My inevitable last question of the night – what are you seeing tomorrow? – elicits a surprising response. I’d thought we’d meet up at the early screening of “Pettersson & Bendel,” part of the continually-enjoyable Cinema and the 1929 Crisis series. But Haden says “Oh, the anti-Semitic film? No, I’m going to the Italian movie, it sounded intriguing.”
On my return to the hotel I read about “La Nave delle Donne Maledette” (1954), by Raffaele Matarazzo, none of whose 40-odd movies I think I’ve ever seen. It’s part of the 60 Years of Positif tribute – I realize somehow I’ve managed to miss seeing Michel Ciment, who was listed as being part of a panel discussion the day I was cooling my heels in the Frankfurt airport. Ado Kyrou manages to make it sound like hot stuff indeed in an excerpt from his “Amour – Erotisme et Cinema.”
So I set off in the morning to at least catch the beginning of it. In my haste I do something that I usually do once a festival: I go to the wrong cinema, in this case sailing right past the actual room to the Cinemateca, furthest away from my starting point and with all its theaters locked up tighter than a drum. In my confusion I manage to hasten away into a cul-de-sac. Entering the right theater, I’m still confused: it turns out this Italian movie is showing in a dubbed French version, with Italian and English subtitles. Oy!
The color print is faded, and so is the impact of what Kyrou found so disturbing and alluring some sixty years ago. If I didn’t have a choice, I’d stick around, but the allure of Swedish 30s ant-Semitisme is too strong, and I go around the corner and thoroughly enjoy the snappily-told, reprehensible comedy with a sting.
It’s my last day, and a jam-packed, fun-filled one at that, although from the vantage point of 24 hours later, 600 miles away, and an uncertain time until I’ll be offered such a smorgasbord of cinephilia, I find myself wishing I could do it all over again, with different choices.
A last lunch at Bertino: prosciutto e melone, straw and hay with sausage sauce, tagliatelle with ragu. Only a glance at sparkling wine (dare not) and a heavily-laden dessert cart (better not).
Unable to choose between Raoul Walsh’s “Sailor’s Luck,” an improvisatory-feeling 30s comedy that I adore, and Mervyn LeRoy’s “Hard to Handle” (1933), part of the 1929 crash series, I throw up my hands and finally attend one of the numerous 1912 tribute programs, devoted to Pathe and Paris. I find it’s too much Pathe and not enough Paris; best bits, an Apache danse featuring Mistinguett, and tinted views of the Jardin du Luxembourg.
I also feel guilty that I haven’t seen any of the numerous Lois Weber films. So I stick around in the same room for a double bill featuring Mary McLaren, not having noticed that the first film (“Shoes”) I saw last year at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Oh well. It is a good one, anyway, rather more well-told than the second half of the double bill, “Saving the Family Name,” in which McLaren is less convincing as a chorus girl than she was as a shopgirl. I could have been seeing (not for the first time, it’s true) Gremillon’s luminous “Lumiere d’Ete.”
Afterwards I go (again, I’ve seen it before) to Duvivier’s rather astonishing “La Tete d’un Homme,” based on a Simenon-Maigret novel, starring the incomparable Harry Baur.