Pordenone 2012

Clip from the Russian comedy Devushka s korobkoy/The Girl with a Hatbox (Boris Barnet 1927). Source: Jonatan 79 (YouTube)

I had a great time in Pordenone this year, at the Giornate del Cinema Muto. Although I started to hate Charles Dickens after the umptieth Christmas Carrol or Oliver Twist adaptation (Instead of Please, sir, can I have some more? I begged: Please, sir, can we have a version less?), Anna Sten was a real revelation, in particular in the film My Son/Moi Syn (Yevgenii Cherviakov 1928). Though the DVD was not grand and neither was the used print – the Argentinians excused themselves for this – you could still see the high quality of this film. Already the beginning: a series of close ups and medium shots of an unknown man and a woman. She has just had a baby but she tells him: it’s not yours! Smack in the face. The real father proves to be a young, cowardly temporary fling, while the husband might be a grumpy but he proves to be the real hero in the end, during a big fire which menaces Anna and her child. The film merits a thorough re-restoration and grand premiere. Another Anna Sten film, The Girl with a Hat Box/Dewuschka s korobkoi (Boris Barnet 1927), was equally fascinating, though this time it was more comedy. Anna plays a poor hat maker who officially has a room in the house of owners of the hat shop, but they use the room for other purposes such as private parties. Anna pities a rather stupid, pennyless soldier and gives him shelter in the room, by doing a fake marriage with him. What the guy lacks in his head, he has in his muscles and in his heart. The owner pays Anna off with a lottery ticket instead of paying her salary, but of course she wins the lottery then, causing the guy to go berserk and run after her. In the end the husband/soldier isn’t as stupid as he seemed, winning the girl from the preposterous owner and a romantic young railway boy.

















Jean Darling & David Robinson. Audience in S. Marco waiting for La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc with live orchestra.

Other memorable shows were the first night with the just found Les aventures de Robinson Crusoé (1903) by Georges Méliès – the trademark for this year’s edition, on every cover, display etc. – followed by the delicious Marion Davies comedy The Patsy (King Vidor 1928), all in a score by and orchestra led by Maud Nelissen. Less adapted to the film was the score accompanying Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928), performed twice at the local S. Marco cathedral in Pordenone. I had a concert above me and a film in front of me, at start; later on the two became more unisono. Incredible to see all those close ups of Falconetti and the judges on a big screen. I also noticed I had forgotten so many little scenes. And despite their severe questioning and insinuations, one can see that in the end even the judges are moved by Jeanne’s self-sacrifice and persistence. So it is not that black and white, after all. Anyhow, a wonderful night out in a packed church (actually, even the general repetition was sold out). Memorable as well was the meeting with Our Gang actress Jean Darling, now 90, but still a vivid talker and singer. I couldn’t stay until the final night but highly enjoyed the Thursday night screening and performance of the Phono-Cinema-Theatre programme of early sound films (from around 1900!),some with audible delights (Jeanne Hatto singing Gluck’s aria from Iphigénie en Tauride in an incredibly touching way), some with visual delights (Cléo de Merode dancing, Sarah Bernhardt fencing in Hamlet), and many coloured. An ensemble led by John Sweeney masterfully accompanied the films, sometimes filling in the missing waxrolls with the voices or accompanying music. It really felt as if I was visiting an auditorium during the Paris 1900 Exposition.

Cléo de Merode dancing (Phono-Cinéma-Théàtre, Photo Gaumont-Pathe-Archives)

~ by Ivo Blom on November 1, 2012.

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