Denis' feature films to date and last night's program provided an introduction to the French director's work by splicing them together in to a loose narrative that was more atmospheric than it was lyrical. In fact, Denis' films - or the portions we were treated to at least - are mostly silent to begin with and each scene evoked its own very specific sense of desperation. The problem with forcing the Tindersticks' soundtrack to the forefront by putting the band onstage is that it often didn't seem to match the tension on the screen.

The scheme worked fine where the action needed embellishment from the band's string section - like most of the scenes lifted from 2001's existential horror film Trouble Every Day, where Vincent Gallo's presence seems to indicate a rape could occur at any moment. But more contemplative moments like the view through the front window of a commuter train from 35 Shots of Rum were undone by a score that felt cartoony and loose. That's a little bit troublesome because these aren't new scores (the oldest is from 1996), but at the end of the program there was a real sense that we needed to dive deeper in to the shots that firmly held our attention behind the music. So, in that regard at least, last night's program was a successful experiment in evangelizing foreign film.