Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

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Lokke Heiss

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Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 10:37 am

It's up, folks - my review of last year's Pordenone festival! I focus on the relatively obscure career of John Collins, and the truly obscure (but wonderful) series Who's Guilty? Also of course, there is the Rin Tin Tin Awards for the best animal actor of the week...and you won't BELIEVE who won this year! (how's that for click-bait patter?)

http://www.silentera.com/articles/heiss ... e2016.html
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Daniel Eagan

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Re: Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 10:42 am

Thanks. Would love to attend one day.
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boblipton

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Re: Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 10:52 am

There has been some admiring mention of Mr. Collins, but now I gotta ask: any chance of getting some of the restored stuff on loan here? Any of our dvd mavens willing to head a kickstarter program? Pretty please?

Bob
To remain ignorant of what occurred before before you were born is to remain forever a child.
-- Marcus Tullius Cicero
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Lokke Heiss

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Re: Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 11:27 am

I think the program notes brought this up, saying something to the sort of: 'Hey, we had a program of this guy way back about 20 years ago, and nothing happened, what's going on with you guys?'

The answers are multiple, but in short: Collins just died too young - so young that he missed 'the cut' of films that stayed in the public perception/eye. After 1920, he just faded out of people's memories. If he'd had just five more years of making movies, we'd all know about him, if he'd had a normal lifespan, I think he'd be in the ranks of Capra and Ford.

Complete personal opinion: Who he reminds me of most, is Howard Hawks. That's the guy I think of when I see his films.

Back to your question: Because (outside of a few niche silent film fans) there is no interest in John Collins. Nada, nothing. No one sees any commercial benefit of putting a penny into restoring his work. This is all about Collins fans going with the idea of educating the film-interested public by pulling them all up by their bootstraps.

There is some movement in this area. Thank the stars, Dave Kehr is talking about getting a retro of his work at MoMA and that they are restoring more of his films. That's great. Then we need to get some of his films in the festival rotation. The San Francisco Film festival is the premiere silent film festival in the U.S. and that's where things would start. (I would screen Girl Without a Soul or Blue Jeans, and a short, perhaps Everlasting Triangle).

So if you are looking to do something about this, contact/give money to the SF festival with the comment about including a Collins films. The other suggestion is to write to TCM about screening one of his films.

Eventually the MoMA restorations are going to find their way to the DVD market but the above steps might hasten this event.
"You can't top pigs with pigs."

Walt Disney, responding to someone who asked him why he didn't immediately do a sequel to The Three Little Pigs
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R Michael Pyle

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Re: Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 11:31 am

IMDb only lists 4 of the 16 films in the "Who's Guilty?" series. At least that's all I can find.

Yeah, Bob, I'm with you: I'll be happy to contribute to a fund to help put on DVD any of the Collins films or those of the series. They sound absolutely wonderful. As Danny Burk might say, "juicy silents"!

Lokke, what a great review, too! Thanks!
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Danny Burk

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Re: Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 11:33 am

I'd certainly put in my share too. I've never seen even one.

Commercial interest, no. But many of the terrific recent Kickstarter releases by Ed, Ben, and others haven't been "commercial" either, and they've been funded with great success. Why not give a Collins film a try via the same route?
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Lokke Heiss

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Re: Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 11:45 am

Yes, Kickstarter-like funds WOULD work. Great idea. The drawback I'd guess is shortage of availability of prints. I know MoMA has some of his, no idea about LoC.

If anyone wants to check LoC availability of prints (or other sources) that would be the place to start.
"You can't top pigs with pigs."

Walt Disney, responding to someone who asked him why he didn't immediately do a sequel to The Three Little Pigs
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Mike Gebert

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Re: Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 11:47 am

Blue Jeans is the one I'd love to see, but the print that has played around, anyway, comes from George Eastman House.
“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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Danny Burk

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Re: Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 12:00 pm

As a start, I've checked LOC database:

The following come up with "no archival holding":
The Winding Trail
Cohen's Luck
Flower of No Man's Land
Gates of Eden
Gladiola
God's Law and Man's
The Gold Cure
Lady Barnacle
The Light of Happiness
The Mortal Sin
Dangerous Paths
Rosy O'Grady
A Weaver of Dreams

Prints exist for these titles (I didn't check for completeness):

Flower of Dusk - Canadian National Archive
Girl without a Soul - Eastman
Opportunity - Eastman
The Plowshare - MOMA
Riders of the Night - Amsterdam
Wife by Proxy - MGM archive (presumably now at Warners)
Blue Jeans - Eastman; Harvard; Danish Film Archive
Children of Eve - Eastman; LOC
The Innocence of Ruth - LOC
The Cossack Whip - LOC; Eastman; Canadian NA

So...only the last 3 at LOC. Children of Eve is out on blu-ray. And checking my list, I see that I have it - but haven't watched it yet. Oops.
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boblipton

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Re: Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 12:07 pm

So let us know, Danny.

