Le Giornate del Cinema Muto & Film Festivals


As I began to type this, I was mid-flight traveling home from Italy. Over a month has passed and my heart is still very much full after this trip. To visit Italy has long been a dream of mine. While I did not journey any further than my ultimate destination in Pordenone, this trip will be only what I hope will be the first of many return visits to Italy. Not only to Le Giornate del Cinema Muto and the lovely little city of Pordenone, but to the whole of Italy. My love of opera beckons me to return, too!

 Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

If you love silent film and are on the fence about making the trip to Pordenone for this festival, my advice is this, do not hesitate just DO IT. I have never experienced a more welcoming city or group of people than those who live and work in Pordenone. Nearly everyone speaks some English and they are very pleased when you do speak Italian. They were very forgiving of my very poor attempts in communicating with them in their native tongue.  I did not spend a lot of time exploring very far beyond the main piazza which became home base; Palace Hotel Moderno, Teatro Verdi and the Posta. I shall remedy this and expand my vistas on my next trip in 2022.

Getting to Pordenone from Venice/Marco Polo airport is pretty simple, you can travel by bus, by train or if you are flush, by taxi. I was advised to splurge and take a taxi after arriving because I would be tired after a long-haul flight; exhausted was more like it. This was, for me, very good advice. It was the more expensive option and I was happy to get to my hotel with relative ease. Only hitch was that because my flight had been changed (not by me) my arrival was one day later on Saturday and the taxi had to drop me because of the Saturday outdoor market. It was not a real issue, just a few short minutes walking and I was where I needed to be.

Hotels in Pordenone can serve all budgets. I stayed at the spendiest hotel in town Palace Hotel Moderno and, by San Francisco standards, it is an incredible bargain at 85€ per night. I had budgeted for far more and was pleasantly surprised when my hotel bill was totted up. The hotel staff were friendly, the service amazing, the hotel was spotless and the daily breakfast is something I shall very much miss. I could get quite used to a continental breakfast, in fact, I did! If this does not fit your budget, there are other hotel options that are half the price and just as nice at 40€ per night. Some a few blocks off the piazza, the city is very walkable.

The restaurants are numerous and I did not have a single bad meal. I was told by friends who are regulars, if there were a bad place, the restaurant would not last. This makes sense because the places we dined were filled with locals, too. While not a bad meal, the trip to the sushi restaurant was not bad, it was simply weird. Living where I do, I can pretty much trip over the sheer number of sushi restaurants just by walking a few blocks. I do not know about the rest of Italy, but, sushi is not something you need to worry about. Flying home, and I do return to a city with fabulous seafood, I shall dream of a griliga mista del mar I ate for the next 12 months. I stupidly did not order it twice. It was THAT good, honestly. As an American, forget everything you think you know about pizza. Italian pizza is another animal entirely. The variety of toppings is as varied as the number of stars in the sky. The constant is this, the dough is incredibly thin, with a much smaller crust on the ends, sauced lightly, topped beautifully and on a single plate. For about 7-10€ depending on the place, you will have a fantastic pizza. Each time I took half or ¾ away with me for later in my hotel. Cold pizza in Italy is the same as it is in the U.S. divine at any time. I came away knowing, as I had expected, I knew nothing about Italian food at all. The burrata, well, until you have had it on Italian shores, you have never had it. Nirvana. 

The pasta was, as expected beautiful. Handmade and perfectly cooked. The pumpkin ravioli with a sauce made with a bit of broth, sausage and nuts (no clue what kind) was quite simply amazing. Fresh tagliatele with porcini mushrooms, umami bomb in your mouth. Prosciutto, look I know we can get proper imported prosciutto sliced thin at Molinari deli in North Beach. I have had it, it is delicious. It.Is.Not.The.Same. This buttery, smooth, this lightly salted, yet sweet, transparently thin slice of cured meat with a fresh fig is like manna from heaven. How are Italians so thin?

Now, I have been dreaming of fresh porcini mushrooms. I have cooked with domestic U.S. cepes and they are wonderful. Not the same, of course. Again, in Italy the real thing is like nothing else. I had them as often as I found them on the menu. Alas, one place was out if them and served me another pasta dish with black mushrooms, not porcini, but just as incredibly flavorful. I suspect any funghi on the menu will be something special. My friend Valerio picked up some dried porcini for me, they came back in my suitcase and I cannot wait to try them out soon.

