Montclair Film Festival 2016: 'The Front Page,' a digitally restored classic

Ricardo Kaulessar

4/30/2016 12:00:00 AM

Back in February, when The Montclair Times did its top ten list of favorite journalism movies, one movie did not make the cut.

Now, "The Front Page" gets to be on a page, if not the front page, so to speak, in this newspaper.

The 1931 classic, which would be remade nine years later as another classic, "His Girl Friday," as well as a 1974 version with the same name, is being shown during the Montclair Film Festival.

And it will be on the big screen in a new digitally restored print courtesy of the Film Foundation, the nonprofit organization founded by Martin Scorsese and other filmmakers in 1990 for the purposes of film preservation and the exhibition of restored and classic cinema.

The screwball comedy directed by Lewis Milestone ("All Quiet on The Western Front") is based on a 1928 play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, and stars Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien as the editor and reporter of a Chicago newspaper who conspire to hide an accused murderer who escapes from jail in order to get their exclusive story with him.

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Tom Hall, executive director of the festival, said the screening came about after conversations with Montclair resident Margaret Bodde, executive director of the Film Foundation.

"I love the Film Foundation and their mission, and one of the things that gets lost in the shuffle of film festivals is restorations and film preservations," Hall said. He hopes the public will check out the restored print, which he called "beautiful and pristine." If there's enough of an audience, he plans to show other restored films at the MFF space on Bloomfield Avenue in the future.

Hall said he is also a big fan of "The Front Page," which he called the "the grandfather of newspaper movies." He said he thought it would be perfect to show in Montclair, which is home to many journalists.

As for the movie, Hall said what he appreciates about it is that it serves as a kind of time capsule.

"Movies are a great way to travel the world without having to leave your house, and with 'The Front Page,' it's really fun to go back and time travel to see the history of cinematic storytelling," Hall observed.

Despite its age, Hall observed, the movie still holds up with a "lot of freshness and the jokes even land pretty well."

Bodde said she also is looking forward to "The Front Page" showing.

"The Montclair Film Festival is becoming a world-class film festival, and in my opinion, one of the reasons why is that it includes restorations of classic films," she said.

The restoration of the 1931 movie came about when the Film Foundation and the Academy Film Archive worked together, starting about three years ago. She said the challenge was that the original negative of the film no longer existed, which would enable the making of a new print.

"The film had gone into the public domain and there was no studio that was responsible for maintaining the film," Bodde said. "The sources to use for the restoration were different copies."

She said months of research that included studying the production files of the movie as well as finding original audio elements helped in the restoration of the film.

Bodde hopes that her fellow Montclairites will come out and see the movie to gain an appreciation of some of the things that have made her a fan.

"The writing is one of the stars of the show, which made the film one of the earliest examples of screwball comedies," Bodde said. "This is the ultimate newspaper movie, it shows the scrappy journalist who will do anything for a story."


Cannes Classics 2016

4/20/2016 12:00:00 AM

Bertrand Tavernier with a world premiere preview, a conversation with William Friedkin, a 1966 celebration, the 70th anniversary of the Fipresci prize, Wiseman & Depardon, two giant documentary filmmakers, unknown features from far away countries, film libraries honored, Eastern Europe movies, documentaries about cinema, great popular films, genre films, science fiction, comedies, an animation film, gothic horror, westerns: this is Cannes Classics 2016.


Most of the films which will be presented will be released in theaters and on DVD/Blu-ray. In whole or in part, the Cannes Classics program will be screened at Les Fauvettes theater (Paris), at the festival Cinema Rittrovato (Bologna), at the Institut Lumière (Lyon).





• Voyage à travers le cinéma français by Bertrand Tavernier (2016, 3h15, France). 

 “This work as a citizen and spy, as an explorer and as a painter, as a columnist and as an adventurer that have been described so well by many authors, from Casanova to Gilles Perrault, is not a beautiful definition of a filmmaker that we want to apply to Renoir, Becker, to the Vigo of Zéro de Conduite, to the Duvivier of Pépé le Moko, as well as Truffaut, Franju or Demy. To Max Ophuls and also Bresson. And to less known directors whom, during a scene or a film, sparkle an emotion, find some surprising truths. I would like this film to be an act of gratitude to all the filmmakers, writers, actors and musicians that have apparead suddenly in my life. Memory warms up: this film is a bit of coal for winter nights.”


