Limbering up for Pordenone

Films cans from the Bible Lands collection, from

As the time gets nearer to the Pordenone Silent Film Festival (let’s hope they get the hotel details soon to those of us planning to go…), some advance news items are being published. Firstly, there this report in Variety on a newly-found home movie of Charlie Chaplin taken by the future broadcaster Alastair Cooke:

Newly discovered footage of Charlie Chaplin at play, lensed by a young Alistair Cooke, makes its bigscreen debut when Italy’s 26th Pordenone Silent Film Festival kicks off, Oct. 6-13.

Cooke himself thought the 15 minutes he shot in 1933 on Chaplin’s yacht off Catalina Island were lost, but literary executor Colin Webb alerted Chaplin scholar David Robinson of the find, and Robinson, as artistic director of the festival, squeezed it into this year’s program. Cooke was 24 and a student at Yale when he pitched a series of star interviews to Blighty’s the Observer Sunday paper.

Sharing the spotlight at Pordenone this year is a series devoted to little-known Weimar titles as well as a tribute to Rene Clair.

And there’s the extraordinary story of the ninety-three cans of film (see above) apparently all taken in the Middle East in 1897, and being presented at the festival by the redoubtable Lobster Films, who seem always to have a knack of finding the extraordinary among early films. But ninety-three films from 1897 just boggles the mind – so many to have been taken, let alone so many to have survived. But who took them? No one is saying, so far.

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