Sunday, October 12, 2008


LE GIORNATE DEL CINEMA MUTO. Associazione Culturale "Le Giornate del Cinema Muto". President: Livio Jacob. Director: David Robinson. Comitato direttivo: Paolo Cherchi Usai, Lorenzo Codelli, Piero Colussi, Luciano De Giusti, Carlo Montanaro, Piera Patat.
BRIGHTON 30 YEARS AFTER. "Brighton 30 Years After" was a main topic of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone in 2008, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the FIAF Congress in Brighton in 1978, the symposium of which was "Cinema 1900-1906". It started a new era in the interest in early cinema. It started a new era in FIAF symposia. André Gaudreault founded Domitor, dedicated to the study of early cinema. Le Giornate del Cinema Muto and we, its participants, can be considered children of Brighton. Georges Sadoul had coined the phrase "L'Ecole de Brighton" in the 1940s. David Francis and his friends had 12 of the participants of the Brighton Congress select a fascinating tribute in Pordenone in 2008, the heart of the Festival.
In addition, an inspired special programme titled "Before the Lonely Villa" and "The Jonathan Dennis Memorial Lecture: Eileen Bowser: The Telephone Thriller" with its three film selections were strong contributions about the evolution of cinematic storytelling and editing during the first decade of the 20th century.
A surprisingly strong contribution to the same concerns was the fascinating programme of the Australian Corrick Collection, with thoughtful programme notes by Leslie Anne Lewis.
An excellent show on cinema "before Brighton" was Paul Spehr's programme on W.K.L. Dickson, divided into three parts: Experimental Films for Edison, Production in the Black Maria, and "Biographing". We followed his track from the embryonic Monkeyshines (1889) to the 68mm Biographs from the Boer War (1899). One of the most amazing careers in the history of the cinema. Paul Spehr's 700-page volume The Man Who Made Movies: W.K.L. Dickson (2008) gives solid background information to it.
ALEXANDER SHIRYAEV. Also from the age of the Brighton School came the big surprise discovery of the Festival. Alexander Shiryaev (1867–1941) was a Russian ballet master, who before the First World War started to draw precise notations of ballet movements, shot home movies, filmed cartoons, and prepared elaborate puppet animations, for private use only. His art and films of all four categories survived, were first shown for the public in the Belye Stolby film festival in 2004, and have been restored for public viewing in 2008. Although Shiryaev was an artist outside film history (even Starewich did not know about him), he became a master of animation and dance film who now gets a place of honour in the history books. "A belated premiere", indeed, to quote the title of the documentary film about him. In the presence of Viktor Bocharov, Daniil Saveliev and Yuri Grigorovich.
D.W. GRIFFITH. The largest film retrospective ever dedicated to a single artist anywhere came to the finish in Pordenone after 12 years. Almost the complete D.W. Griffith catalogue (opus numbers 1–633) was screened. In this year, his final feature films were seen. Griffith in the late 1920s was in touch with his time, the Jazz Age (The Battle of the Sexes), was cinematically up to date, working with Murnau's cameramen and showing a new fluidity of camera movement and finding new, active female protagonists (Lady of the Pavements). But he was no longer the leader in the evolution of the cinema. The bad 16mm print of The Drums of Love reminded us that even those who had faithfully followed the 12 years of the Griffith retrospective have not yet really seen his films... in their true cinematic splendour, as most of the prints have been awful, though negatives exist. Abraham Lincoln was my personal favourite film of the Festival, despite its weaknesses, because of its deeply felt conviction in the life story of the peacemonger. The four Biograph shorts preserved from 8mm sources prove that miracles are still possible (all films were worth seeing, all had been missing from the retrospective).
The magnificent book series, The Griffith Project 1-12, edited by Paolo Cherchi Usai, came also to a finish. Seminal contributions in the final volume include Charlie Keil's "D.W. Griffith as a Transitional Filmmaker" and André Gaudreault and Philippe Gauthier's "Crosscutting, a Programmed Language", which presents a new opening in the sometimes confusing terminology in the English and French cinema studies.
W.C. FIELDS. Sally of the Sawdust proved that Griffith could even do comedy, and W.C. Fields was an actor of a completely new kind to his films. I saw other W.C. Fields silents for the first time, and it was surprising to witness how advanced his persona was already in his first short, Pool Sharks. So's Your Old Man (remade as the sound film You're Telling Me!) was already a masterpiece, directed by Gregory La Cava.
MUSICAL AMBITION. The opening and closing gala concerts offered pleasures of musical ambition. The opening event was Mary Pickford's unique horror film Sparrows with a new score by Jeffrey Silverman, conducted by Hugh Munro Neely, and performed by Orchestra Sinfonica del Friuli Venezia Giulia. The closing event was Jacques Feyder's conservative political satire Les nouveaux Messieurs with a droll score by Antonio Coppola, performed by L'Octuor de France. Michael Nyman engaged in an energetic piano solo attack on Vigo (A propos de Nice) and Vertov (Kino-Pravda Lenin). But my favourite music experience was the school orchestra who played Stravinsky to Buster Keaton's One Week. A fun act to follow! The magnificent pianists (more than seven) were tireless in the screenings.
HOLLYWOOD ON THE HUDSON. Richard Koszarski published a giant book Hollywood on the Hudson: Film and Television in New York from Griffith to Sarnoff (2008), and there was a film series to accompany it. A delicious discovery was His Nibs, one of the most fascinating metafilms.
THE FRENCH TOUCH. Lenny Borger's witty introductions provided a good background to his special series of French comedy to accompany the René Clair retrospective of last years. Highlights included Triplepatte, La merveilleuse journée and Jacques Feyder's early shorts.
RESTORED TREASURES. Among the single restored treasures there were three first rate comic adventure films. Bardelys the Magnificent, starring John Gilbert, from King Vidor's best period, was seen as the Lobster Films restoration. A turning-point in Douglas Fairbanks' career, A Modern Musketeer, could be seen thanks to Det Danske Filminstitut. And fittingly included in the programme was also Max Linder's marvellous Fairbanks parody The Three Must-Get-Theres, also from Lobster, at last in a version close to the original.
FILM AND HISTORY. From the Helsinki archive's (now called Kansallinen audiovisuaalinen arkisto) foreign film collections was found the vintage nitrate print that had been preserved by the Austrian film archive: Die zwölfte Isonzo Schlacht. Excellent quality of image, and very moving to see it in Friuli, close to the site of the original horror.
ELECTRONIC SUBTITLES. For the first time in Le Giornate del Cinema there was electronic subtitling – in all films, in English and Italian. And very good ones, too.


Darvi said...

Et tietäisi mistä löytyisi The Three Must Be Theresin audio, joka oli filmin ilmeisesti suomen television lähetyksessä. Ei ole sama mikä on esim täällä

Antti Alanen said...

Hei Darvi, lähtisin kysymään seuraavilta tahoilta: 1) Maud Linder, 2) Lobster Films, 3) Le Giornate del Cinema Muto. Leffa sisältyy myös vuonna 1963 tehtyyn kompilaatioon En compagnie de Max Linder. Elonetistä en löytänyt The Three Must-Get-Theresin tv-lähetystietoa.