A Little Bear-Gaumont-Pathé coproduction, with the participation of CANAL+, CINE+, of the SACEM. And with the support Région Ile-de-France, in partnership with the CNC. International sales: Gaumont. Distribution in France: Pathé. The film will be released in theaters in October 2016.  





The American filmmaker will give the annual Cinema Masterclass hosted by film critic Michel Ciment on Wednesday, May, 18th. He will also introduce a restored surprise film at Buñuel Theater and Sorcerer (1977) at the Cinéma de la Plage.


Sorcerer presented by La Rabbia. A Warner Bros Restoration under the supervision of Ned Price, Vice President of Mastering at Warner Bros. and William Friedkin.  Scan 4 K from the 35mm négative. Audio restauration by Aaron Levy from 35mm 4-stereo track. Color-grading supervision by Bryan McMahan.

Thanks to Bob Finkelstein, Karen Magid, Craig Kornblau, Dan O’Rourke, Traci Caroll, Wallon Green, Bud Smith.





• The Battle of the Rails opened this mini-retrospective and the Festival de Cannes has kept on welcoming the restorations of the films which won the Palme d’or. In 2016 we are going back to the year 1966 and its two winners, Pietro Germi and Claude Lelouch. They were awarded the prize by the jury presided over by Sophia Loren. 


• Signore & signori (The Birds, the Bees and the Italiansby Pietro Germi (1966, 2h, Italy/France)

Presented by Cineteca di Bologna, Istituto Luce - Cinecittà, DEAR International. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna, Istituto Luce - Cinecittà and DEAR International at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory.


• Un Homme et une femme (A Man and a Woman) by Claude Lelouch (1966, 1h42, France)

Presented by Les Films 13. The film has been restored by Eclair laboratory in Vanves. It was scanned and color-graded from the original 35mm color and black and white negative with Claude Lelouch. It was digitally restored and finalized in 2K for the DCP. The sound was restored from the original mono magnetic 35mm.

Restoration and digitization with the support of the CNC.





• Faits divers by Raymond Depardon (1983, 1h30, France)

Presented by Palmeraie et désert with the support of the CNC. Original negative digitized and restored frame by frame in 2K by Eclair. Restoration and color-grading supervised by Raymond Depardon who will introduce his film before the screening.


• Hospital by Frederick Wiseman (1969, 1h24, USA)

Presented by Zipporah Films and Blaq Out in partnership with Doc & Film and UniversCiné, Hospital was restored in a 35 mm copy by the Library of Congress Audiovisual Conservation Center from original camera negatives in the Zipporah Films Collection.

Upon this occasion Frederick Wiseman will be present at Cannes and be awarded the Prix Consécration by France Culture radio station.





• Farrebique by Georges Rouquier (1946, 1h27, France)

Presented by Les Documents cinématographiques. The film was digitized and restored by Eclair with the support of the CNC. The 2K restoration has been made from a nitrate negative and nitrate interpositive. Cristina Martin at the Documents Cinématographiques coordinated and managed the project.





Cannes Classics programs documentaries as every year—a way to tell the history of cinema by cinema itself.  


• The Cinema Travelers by Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya (2016, 1h36, India)

Presented and produced and by Cave Pictures (India). 

The portrait of a traveling movie theater in India, which continues to bear the magic of the images to a stunned audience, is faced with technological, numerous and complex changes. A projector repairman narrates film changes with poetry, philosophy and pragmatism.


• The Family Whistle by Michele Russo (2016, 1h05, Italy)

Presented by American Zoetrope, produced par Ulisse Cultural Association. 

The Coppola family—their arrival in the US, their links with their native Italy and their relationship to music. A lot of interviews and malicious anecdotes from one of the greatest clans of today’s cinema. With Francis Coppola and Talia Shire. 


• Cinema Novo by Eryk Rocha (2016, 1h30, Brazil)

Presented by FiGa Films. Produced by Aruac Filmes & Coqueirão Pictures, co-produced by Canal Brasil & FM Produções.

A political and poetic movie essay, focusing on the major films of the Cinema Novo wave in Brazil. Numerous interviews with directors Nelson Pereira dos Santos, Glauber Rocha, Leon Hirszman, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Ruy Guerra, Walter Lima Jr. and Paulo César Saraceni.


• Midnight Returns: The Story of Billy Hayes and Turkey by Sally Sussman (2016, 1h39, USA)

Presented and produced by Midnight Return LLC, in association with Old Forest Hill Productions, Inc.  

