Pordenone countdown


Les Petits Pifferari (1909), part of the Corrick Collection, to be screened at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

Time has slipped by, as time inevitably will, and those for whom the world of silent film tends to revolve around a small town in north-eastern Italy will be thinking that it’s about time they looked up what’s on offer at this year’s Giornate del Cinema Muto a.k.a. the Pordenone Silent Film Festival.

For those not in the know, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto is the world’s premiere silent film festival, hosted by La Cineteca del Friuli, and visited every year by hundreds of film buffs, historians, academics and archivists, who are treated to eight days of silent films of astonishingly diverse content and style, from countries all around the world, artfully presented in assorted themes, and accompanied by the leading names in silent film music. It takes place in Pordenone, an unassuming town an hour’s train ride from Venice, with main screenings held in the commodious Verdi theatre. It is never less than a marvellous way to spend the time, whether you are one of those who sit through every title (notebook in hand) from 9.00am to past midnight, or one of those who frequent the pavement cafes, convincing your neighbour of the importance of your next project or conspiratorially discussing archive politics.

This year’s festival takes place 3-10 October, and a large part of the programme has been advertised already, of which this is the summary:

Special Events
The Merry Widow (Erich von Stroheim, US 1925)

Sherlock and Beyond
The Amazing Partnership; Bobby the Boy Scout or the Boy Detective; Inscrutable Drew, Investigator: The Moon Diamond; Lord John’s Journal: A Bargain with Chance; The Peril of the Fleet; The Sign of Four

A presentation curated by the Cinémathèque française, who are in process of restoring their large holding of Albatros Films
Carmen (Jacques Feyder, 1926), Ce cochon de Morin (Victor Tourjansky, 1924), Le chant de l’amour triomphant (Victor Tourjansky, 1923), Le chasseur de chez Maxim’s (Nikolai Rimsky, 1927), La dame masquée (Victor Tourjansky, 1924), L’heureuse mort (Serge Nadejdine, 1924), Justice d’abord (Jacob Protazanov, 1921), La nuit du 11 septembre (Bernard Deschamps, 1919), Le quinzième prélude de Chopin (Victor Tourjansky, 1922); Shorts: Harmonies de Paris (Lucie Derain, 1928), Nocturne (Marcel Silver, 1926)

The Canon Revisited
Dom na Trubnoy; Du skal aere din hustru; Der Golem; Gunnar Hedes saga; J’accuse; Rotaie; The Ten Commandments

The Screen Decades Project
Broncho Billy’s Christmas Dinner; The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend; The Perils of Pauline: The Aerial Wire; The Sinking of the Lusitania; The “Teddy” Bears

The Corrick Collection, 3
And a Little Child Shall Lead Them; A Baby’s Shoe; La Belle au bois dormant; Comedy Cartoons; The Day-Postle Match; Les Débuts d’un chauffeur; Down on the Farm; Her First Cake; How Jones Lost His Roll; J’ai perdu mon lorgnon; La Métallurgie au Creusot; Niagara in Winter 1909; Les Petits pifferari; La Poule aux oeufs d’or; Reception on, and Inspection of, H.M.S. “Dreadnought”; The Short Sighted Cyclist; Le Tour du monde d’un policier; Who Stole Casey’s Wood?

– Francesca Bertini (Mariute)
– Asta Nielsen (Asta Nielsen Mannequin; Die Geliebte Roswolskys; Steuermann Holk)

British Silents
Battling Bruisers: Some Boxing Buffoonery

Rediscoveries and Restorations
– Bois d’Arcy 40 – Le bonheur conjugal (Robert Saidreau, FR 1920), Graziella (Marcel Vandal, FR 1925), L’île enchantée (Henri Roussell, FR 1926), La vie merveilleuse de Bernadette (Georges Pallu, FR 1929), Études sur Paris (André Sauvage, FR 1928)
– Giuseppe Pacchioni
Die Gezeichneten (Carl Theodor Dreyer, DE 1922)
Kurotegumi Sukeroku (Shochiku Shimokamo Studio, JP 1929)
The Letter from Hollywood (US, c. 1926. Compilation film including the only known footage from the 1925 D.W. Griffith feature That Royle Girl, starring Carol Dempster and W.C. Fields)
Monkey’s Moon (Kenneth Macpherson, US 1929)
On Strike (Bud Fisher Films Corporation, US 1920)
The Three Kings/Ein Mädel und 3 Clowns (Hans Steinhoff, GB/DE 1928)
Haghefilm/Selznick School Fellowship 2009:
Kodachrome Two-Color Test Shots No. III (Eastman Kodak Company, US 1922)

