Early & Silent Film

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Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2017

Posted by keith1942 on September 26, 2017

Impressively this year the Silent Film Festival in Pordenone has the complete programme up on its Webpages over a week before the start, Saturday September 30th. On offer will be a varied and fascinating selection of early films. My friend Peter Rist, who is expert at these sort of things, has sent me the following calculation:

“I have just done a count and of 57 screenings at Pordenone this year, 22 are digital, more than usual; over 38%; still plenty of 35mm though,”

Some of the formats are yet to be identified. But this is creditable, especially in a period when one requires time, money and considerable investigation to see films [as opposed to files] in an appropriative format.

The programmes contain some exciting prospects on film. These is a series devoted to ‘The Beginnings of the Western’: now in its third year these have offered fascinating offerings from the early in a major genre. On the Saturday evening the opening event of the Festival, The Crowd will be the 35mm Photoplay print originally screened in the Thames Silents, and we will enjoy once more Carl Davis conducting his score performed by the San Marco Orchestra. The film is a classic [discussed in ‘Studying Early and Silent Cinema’] with fine direction by King Vidor and some excellent technical work in the Cinematography by Henry Sharp and the Film Editing by Hugh Wynn.  A great cast and some memorable dramatic moments.

Other classic revisited titles include Schatten: eine nächtliche halluzination (Warning Shadows, Artur Robison, Germany, 1923). In many ways this is the definitive expressionist film, intriguing and stylistic memorable.

There are several ‘diva’ titles. One pleasure with be Louise Brooks in Now We’re in the Air  (Frank R. Strayer, US 1927). Pola Negri stars in the 1918 Carmen and Mania. die geschichte einer zigarettenarbeiterin (Mania. The Story of a Cigarette Factory Worker, Germany 1918). And the rare A Fool There Was (1915) with Theda Bari is a happy opportunity. There are a series of programmes on ‘Nasty Women’. These appear to develop from the comic to the dramatic, so we await to see if they are ‘politically correct’.

‘The Swedish Challenge’ includes a title from a master of silent period, Vem Dömer? (Love’s Crucible, 1922) by Victor Sjöström. Ernst Lubitsch has several titles including The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927), another screening with an accompanying orchestra.. And from Japan we have a late silent directed by Ozu Yasujirô, Tokyo no yado (An Inn in Tokyo, 1935). There a number of Italian silents which are new to me and which I look forward to seeing.

I shall wait and see what the DCPs are like in transfer quality. I am disappointed that the British Dawn (1928) is in a digital format since I saw it only last year in a good 35mm print.

The other set of DCPs are from the USSR. This is a disappointment less because of the format than because of the titles. Essentially the programmes offer a series of ‘Soviet Travelogues’. They are likely interesting and include some film work by members of the ‘Factory of Facts’. The only fictional feature is Aelita: this is on 35mm so it will be worth seeing again. But the Festival falls only a few weeks before the centenary of The Great October Revolution. I would have hoped that they could have fitted in at least one of the masterpieces celebrating this key event of the C20th. We are offered a couple of titles on ‘The Red Peril’ which sound politically dubious. A sadly missed opportunity.

2 Responses to “Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2017”

  1. Astaire said

    Thank you for interesting info, it’s wonderful to be able to read all that about the silent era which entices me so much…
    Do you know, by any chance, from which film the frame which was featured on the Silent Film Festival in Pordenone’2017 poster (upper photo) was taken? I don’t think it is just a promotional photo, yet Google PicSearch only returns me back to the fest.

  2. keith1942 said

    The poster at the top is a production photograph of Lars Hansen on the set of ‘Captain Salvation’, M-G-M 1927.
    The pic was from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
    In fact, we did not get to see the film. Apparently there were copyright issues at the last minute but it was too late to change.
    It does seem a bit much ninety years on and there are still problems with copyright holders. Kevin Brownlow has suggested that all films from the silent era should be in the public domain. I suppose that is a little too radical for capitalists.
    Another contradiction, I believe, is that pre-1920s titles in the USA are out of copyright but not in Britain.

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