Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2012: Pordenone post No 3

Monday at the Giornate closed with a brace of comic features featuring forgotten stars: Raymond Griffith’s civil war caper Hands Up! (1926) was preceded by Boris Barnet’s gentler Soviet comedy The Girl With The Hatbox (1927). Both were a pleasure, of course, but for me, the east was victorious in this particular battle.

Coming before both films was a modern silent, the slight but charming Le Petit Nuage (2012), a tale of impetuous romance in Paris made by Renée George, who was the lighting best boy on a little-seen confection of nostalgia called The Artist, released late last year. Anyone remember that one? Anyway, wonderful to see the ripple-effect work its magic, as the star of George’s film also has her own silent project in progress. Soon we’ll all be at it.

Affinities (1922)
Affinities (1922)

Working backwards through the schedule on a day when I will admit I was a little sidetracked, the programme of restored fragments produced by the Haghefilm/Selznick School fellowship 2012 won the hearts of the audience with its rare and strange beauty. The glimpses of Colleen Moore in 1922’s Affinities showed her at her winning best, although the film’s sexual politics seem terrifyingly retrogressive. There was two-strip Technicolor aplenty here: a documentary called Sports of Many Lands (1929) entranced with images of surfers on Waikiki’s deep blue ocean waves and race horses speeding down rich green furlongs. There were musical numbers, mysterious robots and dancing girls too. More, please.

There was a devil of a lot of Dickens on offer today, with the first session of the morning partnering a raucous but the most part feebly acted 1914 Martin Chuzzlewit, with the rare treat of our own Maurice Elvey’s slick, engaging modern dress Dombey and Son from 1917. Lucie Dutton says it best on Twitter (and there are more where these came from, Lucie is tweeting up a storm from the festival):

What to say of the diverse comedies collected in the Oh, Mother-in-Law! programme? Not nearly as offensive as it sounds, these shorts were often laugh-out-loud funny, with Louis Feuillade’s race film La Course des Belles-Mères (1907) and a wicked Italian number called Finalement Soli (1912) the standouts for me.

What we learned today: Defensive weapon, writing desk, modesty screen, rodent impersonator … the many and varied uses of a hatbox, as demonstrated by Anna Sten in The Girl With the … Hatbox.

Drink of the day: And every day if I get my wish: the feted Aperol Spritz.

For full details of these and all other films in the festival, the Giornate catalogue is available as a PDF by following this link.

My report from the first and second days of the festival are here and  here.

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