film festival tourism

Pordenone

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

Festival Logo

Festival Logo

The Pordenone festival has had an incalculable influence on the study of silent film, introducing scholars and archivists  to a rich heritage in a seemingly endless series of carefully curated programs .Its attractions for its loyal fans include an attractive setting in northeastern Italy and a congenial atmosphere in which appreciation and information is freely exchanged. An informal series of talks as well as a market for cinema memorabilia rounds out the experience.

Festival Website: http://www.cinetecadelfriuli.org/gcm/giornate/edizione2008.html

Timing: Eight Days at the beginning of October.

Dates for 2009: October 3-10.

Programming

The festival’s artistic directors David Robinson and Paolo Cherchi Usai program silent films from around the world with an emphasis on films made before 1920. Carefully cultivated relationships with archives around the world allow for wide-ranging retrospectives and special themes featuring the best available prints. Live musical accompaniments are a particular strength and have become more impressive with each passing year. All films also feature simultaneous translation in several languages.

The Giornate staff preparing for the 2007 festival

The Giornate staff preparing for the 2007 festival

Special Guests

These are mostly descendents of luminaries from the silent era; some are more knowledgeable than others. The festival also sponsors an annual lecture, which often is given by someone from the world of movie animation.

Audience

Mostly scholars and archivists, with a smattering of serious film buffs. This is an invitation only affair, so you need to apply to the festival to be given entrée.

Screening Venues:

The opening of the new Teatro Verdi in 2007 saw the festival move back to Pordenone from its temporary home in Sacile. The new theater isn’t perfect: the orchestra pit is hot and cramped, and it cuts off the audience’s view of the musicians; also, the design of the aisles encourages tripping (legendary MoMA film archivist Eileen Bowser was rushed to the hospital after a fall in 2007). On balance, however, the new theater provides a fine viewing experience and seats more people than could be accommodated in the past. Another small theater around the corner is used for additional screenings.

The New Teatro Verdi

The New Teatro Verdi

Screening Schedule

Screenings begin at 9am and continue until about midnight.

Tickets

Though special event screenings are well supported by the locals, this is mainly a festival for serious students of early film. So virtually all visitors purchase passes in advance at about a hundred euros each. An additional contribution of sixty euros gets you two free tickets to opening night and a collection of books and dvds (many choices in Italian).

The Giornate Offices During the 2008 Festival

The Giornate Offices During the 2008 Festival

Program Notes

Commissioned from internationally known scholars from around the world, these set the standard for all others with a wealth of erudite and thought-provoking descriptions. In English and Italian.

Surroundings

Pordenone is a medium-sized city with an attractive historic core in the Friuli region of northeastern Italy. The festival theater is on the edge of the town’s historic center.

Accommodations

Good hotels within easy walking distance to the theaters:

  • Hotel Villa Ottoboni. Another good choice, with breakfast included in the room price. About a ten-minute walk from the theaters. Via Ottoboni 2 +39 0434-208891

Restaurants

  • La Vecchia Osteria del Moro. This small trattoria serves excellent food at reasonable prices. In the historic center not far from the Teatro Verdi. Via Castello 2 +39 0434 28658
  • Al Cenacolo. Simple, beautifully prepared food and attentive service in a lovely garden. Close by the theater. Via San Francisco 1/B +39 0434.20333
  • Moderno. Worth a special night out. In the Moderno Hotel, right across the street from the Verdi.

Getting There

If you fly into Venice a day or two early, a good option is to stay on the Lido, where there are out-of-season rates at this time of year and easy vaporetto access to the airport and to St. Mark’s Square. An additional advantage of staying on the Lido is that you won’t have to drag your luggage up and down the many staircases on the bridges over the canals that exist on Venice proper.

Getting Around

If you stay at one of the hotels mentioned above, you’ll have an easy walk to everything.

Excursions

Venice is close and easy to get to. There is a vapporetto stop just outside the train station.

THE FESTIVAL YEAR BY YEAR

2000

2000 Program Book

2000 Program Book

Best Film I Saw

Pierrot, Pierrette. Originally released in 1924, this charming melodrama was one of the last films of Louis Feuillade, now best known for the serial thrillers he made in the ‘teens. It stars the delightful French child actors Bout de Zan and Bouboule.

2001

2001 Poster

2001 Poster

Best Films I Saw

  • Napoleon. Festgoers were ferried to Udine to view the five-hour screening of Abel Gance’s masterpiece, newly restored by Kevin Brownlow and accompanied by Carl Davis’s symphonic score.
  • Taki no Shiraito. One of only two silent films by Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi to survive, this shinpa melodrama, focused on a lower-class woman who sacrifices all for the man she loves, confirms his place in the pantheon of world cinema.

Unexpected Pleasure

East Side, West Side. This 1927 Hollywood production about the building of modern New York City was shown in Pordenone just weeks after the 9/11 tragedy had devastated New York. The screening had a restorative effect, evoking a welcome sense of America’s resiliency and can-do mentality.