Helsinki, ikuisesti (Peter von Bagh, FI 2008)
Heppy’s Daughter (Film Friends Productions, GB 2009)


Donald Sosin, Joanna Seaton and Jean Darling performing 2008’s Serenading the Silents

If you’ve been to Pordenone before, you’ll be doing your best to go again. If you’ve not been before, here’s the drill. The registration fee is 30 euros – thereafter, every screening is free, except for the opening and closing gala events. You should fill out the registration request form (available on the site) in the first place. If you attended the festival last year, or have recently contacted them by email, then they will have you on the mailing list, and this year’s registration details should have been sent to you by now.

Pordenone has several hotels of the plain but entirely suitable type, and the festival site provides a list of links and a map. The two airports that best serve Pordenone are Venice Marco Polo and Treviso (it’s a long journey from the third airport, Trieste, though having done it once I can recommend the dazzling views over the Adriatic from the coach that takes you from airport to Trieste train station). There is a regular bus service from Marco Polo to Pordenone, the Marco Polo Shuttle, or else catch the bus from the airport to Mestre train station and then it’s direct to Pordenone. An airport bus takes you from Treviso airport to Treviso station, on the same railway line to Pordenone.

Films are shown from 9.00am to midnight or so, with breaks around 13.00-14.30 and 18.30-20.30. All are presented by live music (chiefly piano, but with some specialist presentations, plus orchestral accompaniment for the gala screenings). The films – which are chiefly on 35mm – come from archives all around the world, and computer-generated subtitle translations are now replacing the traditional translation through headphones. There is also a Film Fair (books, posters, stills, DVDs etc), the Collegium for film studies students, masterclasses, and assorted special events, presentations and notable guests. And then there are the publications, the catalogue that’s a scholar’s treasure trove, and so many leaflets advertising events, publications and projects around the world that you’ll need a spare suitcase to carry them all.

All the relevant information can be found on the festival site. Pordenone can sometimes seem a little too much directed towards the specialised end of silent films, with completist retrospectives of people or studios you might struggle to find in the reference books, but there is no better place for discovering the depth and breadth of the genre. And the food’s great.

6 responses

  1. The POOL film Monkey’s Moon is an exciting discovery, but should Pordenone have listed it as made in the U.S.? I thought like Borderline it was made in Switzerland.

  2. I would assume that it was British, as with BORDERLINE and other POOL films. Certanly the BFI database has BORDERLINE, MONKEYS’ MOON and the others down as British productions. The Swiss location is, I think, incidental. Anyway, an exciting discovery indeed.

  3. British more than American, certainly, but isn’t there a doubt over nationality with some of these rootless avant-garde films? POOL and Close-Up were based in Territet, Switzerland, and if you go by the attachment the Cinémathèque Suisse has for Borderline (they brought out a dvd of it three years before the BFI) you can see there are some who’d claim it as a Swiss film. That said, I can’t remember if it figures in Hervé Dumont’s encyclopedic volume listing all Swiss films: I’ll check when I’m next in work.

    I’ve researched the locations in Borderline (Lutry, St Maurice, Aigle, Territet), but suspect that if Monkey Moon is all close-ups of Macpherson’s monkey’s face (as the surviving photographs suggest), there won’t be as much for me to do with this new film.
    Nonetheless, as you say, exciting.

  4. Certainly the rules do seem to shift for different kinds of film. For commercial features it’s the nationality of the production company or companies. For amateur film it’s the nationality of the filmmaker. For the avant garde it could be the nationality of the filmmaker (or filmmakers), the location of filming, or some other connection. So BORDERLINE was filmed in Switzerland, made by a gaggle of Americans and British with a Scottish director, a group associated with a British journal Close-up which was produced in Switzerland. It might be better if it had no country associated with it at all.

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  6. The post has been updated to include the list of Albatros titles, Battling Bruisers and the restorations from the French archives at Bois d’Arcy.

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