The story of the film Midnight Express by Alan Parker (1980) as told by those who made it: director Alan Parker, screenwriter Oliver Stone and producer David Puttnam. In parallel the real protagonist Billy Hayes discusses his personal journey and how his life has changed. Turkey, the image and the diplomatic relations of which were affected by the film, gives its point of view, as Billy Hayes tries to go back there to rebuild broken links.  


• Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fischer and Debbie Reynolds by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens (2016, 1h35, USA)

Presented by HBO Documentary Films, produced by HBO and RatPac Documentary Films. 

The life and intimate relationship of two actresses: Carrie Fischer, the heroine of Star Wars, and Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds who starred in Singing in the Rain. The big story and the small story unfold before our eyes. A tender documentary on two golden ages of American cinema.


• Gentleman Rissient by Benoît Jacquot, Pascal Mérigeau and Guy Seligmann (2015, 1h14 minutes, France)

Presented and produced by SODAPERAGA and CINE+ (Bruno Deloye). 

A film co-directed by Benoît Jacquot, Pascal Mérigeau and Guy Seligmann to unveil Pierre Rissient, a man of discovery—publicist, producer, director and tireless ambassador of world cinema.   


• Close encounters with Vilmos Zsigmond by Pierre Filmon (2016, 1h22, France)

Presented and produced by FastProd, Lost Films and Radiant Images with the participation of TCM Cinéma. To be released in French theaters. 

The life of cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. From the streets of Budapest to Hollywood he describes his out of the ordinary journey. Many performers, including John Travolta and Nancy Allen, and famous cinematographers talk, question him and we discover a complete artist.        


• Et La femme créa Hollywood (Women Who Run Hollywood) by Clara and Julia Kuperberg (2015, 52mn, France)

Presented and produced by Wichita Films and OCS.  

Exploring the exciting stories of Lois Weber, Mary Pickford and Dorothy Arzner, we discover a passionate gallery of pioneers who also created Hollywood. What do they have in common? They are all women and they have all been almost forgotten.


• Bernadette Lafont et Dieu créa la femme by Esther Hoffenberg (2016, 65mn, France)

Presented and produced by ARTE France, Lapsus, Inthemood and INA.

A journey with Bernadette Lafont, the most atypical French film actress. The film sweeps her life and stunning artistic career.

Her granddaughters go back to Bernadette's dreams and her friends Bulle Ogier and Jean-Pierre Kalfon evoke their artistic and human complicity.

Throughout the film Bernadette Lafont with her unmistakable voice of character actress weaves the movie of her life.






As every year Cannes Classics showcases around twenty restored prints. Extra attention has been paid to invite countries which had never been invited for their patrimonial work (Slovenia, Switzerland, Pakistan, Czech Republic, Cuba, Thailand, Hungary, and Poland). Watch out for rare gems! Also, we have great classics, film libraries and films which give us news.  



• Die letzte Chance (The Last Chance) by Leopold Lindtberg (1945, 1h53, Switzerland)

A presentation of the Cinémathèque suisse. A restoration of the Cinémathèque suisse and the Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF) with the support of Memoriav at Hiventy laboratory.


• Dolina Miru (Valley of Peace) by France Stiglic (1956, 1h30, Slovenia)

A presentation of the Slovenian Film Centre. 2K film and sound restoration from 4K scan of black and white 35 mm intermediate film positive and internegative. Restored sound from a 35mm optical sound negative.

Restorations lead by Bojan Mastilović and Janez Ferlan, color grading lead by Janez Ferlan,at Iridium Film, Ljubljana. Sound restoration lead by Matjaž Zdešar.

Supervised by project commission: DOP Lev Predan Kowarski and Rado Likon, director Urša Menart.


• Ikarie XB 1 by Jindřich Polák (1963, 1h28, Czech Republic)

A presentation of the National Film Archives (NFA). 

Source for the digitization were elements preserved in the NFA, image was digitized from the original camera negative and sound from the sound negative. 4K restoration made under the supervision of the NFA in the Hungarian Filmlab. The film was digitally restored within the project "Digital restoration of Czech film heritage" which was supported by a grant from Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway and co-financed by the Czech Ministry of Culture. Project partners were the National Library of Norway and CESNET.


• Jago hua savera (Day Shall Dawn) by Aaejay Kardar (1958, 1h34, Pakistan)

A presentation of the Nauman Taseer Foundation. Image and sound restoration from the best elements possible, since the negative has disappeared, by Deluxe Restoration London. It was commissioned by Anjum Taseer.