The wines, the beer, aqua frizzante (fizzy water) my thirst was quenched. The local bar Posta on the piazza next to my hotel was a busy spot filled with festival attendees and locals. The Spritz Aperol was not overrated. Refreshing, delicious, I will be making these at home. Again, my drink of choice was aqua frizzante, suits just fine, no need to consume alcohol unless you want to. Not to mention, have I mentioned, you can buy fizzy water with varying levels of fizz! 

Coffee! Italians are justly proud of their coffee. Not a St***cks in sight, thank heaven. At breakfast, I indulged myself in cappuccino, often more than one. Delicious and smooth. Coffee is an art in Italy. Your mileage may vary from hotel to hotel, but, breakfast was lovely. Included in your hotel fees, what a bargain! A variety of croissants, my fave had a dollop of pastry cream inside, breads, spreads, tarts, fresh fruit, fresh juices, mueseli, yogurt, cheese, charcuterie, and if you desired a more american style scrambled eggs, etc. Thanks to jetlag I missed breakfast the first 3 days. It was a treat and always greeted with a hearty buon giorno from the staff.

I found in my wanderings to the local grocery store to supply my desire and stock the mini fridge with a six pack of, yes, aqua frizzante (1.6€) lots of temptations in the prepared food section. Fritatta, smoked mozzarella balls, arancini, surprisingly Mortadella from Bolongna (2€) and sliced cheese for late night snacking. I bought some amazing crackers, forgot to photograph the box to see if I can find them in the U.S. Also, en route to the grocery a beautiful bakery with gorgeous focaccia and delicious biscotti (both frutta and ciocolatta) and a whole manner of cookies, breads and little pizzas. I will return there next year to try one of those delicious looking pizzas. I also need to be led, by hand, to the pasticeria that made sfogliatele, I never found it though was told it was not far from my hotel, I must have missed the street it was on. Regretsy!

Next, do not miss any gelateria you run across. My favorite, was my first. Other regulars said it was just “okay” there were better spots. The first taste of bacio con nutella and I was a goner. I went to four different spots during my stay and all were delicious. My last visit to “The chocolate place” was definitely higher end, but the triple confection of milk, chocolate and noci (hazelnut, my drug of choice) was so worth the 8€. Next year shall be the hot chocolate, thick like lava, it looked truly decadent and amazing. I was in a rut tasting the numerous flavors, and 2 days I missed having gelato (criminal). The surprise was zucco (pumpkin) with candied ginger and ginger syrup. I had that one twice! 

The upshot is, you can dine out for any budget and eat well. It was shocking to me how affordable it is because I budgeted for much more. It helped that the dollar was stronger, might not be so much so next year. Nevertheless, I have a good ballpark for the cost of the trip and will plan accordingly. 

Now, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto is an amazingly, carefully curated block of cinema from around the globe. Headed by director Jay Weissberg, it is thoughtful and challenging, too. Staffed by the loveliest crew and volunteers who work so hard. It was a pleasure to deal with anyone associated with Le Giornate. We could not enjoy the opening festival party, but, we connected in a more meaningful way just by being there and being together. 2021 was especially challenging for everyone involved because of COVID. Just because the schedule of films was shorter, I do not think the staff worked any less hard, they did. I could not express it to each one, but, I thank them here all the same for making it a perfect week.

With shorter programs in order to clean the Teatro Verdi in between, on the plus side it made my debut festival very easy for me to acclimate. Socially distanced seating still allowed for you to chat with your neighbors, we were required to wear masks, which was fine. Everyone had their temperature taken prior to entry. Mask protocols and proof of vaccination were required. I felt very safe all over Pordenone, not only in the Teatro. Everyone wore masks and it is not a big deal, safe and respectful for everyone.

One thing I was not expecting was that the films actually did start on time, almost without fail. There were no introductions and that suited me just fine. The Teatro Verdi is very intimate and comfortable, at least where I sat on the platea (orchestra). My big regret of this trip was in not checking the local schedule of events, had I stayed a day longer I could have heard Maurizio Pollini play a concert. He remains one of my favorite pianists and it would have been amazing to hear him play a recital in such an intimate hall. I shall pay closer attention next year.

