THE PORDENONE SILENT FILM FESTIVAL CELEBRATES ITS 40TH ANNIVERSARY AND THE RETURN TO AN IN-PERSON CELEBRATION OF CINEMA WITH A PROGRAM OF REDISCOVERIES ACCLAIMING THE CRUCIAL ROLE OF WOMEN IN SILENT CINEMA, NOT JUST IN FRONT OF THE CAMERAS.
WE OPEN WITH LUBITSCH’S MASTERPIECE LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN, FROM OSCAR WILDE’S PLAY, IN A NEW RESTORATION BY NEW YORK’S MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, FEATURING A SCORE BY CARL DAVIS.
THE FESTIVAL CLOSES WITH ALEXANDRE VOLKOFF’S CASANOVA STARRING IVAN MOSJOUKINE, ACCOMPANIED BY A NEW ORCHESTRAL SCORE WRITTEN BY GÜNTER BUCHWALD.
Following an almost exclusively online 39th Limited Edition, the Pordenone Silent Film Festival will be back again with its public, celebrating its 40th edition at the Teatro Comunale Giuseppe Verdi, from 2 to 9 October 2021. In 1982, when the Cineteca del Friuli and Cinemazero first joined forces to collaborate on a three-day retrospective dedicated to the French comic Max Linder, no one could have imagined this would become the first edition of a festival whose pioneering work has literally rewritten the history of the first three decades of cinema, or that the city of Pordenone would become an indispensable destination for scholars and all those passionate about silent film from the world over.
The 2021 edition will abide by all anti-COVID regulations expected to still be in force in October. Therefore, the program will consist of four screenings per day; it will also be taking into account the positive lessons learned from 2020. That means we won’t be forgetting the large audience created last year with the online edition, when we doubled the number of accreditations and opened the festival up to a new public of silent film lovers. In order to nurture this audience while also maintaining our bonds with loyal longtime festival-goers unable to travel this year, we’ll be streaming a selection of films during the festival dates.
SPECIAL MUSICAL EVENTS
Following the pre-opening evening screening at the Teatro Zancanaro in Sacile, which tips its hat to the 700th Dante anniversary with a ciné-concert tribute featuring the Zerorchestra, the festival officially kicks off Saturday, 2 October with Ernst Lubitsch’s masterpiece Lady Winderemere’s Fan (1925, based on the Oscar Wilde play), now more sparkling than ever thanks to the brand new restoration by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, derived from an original nitrate print. In keeping with the chamber-piece nature of the film, a score written and conducted by Carl Davis for three musicians forms the accompaniment.
The full orchestral event takes place on the closing evening Saturday, 9 October and the replica on 10 October. The musicians of the Orchestra San Marco di Pordenone will perform the world premiere of Günter Buchwald’s score for Alexandre Volkoff’s Casanova (1927), featuring the great Russian star Ivan Mosjoukine as the legendary adventurer and libertine Giacomo Casanova, screened in a new 4k restoration from the Cinémathèque française.
A celebration of sensuality is also on offer at the mid-week event, in cooperation with the Slovenska kinoteka. The Czech drama Erotikon (1929), directed by Gustav Machatý and starring the Slovenian actress Ita Rina, is a touchstone of the late silent era and has been scored by Slovenian composer Andrej Goricar for eight musicians.
Recognizing the crucial role of women in the history of cinema, long a hallmark of the Festival, is a true leitmotif of this edition, the 6th under Jay Weissberg’s direction. This year’s biggest retrospective is dedicated to the Austrian-Jewish actress and producer Ellen Richter (1891-1969), a versatile star of Weimar cinema whose enormous popularity was international in scope. Sadly a large percentage of her films are lost and her name is today almost forgotten, but thanks to the determination of scholars Oliver Hanley and Philipp Stiasny, a number of gems have been discovered in German, Russian, Dutch and French archives. In addition to rediscovering Ellen Richter as a delightful, multifaceted actress, the retrospective also reveals her strong qualities as a producer: included in the program is Der Juxbaron (1926/27), a charming feature Richter produced rather than starred in, which features the legendary diva Marlene Dietrich in a key early role.
In recognition of the immense contribution and fundamental role that women have had from the very beginning of the film industry, the festival is launching a two-year series dedicated to American women screenwriters, the dominant sex in their field. Their manifold talents were expressed not only in romantic and family films but in every other genre, from westerns to war films, from thrillers to crime dramas. Among the celebrated authors included this year are Anita Loos, Beulah Marie Dix and Dorothy Yost, women who collaborated with such major directors as John Ford and Cecil B. DeMille and significantly contributed to the popularity of stars like Douglas Fairbanks and Constance Talmadge.
Contuining with the feminist theme, mention must be made of the return of the Nasty Women, those rule-busting, anarchic female comedians who refuse to be confined by notions of propriety and gender roles. This new series, curated once again by Maggie Hennefeld and Laura Horak, largely consists of French and American shorts from 1899 to 1914 and feature several of the chaos-creating comics we’ve come to love, including Rosalie (Sarah Duhamel) and Cunégonde (Little Chrysia).
For the past few decades, long before the success of Bong Joon-ho’s 20019 film Parasite, an impressive group of South Korean directors such as Kim Ki-duk have been mainstays of the international film festival scene. Yet the history of Korean cinema is largely unknown, mostly due to the poor survival rate of so many titles. Thanks to Sungji Oh of the Korean Film Archive of Seoul, together with the director of the Filmmuseum München Stefan Drössler, the Festival is able to offer a rare occasion – probably the first outside their home country – to discover several precious surviving examples of Korean silent fim.
Other gems to be featured in the 40th edition include Australian adventure films starring the celebrated athlete Snowy Baker, and a preview of the Ruritania retrospective (now scheduled for 2022) with the Italian drama All’ombra d’un trono directed by Carmine Gallone and starring Soava Gallone. Completing the program are several canonical titles and a number of newly rediscovered and restored films from national and international archives. Among these, Lobster Films of Paris takes us back to where everything began thanks to their new restoration of Max Linder’s final film, King of the Circus, aka Circusmania (Max, der Zirkuskönig).
The Pordenone Silent Film Festival takes place thanks to the support of the Regione Autonoma Friuli Venezia Giulia, the Ministero della Cultura – Direzione Generale Cinema, the City of Pordenone, the Pordenone-Udine Chamber of Commerce and the Fondazione Friuli.
Photo: May McAvoy and Ernst Lubitsch on the set of Lady Windermere’s Fan (US 1925) by Ernst Lubitsch
Credit: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Margaret Herrick Library, Los Angeles