Planning for Podenone

2nd October 2012

So I’m excited. Over the weekend I booked my flight, and today I have confirmed my hotel reservation. This time next week I’ll be in Pordenone for the best part of a week of early and silent cinema. Which to many of you may not sound like the ideal holiday (for that’s what it is) – but I’ve been looking forward to doing this for years. Each year – and 2012 sees the 31st edition – this small Italian town hosts Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, which is the world’s key festival of silent film. I have been for a couple of days many moons ago, and I have long promised myself that I would find time to immerse myself properly in the festival’s wonders. And, finally, that time is now.

Le Giornate has an informative and – if I can use the word in this context – charming website where you can find information about the event’s history and this year’s plans (everything is in both Italian and English). There are all sorts of treats on offer, including a group of silent films starring the Russian actress Anna Sten and films drawn in the 1920s by the British director Manning Haynes from the stories of W. W. Jacobs.

The real draw of this year’s festival, however, has to be what in prospect is a wonderful programme of silent film adaptations of Charles Dickens. More than one hundred silent films were made from his works, and Pordenone has a great selection, including three major versions of Oliver Twist. But a particular treat will be the recent restorations of a group of finely mounted and respectful Danish productions made by the director A. W. Sandberg for Nordisk (including Little Dorrit, 1924, above)

One of the great things about Pordenone is that there is essentially a single track of screenings and events. Which means that everyone watches the same films, and as a consequence talks about the same films. At almost all other festivals half the time is spent hearing about things you missed, and the rest trying to pick up tips for which choice to make next. Not so at Pordenone, and it gives a great sense of focus to proceedings.

If you would like to attend vicariously, you can find the full programme here. But another wonderful aspect of the festival is that it publishes its catalogue in advance as a free downloadable .pdf. Last year’s can be found here, and this year’s has just gone up – and is available here. The bilingual catalogue, with detailed entries on each film to be shown, is a wonderful resource for everyone interested in silent cinema – and it is always a great read, whether you pick it up in a café in Pordenone town centre or, where I sometimes sample it, in bed in Balham. Your virtual visit to the festival can also be extended by my blog posts through next week.

Meanwhile, for more, see the Bristol Silents ‘Pre-highlights’ blog post.

Image: Little Dorrit, 1924, produced in Denmark and directed by A.W. Sandberg, part of the Charles Dockens retrospective; courtesy of the Stills and Posters Archive, Danish Film Institute.

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