Pordenone diary – day five

October 21, 2008 § 1 Comment

Slowly catching up…

The affaire du jours, as The Bioscope notes, was the showing of The Watermelon Patch, a 1905 Edison film with so much blatant racism as to make you want to throw your chair at the screen. It’s not often that a film asks you to share a laugh by showing Blacks locked in their home by Whites who proceed to set fire to it. Amazing, yes, that the catalog described this as a purely formal exercise in alternate cutting – though I’d respectfully disagree with Urbanora that the film ought not to have been shown. I’m certainly all the wiser (read, the more disgusted) for having seen it — and I’d love to see a program entirely devoted to racial relations in early cinema, as one comment at the Bioscope suggests.

from Blotto Online Internationalfrom Blotto Online International

The grand affair of the day, to me, was the evening concert. Jean Darling, Donald Sosin, Joanna Seaton – and you think I’m not there ! Jean Darling…I had discovered her last year at Pordenone, both on screen in some Our Gang short comedies (she started when she was 4 years old) and in person on stage at the festival (she was then…), and if you’ve never seen a real, old-time Hollywood pro – and not a fancy-smart-pants modern-day celebrity – you’ve got to see Jean Darling today. She’s beyond good. Give the woman a mike, a chair, and a stage, and she’ll ham it up as best she can – and she’s good at that, too. I didn’t say I’d like her for my grand-mother, but on stage ? Any time, any day. She lives 200% more on a stage.

So she came back this year, and sang an evening of early 1910 (and a few 1920) popular songs that dealt with “the movies”, alternating with Joanna Seaton at the mike, and even Sosin took a turn singing ! With such gems as a naughty “Take your girlie to the movies / if you can’t make love at home”

you can do a lot in seven reels

or the ethnic “When Sarah Saw Theda Bara”, and 15 other songs, and the good humor that went on on the stage between the three performers, it was quite an evening. And the songs were a brilliant, and to me moving, reminder of cinema’s popular attraction: sex, escapism, youth, a sense of freedom, a dose of enchantment, and a large helping of self-aware silliness, you could sense the revolution of the dark room on the march in those songs. Why do we still like cinema today, if not because we like stories, we like colors, we like music, we like taking our s.o. out, we like holding hands, etc. etc. etc. just like they did, one hundred years ago.

And Jean Darling, bosom-twisting:

The things you can get away with when you’re old !

“When you’re old”, yes, Jean, but mostly when you’re good ! Here’s hoping we see you next year, too. 

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