Bob
To remain ignorant of what occurred before before you were born is to remain forever a child.
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rudyfan

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Re: Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 12:17 pm

Need to talk to Rob Byrne about this! He's about to head to Pordenone, so not the right time. I will pigeonhole him at the 1 day of silent in December.
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rudyfan

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Re: Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 12:31 pm

Okay, now I've read your excellent wrap up. Lokke, wonderful and evocative. I want to see everything! Thanks for sharing it!
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Christopher Jacobs

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Re: Pordenone 2016 Festival Review is up

PostFri Sep 22, 2017 4:46 pm

Danny Burk wrote:As a start, I've checked LOC database:

Prints exist for these titles (I didn't check for completeness):

Flower of Dusk - Canadian National Archive
Girl without a Soul - Eastman
Opportunity - Eastman
The Plowshare - MOMA
Riders of the Night - Amsterdam
Wife by Proxy - MGM archive (presumably now at Warners)
Blue Jeans - Eastman; Harvard; Danish Film Archive
Children of Eve - Eastman; LOC
The Innocence of Ruth - LOC
The Cossack Whip - LOC; Eastman; Canadian NA

So...only the last 3 at LOC. Children of Eve is out on blu-ray. And checking my list, I see that I have it - but haven't watched it yet. Oops.


Out of that list I've seen GIRL WITHOUT A SOUL, BLUE JEANS, CHILDREN OF EVE, THE INNOCENCE OF RUTH, and THE COSSACK WHIP at various festivals, mostly the Cinesation and Cinefest. All of them are quite interesting and well-done and generally spotlight Viola Dana as the star. I especially like THE COSSACK WHIP, and have seen it several times at different festivals.

CHILDREN OF EVE is another favorite of that group and is included on the Kino Blu-ray of "THE DEVIL'S NEEDLE and Other Tales of Vice and Redemption." Here's a review I wrote shortly after that came out.

THE CHILDREN OF EVE (1915) 73m *** ½
The best film on the disc may have a title rather less marketable as an exploitation picture than its two companions, but is easily the most dramatically powerful of the three in its exposure of a major social concern of its time -- child labor and dangerous factory conditions -- while also treating issues of poverty, health care, illegitimacy, prostitution, alcoholism, and honest social reformers. Equally remarkable is the fact that THE CHILDREN OF EVE is a product of the Thomas Edison Studio, often regarded as a conservative bastion of primitive filmmaking techniques, crude acting, and safe commercial formulas. This is partly because so few of its films, especially its features, have been available and partly because the company gave up movie production after 1918 just as the major Hollywood studios were emerging to dominate the world market. The more Edison films are rediscovered, the more the studio’s poor reputation is becoming revised. While some live up to their stodgy expectations, others are the equal of better-known directors and studios. THE CHILDREN OF EVE, one of several impressive pictures by John Collins, is definitely an example of the latter, even if some of the acting has a distinctly theatrical flair. Collins was a prolific writer-director for Edison whose surviving films indicate a strong command of cinematic storytelling. Tragically, most of his more than two dozen films are lost, but even more tragically his career ended when he died during the 1918 flu epidemic, still only in his twenties.

The first reel of THE CHILDREN OF EVE is set in the late 1890s, and its leisurely, simple and sentimental melodrama set largely in two adjoining apartment rooms might make a viewer anticipate that the film will be one of the lesser Edison titles, with little indication of the complexly plotted melodrama to come throughout the following hour. While this section might be shortened or even watched separately as a self-contained one-reeler, it serves as a useful dramatized prologue for the rest of the film, setting up the final scene better than a simple explanatory title. An impoverished college student named Henry Clay Madison (Robert Conness) ekes out a living as a clerk and lives next door to a disillusioned aging chorus girl named Flossie Wilson (Nellie Grant) who bitterly recalls her lost innocence. Hoping at first to reform her, Madison soon falls in love, but Flossie is too ashamed of her past to marry him and hold back his career. She leaves him heartbroken, and shortly after having her baby, dies on a slum doorstep just as Madison has finally made good and coincidentally agrees to raise the young son of a dying friend, never realizing he now has a daughter of his own.

