Rest in peace, Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007), almost the last filmmaker to have experienced the silent era and to have it influence his own work. (Ronald Neame, who worked on Hitchcock’s silent/sound Blackmail is still with us. Eric Rohmer. Michaelangelo Antonioni. Anyone else?) As well as so much of his work being imbued with the look and feel of silent cinema, he of course gave the great silent director Victor Sjöström the key role in Wild Strawberries, and his autobiography looked further back in having the title Magic Lantern. A magic lantern also features in Fanny and Alexander. Magic lantern, silent cinema, sound cinema, theatre, opera, television – all a part of his career, all ways of seeing.
The Bioscope has its reporters everywhere (well, sort of), and Frank Kessler has very kindly provided a report on the films from 1907 strand which featured at this year’s Il Cinema Ritrovato festival at Bologna. Here’s Frank’s report:
For the fifth time now, the Bologna Cinema Ritrovato festival has dedicated part of its program to films that are a hundred years old. Starting in 2003 to celebrate so to speak the centenary of Edwin S. Porter‘s The Great Train Robbery, this section of the program has offered many interesting insights into early film history, and also led to numerous fascinating discoveries. Due to the increasing lengths of the films to be shown, the 1907 programs occupied a larger proportion of the festival screenings than the ones projected in the previous years.
Mariann Lewinsky, who is responsible for the “100 Years Ago”-section, always tries to go off the beaten tracks, both in her selection and her programming strategies. Thus every time she chooses different angles to present also her personal view on a year of early filmmaking. Obviously, there are always practical factors to be considered, such as the availability of films, the quality of the prints etc. So, as Mariann Lewinsky explained, the fact that the 1907 retrospective was made up of mainly European films was due to such pragmatic reasons. (The 1905 program, by the way, was a very complicated one to put together as 1905 used to be – and possibly still is – the default date attributed by many archives to non-identified early films.)
All in all there were nine 1907 screenings, divided into two groups: the first one consisted of five programs dedicated to Bologna 1907 (films shown in Bologna from June 30th to July 7th, 1907, that is during the period of the festival itself, a hundred years ago), Pathé 1907, Italy 1907, Great Britain 1907 (productions by Hepworth, Urban and Mitchell & Kenyon) as well as films from the Abbé Joye Collection; the second one was organised thematically around topics such as ‘drama’, ‘actuality’, ‘at the seaside’, ‘au music-hall’, ‘colours – costume’ etc, as well as a series of films with Max Linder.
These rich and diverse programs allowed many discoveries. A favourite of mine was the 1907 Pathé film Le petit Jules Verne by Gaston Velle which, to my knowledge, is a unique case of combining explicitly the adventurous and scientific-technical universe of the well-known French author with the magical world of the féerie genre, embedding the latter in a Little Nemo-like dream sequence.
For more on Il Cinema Ritrovato do have a look at David Bordwell’s and Kristin Thompson’s blog.
Further details of the 1907 films show can be found on the Bologna festival site.