Though it was not to acquire its definitive name and identity until the following year, the Giornate del Cinema Muto can date its first edition to 9 to 11 September 1982, when Cinemazero presented the Cineteca del Friuli’s collection of the films of Max Linder, in the theatre of the Centro Studi di Pordenone. With the title “Le roi du rire: the origins of comic cinema”, it might have come and gone as a one-off event. But among the less than ten guests from outside the region, there was the dean of Italian film historians, Davide Turconi. As we sat all together at table, he said, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, “Fine. Next year we will do Mack Sennett.” And we, quite naturally, concurred.
Davide Turconi (born 1911) was director of the Giornate until 1989, and remained a member of the festival board until 1998. From 1999 until his death in 2005 he was Honorary President of the festival. Starting with the 1997 edition the festival was directed for 19 years with incredible energy and passion by the noted English cinema critic and historian David Robinson (born 1930). In 2016 Variety critic Jay Weissberg (born 1965) became director of the festival, with David Robinson as Director Emeritus, thus ensuring the festival’s longstanding tradition of personal continuity; they enjoy a mutual rapport of esteem and friendship.
About the Pordenone Festival
The world’s leading international silent-film festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, presented annually in northern Italy, is still going strong after more than a quarter century. The 26th edition of the festival in October 2007 marked a significant milestone: this was the year the festival returned to its original home in the city of Pordenone. Because of the demolition of the Cinema Verdi, the Pordenone theater that had originally housed the screenings, and delays in construction of a new theater to take its place, the festival had temporarily relocated to nearby Sacile for the previous eight years. But in 2007, with the erection of a new Verdi on the site of the old and the resolution of lingering structural issues, the Giornate returned to Pordenone. It was a triumphant homecoming. – J.B. Kaufman (Classic Images, no. 392, Feb. 2008)
Of all the intertitles appearing on screen during the 26th edtion of le Giornate del Cinema Muto, none raised a more knowing laugh than the warning in The Golden Road to Health and Beauty, the English version of a German physical-culture film from the mid-1920s: “Constant sitting is very bad for the body.” Just so – especially for a festival that keeps you glued to your seat before celluloid from 9am to past midnight.
Back in its original base of Pordenone in the impractical new Teatro Communale (half ocean liner, half Moby Dick), Italy’s prestigious showcase for silent cinema did a fair amount to make the pains bearable. – Geoff Brown (Sight & Sound, Dec. 2007)
Le Giornate del muto sono rientrate a casa. Una casa tirata a lucido: il Teatro Verdi nuovissimo, che occupa, con la bianca imponenza d’un iceberg di fantasia (e con in sala qualche gradino di troppo) lo spazio del vecchio, dove le Giornate erano cresciute e diventate “il più bel festival del mondo” come dicono gli studiosi e gli addetti ai lavori che vengono dall’estero. E che anche stavolta – dal 6 al 13 ottobre – erano i più a festeggiare la rentrée pordenonese, non senza qualche rimpianto, tuttavia, per la parentesi degli otto anni della trasferta nella vicina, riposante Sacile. – Piero Pruzzo (Film D.O.C., n. 75, nov.-dic. 2007)
Ormai unanimente considerato secondo festival italiano (secondo Mueller), o terzo (versione Veltroni) o comunque quarto (Barbera), possiamo – tranciando di netto – metterlo addirittura al primo posto per la coerenza e l’articolazione internazionale del progetto. L’edizione appena conclusasi ha ampiamente confermato la qualità dell’offerta, anche se il ritorno nella più comoda e natia Pordenone ha lasciato molta nostalgia per il miracolo degli anni di Sacile, quando tutta una città ha coccolato con grande senso dell’ospitalità una manifestazione di specialisti, accogliendoli in un ambiente affascinante. Pordenone dovrebbe conquistarsi il ruolo di ritrovata sede, non considerarlo un atto dovuto: e invece molte cose, dall’anonimato inestetico della sala di proiezione all’impoverimento dei momenti conviviali (che richiedono sponsor generosi), hanno solo accentuato la nostalgia. – Sergio Grmek Germani (Il Manifesto, 16.10.2007)
Tired of movies looking like videogames rather than celluloid projections of men and women? Come to the Pordenone Silent Film Fest in northern Italy, now in its 26th year. The gold standard for silent film presentation, complemented by the world’s finest musical accompanists, Pordenone is the autumn destination for programmers, academics and enthusiasts from around the globe. – Variety Staff (“50 Unmissable Film Festivals”, Variety.com, 7 Sept. 2007)