26th Pordenone Silent Film Festival
Comedy Strikes Back!
by Ramin S. Khanjani
Finally on its 26th anniversary, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto returned to its original place, Pordenone. In fact moviegoers' opinions were divided over this relocation; people who started their experience with Giornate during its temporary days in Sacile, regretted missing the tranquil and quiet atmosphere of that city, while its old customers who remembered previous festivals in Pordenone, were content. The 26th Giornate opened officially with the screening of Griffith's semi-historical drama, Orphans of the Storm (1921), but prior to the screening and in a brief opening ceremony, a medal was justly awarded to David Robinson, director of the festival to appreciate his efforts for the festival during all these years. This year’s festival consisted of the following sections: The Other Weimar, Le silence est d'Or (a retrospective of Rene Clair's silent films), Starewitch - Wizard of Puppet Animation, 11th Part of Griffith Project, Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Hungarian National Film Archives, Annie Bos Remembered, Early Cinema and Out of Frame. Most screenings took place at the recently restored, Teatro Verdi, and the small auditorium at its rear was mainly used for video shows and the Collegium sessions. Jonathan Dennis memorial lecture was given by John Canemaker, the prominent independent and Oscar winner animator, who did a splendid job in talking about the life and the works of the pioneer animator, Winsor McKay. His lecture was accompanied with the screenings of 4 of McKay's most important films, while during the screening of Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), he tried to re-enact the first screenings of this film by addressing the creature on the screen (as McKay himself actually did) and this made his lecture even more impressive. In the closing night of the festival, Canemaker received Jean Mitry award for his contributions to early animation studies. The other Mitry award winner was, Madeline Metz, the retired librarian of the Library of Congress, who received it for providing extensive help to the researchers throughout her career.
Perhaps the most publicized event of the festival was screening of the short All at Sea (1933), made by the famous journalist, Alistair Cooke, who accompanied Charles Chaplin and his partner at that time, Paulette Goddard, in one of their boat trips and put the shots taken during the trip into this film in which Chaplin also poses several comic figures in front of the camera. However, due to some problems, the DVD version of the film was shown in the festival. It was not the only presence of Chaplin in this year’s festival; In Rene Clair's Le voyage Imaginaire (1925) and Starewitch's Amour Noir et Blanc (1923), the figure of small tramp was present wandering in some sort of fantastic world. In this way, both directors, who themselves were two great masters of cinema, paid tribute to the great comedian of cinema and this testifies on the enormous influence of Chaplin and the character he created on the whole world of cinema.
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