A Preview of the 2021 Pordenone Silent Film Festival
October 2, 2021
Last year, for the first time ever, I experienced the Pordenone Silent Film Festival – virtually, that is. While the 40th edition of the festival starts today in northern Italy and runs through October 9, the team smartly decided on keeping the virtual component so fans from around the world could still participate in the festivities.
For €29.90 (three times the cost of a virtual ticket last year but still 120% worth the price), film fans can revel in 10 silent features and shorts programs online. (Yes, they are mostly different than the films screening live, but, personally, I will take whatever I can get.) I’ve never heard of any of the titles screening virtually save for one, Cecil B. DeMille’s Fool’s Paradise (1921), which means I get to see mostly new-to-me movies – my favorite!
As usual, this fest focuses on films from around the world, which appeals to me as someone not very well versed in silent movies and less so in early international titles. Like last year, they’re still keeping each picture up for 24 hours after its initial virtual screening, so I’ll be able to watch – hopefully! – one silent a night for the next week. The intent right now is to catch everything, but even with only one or two hours of programming a day, that poses a challenge with my work schedule. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to this year’s slate. Here’s a brief preview of what I hope to see – and yes, it’s everything.
Jokeren (The Joker) (Denmark/Germany, 1928)
A Danish society drama set in Nice that, naturally, involves blackmail? Sign me up! Jokeren sounds like it’s dripping in stylish, moody melodramatics, and I am all here for it. Reading the logline for this movie gave me major Abwege vibes, another German picture made the same year that ended up being my favorite from last year’s fest.
Shorts from the Cineteca Del Friuli
I thoroughly enjoyed the shorts programs last year, especially the one revolving around travel, and I look forward to what the festival cooks up for us this time around. These selections range from 1911-1914 and come from Italy, France, and Great Britain.
The Man from Kangaroo (Australia, 1920)
Westerns normally aren’t my cup of tea, but I’ve never watched a silent film from Australia, so I’ll give it a go. Plus, I’d love to see those stunts set against the dramatic backdrop of New South Wales.
An Old Fashioned Boy (US, 1920)
Any romantic comedy that “teases matrimonial expectations when a man's fiancée resists conventional wifely duties” is a yes for me. Even though I expect most of these pictures to revert to convention by the final frame to satisfy societal norms of the time, I’m always fascinated to see patriarchal resistance captured onscreen in the early 20th century.
Fool’s Paradise (US, 1921)
I’ve watched very few of DeMille’s silent movies, but I remember being absolutely blown away by the technique employed in two of his early features, The Cheat (1915) and The Golden Chance (1915). And what better way to celebrate this film’s centennial than by catching it here? With that, I’m excited to see how DeMille’s skill advanced by the early 1920s and the promised spectacle this movie brings.
Geomsa-Wa Yeoseonsaeng (The Prosecutor and the Teacher) (Korea, 1948)
I had no clue that Korea briefly returned to silent moviemaking after WWII, and now I am really intrigued! (I also hope there will be a short intro to explain why the Korean film industry reverted to silents during this time.)
Phil-for-Short (US, 1919), with Le Ménage Dranem (France, 1912)
“Gender-bending mayhem characterizes both the French short and American feature in this feminist celebration of free-spirited individuality and the joys of chaos,” Pordenone’s online guide says. Yes, yes, yes – this may be my most anticipated film of the fest.
Ellen Richter commanding attention in Moral.
Moral (Morality) (Germany, 1927-1928)
Ellen Richter’s attitude in the still accompanying this selection online (above) radiated a cool authority that immediately caught my attention. Also, the fact that she attracts a prince and “the arbiters of morals” sounds like a love triangle I just need to witness.
Vitagraph Japonisme (US, 1910)
These three shorts all focus on America’s interest in Japanese culture at the turn of the century. Although I’m guessing they may be problematic through a modern lens, I’m curious to see what they entail.
Maciste in Hell (Italy, 1926)
I know little about Dante, I know little about Maciste (apparently a recurring character in Italian cinema), but I’m thoroughly intrigued at what battling demons in the underworld looked like on film almost a century ago.
For those attending the festival, either in person or virtually, what films are you most looking forward to?
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