Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2012: Pre Highlights

When it comes to Le Giornate Del Cinema Muto it’s very much a second home too many of us at Bristol Silents. Many of us have been going for nearly ten years (some even longer), but it has always been a major highlight of the film festival calendar.

Well, the 31st Le Giornate Del Cinema Muto is nearly upon us (it kicks off on Saturday 6th October, 2012) and we couldn’t head off without noting down what we are looking forward to in the coming week. Underneath is just a selection of Top Fives (more or less) on what some of us at Bristol Silents and many of our friends are looking forward to this year at Pordenone. See you guys all out there!

Ayşe Behçet (Pordenone Collegiate 2012, Charlie’s London)
I deffiantly fancy The Patsy (1928) (shame it isn’t Show People) and the Georges Méliès Robinson Crusoe (1902) film!

On top of this, without a doubt another highlight is The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) screening and the Dickens programme looks amazing! We Faw Down (1928) is another one I have wanted to see for a while and A Woman of Affairs (1928) also! There’s just too much!

Rhiannon Creffield (Pordenone Collegiate 2011, Southampton University)
A Woman of Affairs (1928)
I’m looking forward to seeing Garbo and Gilbert together on a proper cinema screen at last. I’ve seen Flesh and the Devil, but only on DVD, so I’m glad to get to see them sizzling on the big screen. The fact that Clarence Brown directed both Flesh… and A Woman of Affairs gives me hope that they’ll be of a similar standard, and should make it fun to compare the two. If only Lars Hanson was around to complete the picture!

Die Freudlose Gasse (1925)
I’m not a huge fan of German expressionism, but since this film is meant to show the transition between this and a more realistic style (and features another turn from Garbo!) I’ll admit that I’m quite looking forward to seeing it.

The Spanish Dancer (1923)
I’m looking forward to this film purely because it sounds like great fun. Who doesn’t want to see the story of a gypsy dancer falling in love with a penniless nobleman in Golden Age Spain? Not me, that’s for sure!

Hands Up! (1926)
I saw Paths to Paradise a few years ago and was very taken with Raymond Griffith, so I’m looking forward to seeing another of his films. Aside from that one performance I don’t really know that much about him, so hopefully seeing this’ll go some way towards correcting that.

Chris Daniels (Co – Founder of Bristol Silents & Director of Slapstick Festival)So much to look forward to this year to be honest, but out of all of them I’ve only chosen two screenings;

I’m looking forward to THE PATSY because it’s one of the best silent comedies I’ve ever seen and I hear Maude’s score is superb!

Paul McGann narrating the Melies short THE ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE as it’s not been seen before in this restored format and I’ve heard it’s better than VOYAGE is another major highlight for me !

Don Fairservice (BAFTA Award Winning Editor & Regular Bristol Silents Contributor)The Giornate has now become a regular visit because it enables me to discover films that I would never be able to see at any other time in any other place. This will be only my fifth visit, but there hasn’t been a single year when I haven’t found treasure. Those films and the effect they had on me will almost certainly never be put on DVD or shown elsewhere and therefore I’m unlikely ever to see them again, but the memory of them will stay with me forever.
Obviously, La Passion de Jeanne D’Arc and The Patsy, and all the Anna Sten films, but often the films I look forward to most are those that I’ve never before heard of. They often turn out to be superb and an absolute delight

Actually, it saddens me rather that those great films cannot be seen more widely. For example several of the USSR films shown last year, “Fragment of an Empire” for example, and many of the Japanese films shown in 2010, deserve to be shown much more widely than they ever will be.

Mark Fuller (Regular Bristol Silents Contributor & Giornate Veteran)The great thing about the Giornate of course, is that there is always an unsuspected film that catches you unawares. Perhaps even from an era or a genre that isn’t really your cup of tea. Thus it was that last year the most wonderful uplifting film of the festival was a Georgian Soviet film about ethnic cleansing of Moslem Chechens in Tsarist Russia. Eliso; Stunning,,,,,who knew???

So it is with a certain amount of wariness that I have a look at the Giornate programme; where is the stonker I’m going to end up missing?! One year it was Rotaie an Italian proto-neo-realist, but I got lucky and caught it at Bologna this year.

The Dickens programme will be great; Joan of Arc in the Duomo will be an experience; a couple of British Silents from the perennially underrated Walter Summers will be must-sees. I’ve heard great reports from the US for The Goose Woman and The Spanish Dancer. But there is one entire strand of films I am really waiting for.