There is no question we are treated to screenings with top notch accompanists. We were absolutely spoiled! I am familiar and always pleased to hear Stephen Horne, Frank Bockius, Donald Sosin, Philip Carli and Guenter Buchwald since they are regulars at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. New to me were Maud Nelissen,  Daan van den Hurk, Gabrielle Thibaudeau, Neil Brand and John Sweeney. It was also a treat to hear a new score for Lady Windermere’s Fan conducted by Carl Davis himself. The combination of all was an aural treat and feats of virtuosity you seldom hear. I am particularly envious of my friends in U.K. who get to hear Neil Brand, John Sweeney and Stephen Horne so often. Silent film is alive and well in the U.K. And how lucky they are!

The other bonus was meeting online friends for the first time. Welcomed, I felt like family right away. Next trip, though how I will manage it, is to see more of the place I am staying. Pordenone is a lovely little town with meandering streets that I need to meander. I am also going try and come a few extra days early so I can acclimate by visiting Castellaneta and to see, at last, the Museo Rudolph Valentino. This is all the way and about as far away from Pordenone as can be. Nevertheless, I need to make it happen in 2022.

I lament it took me so long to get to Italy and Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, but, I am so happy that I finally did. I was so sorry to leave in one way. In another, I missed my cat Miss Tango terribly. I also missed sleeping in my own bed. I shall take the next 12 months to save for 2022 and to seriously study some Italian. I want to be able to converse with people (I found I could read a good deal of the Italian subtitles for the films). I just cannot put the words together to make a sentence. I am looking forward to making the trip next year. It was heaven.

My flights to and from were pretty good (except that final flight from Atlanta to SFO, pure misery). The airline gods smiled on me the long leg from Venice to Atlanta as the seat next to me was empty! Delta Comfort+ is not bad! Might try to upgrade for next year since not only am I coming home with € in my wallet for the kitty for 2022, I spent a lot less than I thought that I would. Granted nary a postcard was purchased, next year I will bring home a souvenir or two. This year, I am filled with warm memories and that is enough!

My recaps for the 2021 Le Giornate del Cinema Muto can be read here:

Day 1; Day 2; Day 3; Day 4; Day 5; Day 6; Day 7 & Day 8 

Please forgive the numerous typos, I was typing on my iPad and missed many in attempts at cleanup at 2am.

Other Film Festivals

In the U.S. we have plenty of film festivals to enjoy throughout the year. Lucky am I that I live in San Francisco which hosts The San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Looking forward to making a return to The Castro next spring. There is something for everyone's budget, be it Cinecon, Cinevent just held their final festival, never fear, it is re-branded as Columbus Moving Picture Show, and Capitolfest to name a few.

A few weeks back I caused a little kerfuffle on twitter when I expressed shock at the cost of the passes to the TCM Film Festival. 

I have never been to the TCM Fest and likely never will be. I did not mean to offend devotees and dedicated festival goers. After going to Pordenone, this just seems to me to be incredibly expensive. Granted, I know it costs money to put on festivals, rent venues, etc. I completely understand the familiar vibe and camaraderie you feel with your like-minded peeps watching films. For the cost of a top tier festival pass, I can fly to Italy, pay for my hotel, festival pass & eat like a queen (did I mention I will be in Italy?). Granted, Italy is not Hollywood, but. I've been to Hollywood enough to know even Hollywood is not quite the magical place it once was. Again, ymmv.

What bugs me about the TCM Festival is the having to stand in line for films because your pass does not guarantee entry. For the fees for these passes, that seems insane. Not to mention, you need to budget for hotel, car/airfare and meals all on top of the pass. As tempting as this is, I will save my pennies and go back to Italy. ymmv and that is okay with me. 

The main thing is, enjoy your movies at whatever festival, venue you choose to go to. Spread the gospel, talk about films you love and share them with friends, family and new people jumping into the fold. Movies are magic and it is so wonderful we have the chance to share them together. 


Tinky said…
It sounds like a wonderful experience; I'm happy for you! Thank you for sharing a little of the magic....

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