Best Live Musical Accompaniments

  • The four Breton musicians who played traditional music of the region to accompany the screening of Jean Epstein’s 1929 Finis Terrae.

  • Midori Sawato, the female benshi who, with her back-up instrumentalists, provided dramatic highlights to the screening of the 1925 Japanese samurai tale Orochi (The Monster).

  • Mauro Teho Teardo, whose imaginative electronic riffs heightened the modernist thrust of Teinoskue Kinugasa’s 1926 avant-garde classic A Page of Madness.

2002

2002 Poster

2002 Poster

Best Film I Saw

The Patsy. A Hollywood comic triumph directed by King Vidor and lit up by an irrepressible Marion Davies. Originally released in 1928.

Unexpected Pleasures

  • Neil Brand’s entertaining lecture on the art of silent film musicianship.

  • The Great Nickelodeon Show. Russell Merritt’s witty recreation of a vaudeville-style nickelodeon show as it might have been presented at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

  • The comic talents of Mary Pickford, on display in Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley (1918); Gloria Swanson in Stage Struck (1925); Baby Peggy Helen’s Babies (1924); Clara Bow in It (1927); Mabel Normand in Oh, Mabel Behave (1922); and Marion Davies and Marie Dressler in The Patsy (1928).

2003

2003 Poster

2003 Poster

Best Film I Saw

Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life. Surely one of the most amazing documentary films ever made, this 1925 record of the annual migration of the Bakhtiari tribe in what is now Iran by Merian Cooper and Ernest Shoedsack (the team behind King Kong) features stunning depictions of human endurance in the face of overwhelmingly daunting conditions.

Best Live Musical Accompaniment

Italian Pop diva Giuni Russo’s heartrending performance of traditional folk ballads for the screening of The Song of Naples.

Unexpected Pleasure

Richard Williams’s lively and instructive lecture on the history of animation.

2004

2004 Poster

2004 Poster

Best Film I Saw

A Cottage on Dartmoor. Anthony Asquith’s tortured proto-noir masterpiece. Originally released in 1929.

Best Live Musical Accompaniments:

Stephen Horne’s inspired piano playing during the screening of A Cottage in Dartmoor.

Review of 2004 Festival: http://www.facets.org/critics/wexman/pordenone2004.htm

2005

2005 Poster

2005 Poster

Best Film I Saw

Every Night’s Dream. The best of the three newly restored Mikio Naruse works on the festival program, this tale of a wife forced into prostitution by a no-good husband showed its maker as a worthy addition to the traditional triumvirate of Japanese greats: Ozu, Kurosawa, and Mizoguchi.

Best Live Musical Accompaniment

Jen Anderson’s use of piano, guitar, mandolin, violin and tin whistle to capture the authentic period sound of 1925 for the charming Australian comedy The Sentimental Bloke.

Review of 2005 Festival: http://www.facets.org/critics/wexman/pordenone2005.htm

2007

2007 Poster

2007 Poster

Best Films I Saw

  • Les Deux Timides. The highlight of the festival’s retrospective of René Clair’s silent output. The high points in this little-seen 1928 production were its opening and closing scenes, both of which feature subjectively rendered montages in which images are substituted for dialogue

  • Chicago. The 1928 version of this stage chestnut is by far the best one, featuring a canvas of broad comedy modulated by Victor Varconi’s complex portrayal of Amos Hart, the wronged husband in the case.

  • Pandora’s Box. A glowing new print of G. W. Pabst’s 1929 German Expressionist classic.

Best Live Musical Accompaniments

  • Paul Lewis’s flamboyant score for Pandora’s Box played by the Sinfonica del Fruili Venizia Guilia.

  • Donald Sosin’s masterful manipulation of piano and synthesizer to accompany D. W. Griffith’s America.

  • A kazoo orchestra made up of students from a local middle school, who accompanied two short comic films, Pass the Gravy and The Cook. Music teacher Maria Luisa Sogaro and fest mainstay Neil Brand oversaw the young people’s performance.

  • The musical improvisations accompanying the 1927 version of Chicago, which complicated the film’s farcical comedy by including excerpts from poignant ballads like “Body and Soul.” This magical performance was put on by a group of the Giornate’s regular musicians, calling themselves the Prima Vista Social Club.

Unexpected Pleasures

  • Mae Marsh’s pale blue eyes in D. W. Griffith’s The White Rose (1923).

  • The beautifully wrought script by Miles Mander and Alma Reveille (Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock) for The First Born (1928)

  • Pass The Gravy. Perhaps not strictly unexpected, since this short 1927 Max Davidson comedy has been a legend among Pordenone-goers since its initial screening there in 1994, with some maintaining it’s the funniest film ever made.

Review of the 2007 Festival:

http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/festivals/08/46/pordenone-silent-ff-2007.html

2008

2008 Program Book

Best Film I Saw: Les Nouveaux Messiers. Jacques Feyder’s elegant, daring commentary on the new mores of the flapper era.

Unexpected Pleasure: The new computer-generated subtitles that replaced the cumbersome live translations of past festivals.

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