At the British Silent Film Festival s few years ago Bryony Dixon showed a film of such great charm and humour that we couldn’t work out why we hadn’t heard of it. The following year more were screened from the same team, same reaction. This year at Cambridge, a couple more and I was hooked!.

WW Jacobs was a writer of short stories in the late-Victorian/Edwardian era, thjough he continued into the 30’s. He had been brought up in the docks community around Wapping; and this was, almost exclusively, his milieu for hundreds of tales published in the magazines of the day, eventually The Strand; in his day only Conan Doyle was more famous. Ever since Cambridge I’ve been collecting and reading the anthologised volumes……the films were made in the early twenties, directed by Manning Haynes from adaptations by Lydia Hayward, and actress-turned screenwriter. Having now read some of the tales I’ve seen the film versions of, I can say she was a brilliant talent. the tales are full of wry humour, seldom slapstick, but the films I’ve seen distil all the essence of the tales; they’re also very well acted and make fantastic use of location shooting in the London docks and East-Coast harbours of the 20’s.

A couple of the films being shown in Italy I have seen, the rest I haven’t. But I’ll be at all of them, I can’t wait, and I can’t recommend them more highly; they’re little lost gems of British and silent cinema.

James Harrison (BBC Bristol & Regular Bristol Silents Contributor)The great thing about the Giornate (and I guess with many great film festivals) is that while you have your highlights before and after, the great thing is being surprised, that’s my favourite thing about the Giornate, it all comes down to the suprises for me. However, my Top Five include:

The Viking (1928) – A film I have heard about many times over the years but never got around to seeing ever. And seeing a rare early Technicolor print is just an added bonus. Can’t wait for this one!

The WW Jacobs Films have been mentioned on a number of occasions in recent Bristol Silents chats, so this most certainly has to be in the top five. I would be mad if I didn’t have it in there!

I fell in love with Pola Negri after our recent Bristol Silents Club Screening in which we celebrated her work, so I’m rather thrilled that The Spanish Dancer (1923) is being screened.

Die Freudlose Gasse is another major film I have never been able to see and I am thrilled that I get the chance to not only see in a massive cinema but with a live score as well! Sorted!

The selection of Clarence Brown films is another must for me. Since coming to the Giornate, I always wanted to sit down and see how a classic Hollywood director develops his craft over the course of his career, and thanks to the Giornate I get the chance to see that (some of it anyways).

Sean Kelly (East Anglian Film Archive)
I am certain that when this years festival is over my ‘favourite’ screenings will include few of the following but this is one of the best things about Pordenone. The festival and silent film just gives and gives and gives. Every year I am shocked and surprised by what I see. It seems the ‘silent’ era did everything first and often better than examples in later years. There are no programme notes available yet but looking through the Facebook updates this is my list at the moment:

The Goose Woman (1925)
I have wanted to see this since Kevin Brownlow showed a clip at the British Silent Film Festival in 2007. It was a scene with a wax phonograph cylinder which I haven never forgotten.
Haghefilm/Selznick School Fellowship 2012. I think Google is telling me these will be restored Technicolor fragments!

Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre. The notes on Facebook mention experiments in sound and colour. I’m there.
Opening Night (Robinsoe Crusoe / The Patsy). Opening night is always fantastic, such an electric atmosphere. Really looking forward to seeing the Méliès restoration with colour and live commentary. I have also always enjoyed the late ‘polished’ Hollywood fare Pordenone puts on for the main opening event. Again the facebook page has a great clip with Maud Nelissen’s score which really ‘zips’.

Nordisk Charles Dickens (particularly the films by A.W Sandberg). Really looking forward to seeing these. I saw The Hill Park Mystery at the British Silent Film Festival in 2007 and it was one of my favourites of that week. Really polished with striking images sometimes touching on the surreal.
Pamela Hutchinson (Journalist and Editor of Silentlondon.co.uk)
Where to begin? The Pordenone schedule is filled with intriguing films I have never heard of, films I already love and some that I have been longing to see for the first time.

The Spanish Dancer (1923)
Pola Negri is rapidly becoming one of my favourite silent era actresses. This is one of her most highly regarded Hollywood films and I am fascinated by the idea that she is playing a role originally intended for Valentino. Also, I have heard only the most lavish praise for this restoration. If it lives up to my expectations, I may go to see it a second time at the London Film Festival on my return from Italy.

