Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2013: Pordenone post No 7

Earth (1930) Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre, Kiev
Earth (1930) Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre, Kiev

Lucky number seven. Today was a red-letter-day in Pordenone for many reasons. I rewatched one of my all-time favourite films, Anny Ondra finally came good, and I managed my first Felix-to-Ko-Ko shift (with a few breaks in between). No wonder I’ve got that Friday feeling.

Excluding the charming cartoons (although strictly we shouldn’t) the day opened, and closed, with rippling cornfields. First up was Zemlya (Earth, 1930): Dovzhenko’s classic hymn to nature. It played in the Ukrainian strand, with an impressive recorded score by DakhaBrakha. Just sublime and well worth the early start.

Giornate del Cinema Muto 2013
Giornate del Cinema Muto 2013

The day’s final cornfields came courtesy of the Swedish programme, and Rågens Rike (The Kingdom of Rye, 1929): a sumptous rural romantic drama with extra mysticism, sex and violence. Very Thomas Hardy. Gorgeously photographed, with flashes of Expressionism, it was directed by Ivan Johansson and adapted from a Finnish poem. Like so many of these Swedish films, it concerns a couple happily in love and the complications keeping them apart. The ending is beautiful, but as we’ve come to expect, slooooooow. It couldn’t be much more different from Earth, but there was a pleasing unity to the day, really.

Drvosÿteÿp (Z‡zracÿn‡ lŽcÿba Dra.Jenkinse) Národní filmový archiv, Praha
Drvosÿteÿp (Z‡zracÿn‡ lŽcÿba Dra.Jenkinse) Národní filmový archiv, Praha

I promised you some happy news about Anny Ondra –and this is it. Another Karel Lamac director-star job this, but one with a decent role for Ondra, who is all impish radiance. In Drvostep (The Lumberjack, 1923) Ondra is a woman-child in ringlets, the landowner’s daughter facing marriage to a local brute, but dreaming of a “hunk” instead. Lamac is a wealthy (and hunky) Prague banker taking a season as a lumberjack for the good of his health. Just when some of us had given up on her, Ondra came alive! Perhaps it was the fresh forest air, though more likely it was due to Lamac’s growing confidence as a director and Ondra being handed a character with more facets than frocks.

Scherben (Strepy) (1921) Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin
Scherben (1921) Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin

There was an enticing afternoon of early cinema in prospect but before that, before lunch even, a stark entry in the Canon Revisited listings: Scherben (Shattered, Lupu Pick,1921) is dark and brooding kammerspiel about an isolated family riven by a single act. The consequences grow more and more deadly serious until the final, brutal ending. No dialogue, no catharsis, just oppressive emotional pain, accompanied hauntingly by Neil Brand on the piano. Unmissable, unless you were feeling especially delicate.

Arrivéed'un train en gare, Paris ( Photothèque Cinémathèque Suisse
Arrivéed’un train en gare, Paris ( Photothèque Cinémathèque Suisse

A solid hour and a half of very short films, many versions and revisions of each other, on subjects from bullfighting to railways, magic shows to Queen Victoria’s jubilee. It all adds up to a fascinating afternoon, but a blogging headache. What we saw more particularly were Joly-Normandin films taken from the Cinemateca Portuguesa, the Cinémathèque Suisse and the BFI. These titles can been distinguished by, among other things, their unusual squarish frame-shape: the Joly-Normandin machines used a five-perforation system. You can see the shape in the images above and below, and those distinctive frames were all packed with life and interest. The audience was especially keen on scenes of a woman undressing in her boudoir while her husband lurked behind a screen, which played again in a second version with bonny hand-tinting for an extra hint of spice.

Le Livreur, le Coursier et le Petit Ramoneur Photothèque Cinémathèque Suisse
Le Livreur, le Coursier et le Petit Ramoneur Photothèque Cinémathèque Suisse

Intertitle of the day

It has to come from Rågens Rike. I think I will plump for Spangar’s boast about sowing his wild oats: “Wherever I settled down, they had to put feet on barrels because they ran out of cradles.”

Animal star of the day

Tough competition. But it has to be Ondra’s donkey: Othello.

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