The plot picks up seventeen years later with the baby girl now a hardened slum teen known as “Fifty-Fifty Mamie” (Viola Dana) keeping company with a middle-aged small-time crook (Thomas F. Blake) and frequenting a tavern called “The Bucket of Blood.” Madison has become a wealthy but ruthless and callous factory owner with a beard that makes him look very much like popularly reviled industrialist Henry Clay Frick (the name obviously no coincidence, and Frick was still alive at the time the film was made). Ironically the young boy Bert he raised as a son, now in his 20s (Robert Walker), spends his time as an idealistic social worker in the very slum where Mamie lives. Of course Bert has to meet and reform Mamie and they fall for each other, but when Bert falls sick, Madison does not want a person of her class associating with the boy lest she drag him down to her level (essentially the same argument Flossie had given Madison for not marrying him). After her old boyfriend kills a cop, Mamie vows to go straight for good, and agrees to work undercover at one of Madison’s factories to investigate working conditions. At this point comes the memorable recreation of the notorious 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, with Mamie severely injured and Madison finally discovering her true identity. THE CHILDREN OF EVE, however, does not stoop to the pat, saccharine Hollywood ending that would become the norm within just a few years.

Originally released in November of 1915, THE CHILDREN OF EVE is a vivid portrait of 1910s city life and attitudes by a young and vibrant director reaching the creative prime of his all-too-brief career. Effective editing, notably the use of close-ups and cutaways, intensifies details and helps reduce the need for intertitles. It also often calls attention to ironic parallels in a style usually attributed to D. W. Griffith, but obviously in common use by this time. One notable such sequence depicts Madison’s elegant luncheon contrasting with his child factory employees on their lunch break, only moments before the factory will catch fire. Dissolved-in double exposures frequently indicate flashbacks or one character thinking about another character. Another nice touch, calling to mind D. W. Griffith’s THE MOTHER AND THE LAW (already in production but not yet released -- so who influenced whom, or was it parallel story geniuses cuing into the same observations of everyday life?), has the camera linger on a little girl after Mamie leaves with her boyfriend, showing her mimicking Mamie’s showy and seductive manner of walking. Another unusual aspect for movies at this time is that the costumes in the 1890s segment are fairly accurate, and obviously from an earlier time period than the contemporary 1915-era costumes in the bulk of the film. The film’s acting may be stylized, some of it indeed very broad by the standards already developing as the norm, but it is always intensely sincere. Once again the skillful blend of numerous location exteriors (from streets to rooftops) with the studio shots gives the film a gritty realistic edge that would rarely be seen again until Italian neorealism in the 40s and the American “street films” of the 1950s and 60s. Likewise the socially conscious subject matter would soon go out of fashion in Hollywood films for the next half-century.

Luckily the film seems reasonably complete and picture quality on THE CHILDREN OF EVE is good, with some moderate but rarely distracting wear, and no nitrate decomposition to speak of. However, the transfer seems slightly soft-focus through many scenes, undoubtedly a product of the original photo-chemical preservation to safety film, as there is sometimes a faint moving double-image like the film is unsteady in the gate. Some sections are extremely sharp but it’s just not as crisp an image overall as the good sections of THE DEVIL’S NEEDLE or all of THE INSIDE OF THE WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC (which both have their own problems). Nevertheless it’s good enough that its clarity might amaze anyone who has never seen a 1910s silent movie in anything but a fuzzy contrasty dupe. Again there’s a wonderful music score by Rodney Sauer, this time sometimes also incorporating a trumpet, cello, and accordion besides the dominant piano. Particularly entertaining are the night club scenes with the music synched to the barroom musicians (although the lack of a drum on the soundtrack is slightly disconcerting). There is some discussion of THE CHILDREN OF EVE in the enclosed pamphlet, but in addition there’s a fascinating eight-minute outtake reel of raw footage from the climactic fire sequence (including the slate numbers), which used a real abandoned warehouse that was burnt down for the movie. Most of the shots were not used in the final cut, some probably felt to be an impediment to the main dramatic action (such as fire engines rushing to the scene and setting up), and others perhaps considered too disturbing (such as bodies falling from above past people scurrying down a fire escape).

THE CHILDREN OF EVE on Blu-ray --
Movie: A
Video: A-
Audio: A
Extras: C+

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