Ménilmontant (1926)
A haunting film, with a fearsome reputation. Previously, it shames me to admit, I have only seen it on the smallest of small screens. So in Pordenone I am going to pay it the proper respect and I expect to be overwhelmed…

The Only Way (1925)
At the British Silent Film Festival this spring I zigged when perhaps I should have zagged. Either way, I missed this loose Dickens adaptation by Herbert Wilcox and by all accounts, I made the wrong choice. I’ll be rereading A Tale of Two Cities in preparation, and I’m anticipating Martin Harvey’s lead performance in particular.

The Cinema Delle Origini Strand
Early cinema is my first love. I want to see all of these films, at least twice. The screenings of the restorations of the two hand-coloured Méliès films Automaboulisme et Autorité and Les Aventures de Robinson Crusoé, the latter with narration from Paul McGann, are early frontrunners to be the highlight of my first visit to the Giornate.

James Layton (George Eastman House)
THE PATSY (1928)
STÜRME DER LEIDENSCHAFT (1931) – Robert Siodmak/Anna Sten
THE STAGE-COACH DRIVER AND THE GIRL (1915) / LEGAL ADVICE (1916) – Tom Mix
HANDS UP (1926)
THE SPANISH DANCER (1923)
THE VIKING (1928) – Technicolor

Stephen Morgan (Pordenone Collegiate 2011, King’s College, London)
CORRICK COLLECTION 6 (1903-09, US/AU/FR, d. Various)
Films from the collection of Australia’s first family of travelling entertainment are always a wonderful treat. And as an Australian, I am particularly fond of the films shot by the Corrick family themselves: this year’s collection features an annual event familiar to all Australians, a Royal Agricultural Show. My other highlight from this particular collection is an Edison film with the delectable title ‘A Dash to Death’, described in an Edison catalogue as featuring ‘a worthless Italian Duke trying to escape his American wife’s lover’.

THE GOOSE WOMAN (1925, US, d. Clarence Brown)
I’ve been fascinated by this story of an ex-prima donna and the illegitimate son who ruined her life ever since Kevin Brownlow visited my MA course a couple of years ago and screened a short extract. I missed it at the London Film Festival last year, so I’m very excited to finally check it out!

THE VIKING (1928, US, d. R.W. Neill)
Vikings in Technicolor! What more do you need? The first feature-length film made in Technicolor, chiefly concerned with Leif Ericson and the legend of the first Vikings to reach North America by sea.

THE STORIES OF W.W. JACOBS (1922-24, GB, d. Manning Haynes)
Having missed most of these faintly Ealing-sounding tales of English marine men and woo-able women at the last few British Silent Film Festivals, it’ll be great to catch them all in one whimsical sitting.

PHONO-CINÉMA-THÉÂTRE (1900, FR, Paul Decauville)
Last but not least – hot from the Paris Exposition of 1900 – this recreation of the Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre’s all-singing, all-dancing variety extravaganza is bound to be a major highlight of this year’s Giornate.

Uli Ruedel (Film Preservation Chemist/Consultant)This year’s Pordenone poster beautifully showcases stencil coloured black and white images, a reminder of moving images dazzling beauty rooted in their material, sometimes even hand-crafted nature. Silent era colour features prominently in the program; I’m especially curious to see the new print of DIE FREUDLOSE GASSE with its Synchro-Tints, and can already attest to the unusually beautiful and appropriate reproduction of Technicolor III in the freshly preserved SPORTS OF MANY LANDS, part of this years Haghefilm / Selznick School Fellowship program.

Note that sadly and soon, such finely crafted analogue preservations, using the superior colour rendition of Fuji stocks in direct duplication, will be a piece of history in their own right.- The comedy aficionado in me is delighted not only about the mother-in-law program, ranging from Feuillade, Polidor et al. to Al Christie’s Neil Burns – talk about tongue-in-cheek curatorship! -, but also about revisiting HANDS UP! with an appreciative audience (who will play to add to the fun?), and the delightful THE PATSY with, I’m sure, another marvellous and spirited Maud Nelissen score.

Historically, I’m very interested in the German animation program, including at least one film by one of my favourites, Hans Fischerkoesen. And, thinking of WINGS a few years ago, one cannot go wrong with a lush, Carl Davis scored screening to close a wondrous week of cinephilia, shared with wonderful friends.

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