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Pordenone season | Silent London

Fall vibes. It’s giving pumpkin spice lattes, mellow fruitfulness, Luke Danes in a flannel shirt and the scent of a freshly sharpened pencil. This autumnal atmosphere can only mean one thing. Pack your bags, gang, we’re going to Pordenone.

The Pordenone Silent Film Festival hasn’t begun yet, it runs 7-14 October, but today the programme was announced, so let’s take a look and enjoy some shivers of anticipation. Shivers? Best put a cardigan on, it’s October.

First, the headliners: Saturday night’s opening is film by Julien Duvivier, a great French filmmaker whose reputation has only been growing as more and more of his early work becomes widely available. We’ll be seeing La Divine Croisière (1929), one of his final silents, an elemental tale of faith and nature set in Brittany, with a new score by Antonio Copppola. And the festival closes on the following Saturday with a classic slapstick double-bill of Chaplin’s The Pilgrim (1923) and Keaton’s Sherlock Jr (1924), the latter with a new orchestral score by Daan van den Hurk.

Other evening highlights include Circe, the Enchantress, a previously thought lost Mae Murray film, Poker Faces, a side-splitting comedy featuring Edward Everett Horton, whose early work is well worth discovering, William Wyler’s silent western Hell’s Heroes (1929) and Merry-Go-Round (1923), a film begun by Erich Von Stroheim and finished by Rupert Julian, in somewhat acrimonious circumstances. I am very keen to see Pêcheur d’Islande (Jacques de Baroncelli, 1924), which promises to be a real beauty. It’s based on a novel by Pierre Loti, and there will be more of him, too.

Hell’s Heroes (William Wyler, 1929)

The midweek treat is delightfully a British silent, Maurice Elvey’s proto-feminist romance Hindle Wakes (1927). But there are more British specialities in the programme – a sequence of early British films from the Filmoteca de Catalunya, 1897-1909, and a French-made travelogue of London, inventively shot by Jacques Haïk’s production company in 1927. There’s even a Walter Forde comedy, Would You Believe It? (1929) in the Transatlantic Echoes slapstick strand.

Le p’tit Parigot (1926)

This year’s morning serial is Le p’tit Parigot (The little Parisian, 1926), starring comedian Georges Biscot, so set your alarm clocks for that. I am very excited about the second half of the Ruritania strand, promising much European glamour, and for some high style, a strand of films showcasing the Orphist designs of Sonia Delaunay, including Le Vertige (Marcel L’Herbier, 1926).

I know very little about Harry Piel, but I do hear he was fond of explosions (they called him “the dynamite director”) so his films promise to bring some excitement and I suspect the pianists are limbering up in readiness. Look out for Marlene Dietrich in Sein Grösster Bluff (1927). For more action-packed cinema, there are two double-bills devoted to western star Harry Carey. Hold on to your seats.

Sein Grösster Bluff (Harry Piel, 1927)

The Canon Revisited strand is full of temptation, from Karl Grune to Louis Feuillade and I looked forward to a series of surprises in the Rediscoveries section too. TBH, most of the Transatlantic Echoes strand is new to me, too so I expect to learn a lot, and laugh a lot.

If you can’t get to Italy this year, many of this year’s most exciting films are available online, on the streaming version of the festival. Find out more about that here. And of course, I will be blogging every day from the festival, as in previous years, so you’ll always be up to date.

  • Remember, we’re talking about Italian autumn here, the weather forecast for the festival is currently rather pleasant.
  • Silent London will always be free to all readers. If you enjoy checking in with the site, including reports from silent film festivals, features and reviews, please consider shouting me a coffee on my Ko-Fi page.

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