Lulu’s journals

Still catching up on the silent news, and probably the biggest story from last week was the announcement from George Eastman House about the journals of Louise Brooks. Before her death in 1985, the star of Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl bequeathed her private journals to the New York film and photography museum, on the understanding that they remained under lock and key for twenty-five years. That time elapsed in August, and George Eastman House is now examining the journals.

We have good reason to expect a real treat should they be published (GEH has not announced any plans as yet). Brooks’ acerbic, observant 1982 memoir Lulu in Hollywood is a classic, and she wrote a number of well-regarded articles towards the end of her life. Brooks writes keenly and illuminatingly on a Hollywood stripped of its glamour, with intelligent observations on her films, her peers, and the industry in which she was such a contrary figure. What we have learned so far is that Brooks kept a private journal from 1956 onwards, and that she writes about Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and her own film roles. There are twenty-nine volumes, which range in size and content, amounting to some 2,000 pages.

More information on the journals from The Examiner, Variety and the Huffington Post.

Pordenone pictures

Verdi theatre, Pordenone, with trailer for the Giornate del Cinema Muto projected on the outside

Work has started on the Pordenone diary, which will take a little while to produce. In the meanwhile, I have uploaded a collection of photographs from the Giornate to the Bioscope’s Flickr site (scroll down to the bottom to find the Pordenone 2010 images) or else browse through my photostream (as they call it) starting here.

Bob shows Intolerance

Well I’m back from Pordenone, with plenty of stories to tell, and all in good time there will be the Bioscope’s Pordenone daily diary for your delectation. But a week is a long time in ther world of silent movies, and much of interest has been happening. So we’ll be having a few quick-fire news items, starting off with what for me is the pick of the bunch.

Bob Dylan has revealed a novel opening act for his new tour – he is showing twenty minutes of D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916), shown completely silent. At Dylan’s shows at Fort Lauderdale (6 October) and at the University of South Florida, Tampa (7 October), the opening two nights of the tour, the film played as the audience were finding their seats. The Bob Links site provides this startled reaction from ‘Tampa Steve’:

How many concerts have you been to where there was no pre-recorded music played before the show? None? Same here. How many have you been to where 20 minutes of a silent film (Intolerance, from 1916) was played (silently) before the show? None! Welcome to the current Bob Dylan tour. The usual pre-party atmosphere of a big arena filled with concertgoers was deftly subverted by this simple dashing of expectations. Then, at the appointed hour, the house lights dimmed and the band strode onto the stage. Dylan waited 5 seconds, then sauntered out, too. Classy! The USF Sun Dome was less than half full at the time.

Dylan then came on stage and played ‘Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat’, though on the first night it was ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’, which perhaps offers a more obvious link to the film’s title (“Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re trying to be so good…”). Which section from Intolerance is being shown is not certain, the fans on the Dylan forums being unclear on this point so far, but presumably it’s the Babylon sequence.

Whether Dylan will continue to show this new reverence for silent film remains to be seen – he has long taken to dropping references to films in his song lyrics, but never as far back as the silents, so far as I know. However, he does have a personal connection of sorts to Intolerance. In 1997 he was the recipient of the annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, which was established by Lillian Gish (who plays The Eternal Mother in the film, of course) in her will to be awarded to “a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” There is a biography of Dylan and other details on the Gish site.

Pordenone bound

The Bioscope is heading off to Pordenone to attend the Giornate del Cinema Muto. There will be our traditional detailed ‘diary’ of each day’s screenings after I get back, a week or so from now, but if you want to follow the progress of the festival as it happens, keep an eye on the Bioscope on Twitter from tomorrow. I will be tweeting throughout the festival (if I’ve managed to get the technology right), and I will do my best to conjure up such atmosphere as you can with 140 characters.

For the record, here’s the programe (web version), the daily schedule (1.6MB, PDF), and (jampacked with detailed riches) the full catalogue (8.5MB, PDF). The Bioscope’s reports on the Giornates of 2007-09 can be found on the Series page.

Muta Passione (Silent Passion)

Also for your delectation is this short documentary, Muta Passione (Silent Passion), made by Pasqualino Suppa in 2007. It’s a series of warm interviews with the founders, director, collaborators and guests of the Giornate, in the year where the festival moved from its temporary home in Sacile back to Pordenone. Most of it is in Italian, which is fine for our Italian readers (you know who you are), and features such festival luminaries as Paolo Cherchi Usai, Livio Jacob, Carlo Montanaro and Piera Patat. But you do also get ebullient festival director David Robinson and musicians Neil Brand, Günter A. Buchwald and Phil Carli in English, plus Donald Sosin and Joanne Seaton singing on stage and impromptu for the camera. It’s good to be going back.

See you in a week or so’s time.