Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

I recently attended Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2010–a week-long festival of silent film in Pordenone, Italy. It was my second annual festival–I initially came and returned as part of their Collegium program, designed to help integrate young scholars and enthusiasts of silent film into the veteran community–and it was so nice to be back: to see friends from last year as well as make some new ones. The week’s schedule is awfully intense, with films being screened more or less solidly from 9 am to about midnight each day, but (in addition to the practical necessity of fitting everything into the schedule) I think the unrelenting, physically (and psychologically) demanding nature of the experience also helps build a community atmosphere. Going through such a rigorous experience as a group somehow kind of bonds everyone together, and people sort of develop a rhythm of watching, eating, and sleeping throughout the week. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see old favorite films and recently unearthed treasures, and to meet new people all engaged in fascinating pursuits related to silent cinema.

According to my observations, one of this year’s biggest crowd-pleasers was Giovanni Pastrone’s Il Fuoco (1915) starring the Italian diva Pina Menichelli as a Vamp-like Dutchess who seduces a poor painter and then drives him insane.  The best part of the film (in addition to a few incredible intertitles) is the recurring owl motif throughout. It is seen in he Dutchess’ hat, her castle is inexplicably owl-shaped, and [spoiler alert] when the painter is in the asylum, he listlessly paints pictures of owls and folds them out of origami. By the end of the week, many of the terrific images in the films blur together, and they are easily lost without a serious note-taking regime. I am happy to report, however, that this woman with her owl hat will remain distinct for me for years to come.
(Image from here).

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Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

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