The Giornate del Cinema Muto, or Pordenone Silent Film Festival, has announced details of its programme for 1-8 October 2011. It has the look of another classic year, with some eye-catching special presentations and discoveries to tempt us acros to Italy once more. Here are details from the publicity materials available so far:
People of Italy’s Golden Age
To celebrate three decades of rediscovery and restorations of the national cinema, and Italy’s 150th unification anniversary, we present “People of Italy’s Golden Age”, with programmes devoted both to superstars and to less-known personalities, including Francesca Bertini, Pina Menichelli, Nino Oxilia, Febo Mari and the galaxy of clowns of the first decade – Cretinetti, Polidor, Kri-Kri, Robinet and friends.
It’s good to see Italian silent cinema celebrated at an Italian silent film festival – you can sometimes forget when in front of the screen at Pordenone that you are in Italy, though the festival has a tradition of celebrating Italian comedians of the era (a great favourite of festival director David Robinson).
Shostakovich and the Factory of the Eccentric Actor
Focuses on the association of the composer and the film-makers Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, which began with the unparalleled marriage of music and image in New Babylon and Odna. This is a rare opportunity to see all the surviving work of the Factory of the Eccentric Actor (FEKS), unique in Soviet cinema for its vitality, originality and audacity. The Giornate will also show Shostakovich’s two “cartoon operas”, the banned and never-completed Story of the Priest and his Servant Balda and The Story of the Silly Little Mouse.
New Babylon will provide the festival’s gala opening show. Although New Babylon has often been performed before, this performance can be claimed as definitive. After the debacles of the first performances, Shostakovich’s score was lost for
45 years, until 1975, when Gennadi Rozhdestvensky found a set of orchestral parts in the Lenin Library, Moscow, and adapted a suite from the score. Subsequently other, fuller copies of the original orchestral parts became available; but it was not until this century, thanks to the work of the Paris-based Shostakovich Centre, that the most complete versions of the score, as well as Shostakovich’s own much-corrected manuscript (the original of which is in the Glinka Museum, Moscow) became freely available. Mark Fitz-Gerald, who began his studies of the score twenty years ago, has been able to extensively revise his work in preparing the new Naxos recording, and with assistance from another fine Shostakovich scholar, Pierre-Alain Biget, has brought the score and its synchronisation to a new level, at which Shostakovich’s genius can finally be fully appreciated. A second film in the FEKS programme, The Overcoat, after Gogol, will be accompanied by a new score for quartet by Maud Nelissen.
More films from the vast and largely unexplored treasury of Soviet silent films can be seen in a presentation of Georgian cinema, including the remaining two films from the oeuvre of Lev Push – a gifted director, prevented from direction after 1930, whose name was virtually unknown until last year’s Giornate.
Last year at the Giornate we were treated to Lev Push’s visually vivid Giuli (1927) and Gypsy Blood (1928). The music for New Babylon will be performed by FVG Mitteleuropa Orchestra, conducted by Mark Fitz-Gerald.
Kertész before Curtiz
Remembered as one of the great names of classic Hollywood (his films included Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mildred Pierce) it is often forgotten that Michael Curtiz enjoyed a prolific 14-year career in Europe before arriving in America. Few of the 48 films he made in his native Hungary, as Mihály Kertész, survive; the Giornate will show the newly rediscovered A Tolonc (The Expulsion, 1914), which already exemplifies his exceptional gift for narrative, pace and character. In Austria, now Michael Kertesz, he made 17 films, which have been generally overlooked by film historians, perhaps because Kertesz’ intention was primarily commercial entertainment – art was an incidental asset. The Giornate’s selection from the Austrian era will include Der Junge Medardus, from the novel by Artur Schnitzler, who collaborated on the script, and Das Spielzeug von Paris, Einspänner nr 13 and Der Goldene Schmetterling – all starring the gifted Lili Damita (who was briefly married to Kertesz) and exemplifying Kertesz’ special qualities of eroticism and sharp social satire.
Definitely one for the cineaste completists, particularly for the rediscovery of A Tolonc, not least because pitifully few Hungarian silents have survived overall.
The Canon Revisited
The popular “Canon Revisted” series this year includes an orchestral show, with Günter Buchwald conducting Chaplin’s own accompaniment to The Circus. Other “Canon” titles include Marcel l’Herbier’s Eldorado, Joe May’s Asphalt and Friedrich Ermler’s Fragment of an Empire.
On the Giornate site they add Merry-Go-Round (1923), the film from which Erich von Stroheim was fired and replaced by Rupert Julian, and Kenneth Macpherson’s experimental work Borderline (1930), starring Paul Robeson.
Early and Transitional Cinema
A dramatic rediscovery featured in the Early and Transitional Cinema series is Robert William Paul’s 1896 The Soldier’s Courtship, which has been regarded as a key work in film history, as the first British fiction film – and indeed one of the world’s first fiction films. Believed lost for almost all its 115 years, a fine print recently surfaced in the Roman archive of Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia and will be premiered at the 2011 Giornate. Also in this series are two more programmes from the Corrick Collection, and a centenary programme which explores the exceptional narrative qualities of the films of the American Thanhouser Company.
The rediscovery of The Soldier’s Courtship is stunning news. It is a title that has been referred to as important more or less for as long as there have been histories of British film, but all we have ever had to refer to were a catalogue description and a single still. The film was made in April 1896 on the roof of the Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square in London, where Robert Paul‘s Animatograph projector was a featured attraction. The film featured music hall star Fred Storey, Julie Seale and Paul’s wife Ellen, and is generally considered to be the first British film fiction film. Such as its popularity that Paul re-shot the film in 1897, but it appears that the Rome discovery is the 1896 original. Well, well.
A small but selective programme to celebrate the American National Film Preservation Foundation’s DVD issues of early Westerns will include screenings of W.S. Van Dyke’s Lady of the Dugout (1918), Victor Fleming’s Mantrap (1926) and the little-known Salomy Jane (1914), directed by Lucius Henderson and William Nigh.
Other highlights of this year’s Giornate: a special series to commemorate the centenary of the great polar expeditions of 1911-12; Japanese silent animation film; the recently re-assembled full series of Walt Disney’s 1922 Laugh-o-Grams; and a special selection of early films depicting the experience of going to the cinema drawn from the collections of EYE, Amsterdam.
The closing show will be a full orchestral performance of Victor Sjostrom’s The Wind (1928), with Carl Davis conducting his own score.
As with New Babylon, the orchestra for The Wind will be the FVG Mitteleuropa Orchestra.
Information on registration, accommodation and travel is here. Those who have not attended before need to fill out a registration request form. Old hands should now be receiving registration details by email – let the festival know if you haven’t head from them by the end of this month.
This all has the look of a classic Pordenone, and there’s more to be announced in due course. Will you want to be anywhere else the first week in October?