Over the years, the Giornate has underlined the importance for silent cinema of 19th writers such as Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo, yet Honoré de Balzac’s enormous influence on the medium is little explored. Less moralizing than Zola or Hugo, and with an astonishing capacity for narrative invention, Balzac offered fertile ground for a wealth of filmmakers. Sadly, of over 30 silent Italian adaptations, only one, Spergiura! (based on La Grande Bretèche [La Casa del mistero]) survives. We will be screening this together with films from 1906 to 1927, made in France, Germany and the U.S., allowing us to get a sense of how different countries adapted Balzac’s expansive cast of characters. Among the highlights will be Marcel L’Herbier’s L’homme du large (1920), based on Un drame au bord de la mer (Un dramma in riva al mare); E. Mason Hopper’s Paris at Midnight (1926), taken from Père Goriot; Paul Czinner’s Liebe (1927), from La Duchesse de Langeais (La duchessa de Langeais) and from the same year Max de Rieux’s La cousine Bette (La cugina Bette).

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