The 35th Pordenone Silent Film Festival: Day 8

The last day of the festival was a short one for me – hence this shorter post
(*collective audible sighs of relief from the readers*). I missed the big event of the day because of an early train, even though it was possibly the biggest event of the festival – the closing night screening of The Thief of Bagdad (Raoul Walsh, 1924). Again, like the opening night, it was accompanied by a full orchestra.

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“Look at meeee!” – Douglas Fairbanks

Thief of Bagdad is probably known for being one of the best films starring one of the biggest stars of the silent era – Douglas Fairbanks. For this festival however, there were two things that got the most buzz regarding this particular screening: William Cameron Menzies’ masterful art direction on the big screen and the recently discovered lost original score for the film, re-composed, synchronized and conducted by the great Mark Fitz-Gerald.

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Douglas Fairbanks and The Thief of Bagdad (Raoul Walsh, 1924)  was the poster-boy of the festival

But because an early flight was much cheaper, I didn’t get to experience it.

😦

Before leaving however, I did sneak in some time in for the last Collegium dialogue, which was a bit of a melancholic, bittersweet affair as we all knew this was the last time for this year. But there’s always next year!

The last part of the Polish program ended strong with A Strong Man (Mocny czlowiek, Henryk Szaro, 1929). As my film professor Bjørn Sørenssen remarked, this is Polish expressionism! A man with little writing talent kills his friend in order to steal his unpublished manuscript and pass it off as his, in order to get fame and fortune. Stylistically, it has all the trademarks of a German expressionist film – distorted figures, chiaroscuro effects and rejection of any realistic depiction of anything, instead focusing on the madness that resides within the main character Henryk Bielecki (Gregori Chmara). I never expected to see anything like this from Poland, which goes again to show that pre-WW2 Polish cinema was very diverse – and also very good. I have enjoyed every film I have seen of the program.

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Gregori Chmara in A Strong Man (Henryk Szaro, 1929) (photo: Filmoteka Narodowa)

And that’s about it – sadly, I missed the screening of Yasujiro Ozu’s most-likely-a-masterpiece-because-all-his-films-are-great I Was Born But… (1932), I also missed The Woman Disputed (Henry King, 1928) as part of the William Cameron Menzies program. Nor did I see anything of the Al Christie program, a director of comedies, which I heard great things about from other Collegians. But in a festival like this, you can’t see everything every day. The program is packed to the brim, starting every day at 9 AM and often ending an hour past midnight. So Ozu, Christie and Menzies will have to accept my apologies.

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Don’t look at me like that boys, I swear I will watch the next Ozu! (I Was Born, But… (Yasujiro Ozu, 1932))

So I guess this is it. By the time this is out, it will have been a week since the festival has ended. And while I felt exhausted right after coming home to Trondheim, Norway – with a week’s time to look back on it -I feel so happy I went. I’ve had great festival experiences before in Berlin, Bergen and Trondheim – but this was something special. I can see why so many people return to Pordenone every year, it is a week to catch up with rare films and other rare individuals who share a love for silent film. It’s an opportunity to discover the past – quite intensively, I might add. And it’s a place for unique cinematic experiences, where else can you really go to, where a screening has someone playing the piano and the violin simultaneously? Or discuss the merits of Sao Paulo, Symphony of a Metropolis (Kemeny & Lustig, 1929) as a city symphony film.


Arriverderci, Pordenone!

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