• Memorias del subdesarrollo (Memories of the Underdevelopment) by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1968, 1h37, Cuba)

A presentation of Les Films du Camélia and Cineteca di Bologna. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna/ L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in association with Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos(ICAIC) and Les Films du Camélia. The film will be released in French theaters.


• Santi-Vina by Thavi Na Bangchang (1954, 1h54, Thailand)

A presentation of Film Archive (Public Organization) in Thailand.

The original material of this film was considered lost. In 2014 the original material was found in the British Film Institute as well as the release print in the China Film Archive and at the Gosfilmofond in Russia. A 4K scan and restoration was carried out from the original camera and sound negatives found at the BFI. The restoration work was carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory.


• Szerelem (Love) by Károly Makk (1971, 1h32, Hungary)

A presentation of the Hungarian National Film Fund and of the Hungarian National Digital Film Archive and Film Institute (MaNDA).

A 4K Scan and Restoration from the original 35mm negatives. Digitization and restoration of the sound from 35mm magnetic tapes. Restoration made by the Focus-Fox Studio and Hungarian Filmlab. The film will be released in French theaters.


• Howards End by James Ivory (1992, 2h20, United Kingdom/Japan)

A presentation of the Cohen Film Collection LLC with director James Ivory and actress Vanessa Redgrave in attendance.

Digital restoration from the original camera negative held at the archive of the George Eastman Museum completed in 4K by Cineric Portugal – Simon Lund.

Color grading under the supervision of cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts and director James Ivory by Deluxe Restoration (London) - Steve Bearman, Mark Bonnici, Graham Jones.

5.1 audio track restoration by Audio Mechanics (Burbank) - John Polito.


• Decakolog 5 (Thou shalt not kill) and 6 (Thou shalt not commit adultery) by Krzysztof Kieślowski (1989, 57mn et 58mn, Poland)

A presentation of MK2 and TVP. Restoration in 2K from original image negatives by TVP in Poland.

The color-grading of each episode has been supervised by the DOPs of the episode they photographed.


• Momotarô, Umi no shinpei (Momotaro, Sacred Sailors) by Mitsuyo Seo (1945, 1h14, Japan)

A presentation of Shochiku Studio. 

The digital restoration is scanned in 4K, image restoration and projection in 2K by Shochiku Co., Ltd.


• One-Eyed Jacks by Marlon Brando (1961, 2h21, USA)

A presentation of Universal Studios and The Film Foundation. 

Restored by Universal Studios in collaboration with The Film Foundation. Special thanks to Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg for their consultation on this restoration.


• Solyaris (Solaris) by Andreï Tarkovski (1972, 2h47, Russian Federation)

A presentation of Mosfilm Cinema Concern. 

Digital frame-by-frame restoration of image and sound from 2K scan of the negative. Producer of the restoration: Karen Shakhnazarov.


• Ugetsu monogatari (Ugetsu) by Kenji Mizoguchi (1953, 1h37, Japan)

Presented by The Film Foundation, KADOKAWA Corporation, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. 

Restored by The Film Foundation and KADOKAWA Corporation at Cineric Laboratories. Special thanks to Masahiro Miyajima and Martin Scorsese for their consultation on this restoration. Restoration funding provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in association with The Film Foundation and KADOKAWA Corporation.


• Dragées au poivre (Pepper Candy) by Jacques Baratier (1963, 1h34, France)

A presentation of the CNC and the Association Jacques Baratier. Digital restoration made from the digitization in 2K of the 35mm negatives. Restoration made by Mikros Image.


• Valmont by Milos Forman (1989, 2h17, France)

A presentation of Pathé. 

Restoration carried out by Pathé en 2016, made in 4K by L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, with the support of the CNC.


• Gueule d’amour by Jean Grémillon (1937, 1h32, France)

Presented by TF1 Droits Audiovisuels with the suppport of the CNC.

A 4K restauration from the original negative made at Hiventy.


• Masculin féminin by Jean-Luc Godard (1966, 1h50, France)

A presentation of Argos Films and TAMASA. 2K digitization and restoration from the original negative by Eclair, color-grading supervised by cinematographer Willy Kurant. Sound restoration from the sound negative by L.E. Diapason. The film will be released in French theaters. 


• Indochine by Régis Wargnier (1992, 2h32, France)

A presentation of Studiocanal. Digitization from the original negative and restoration frame by frame in 4K by L’Immagine Ritrovata.


• Adieu Bonaparte by Youssef Chahine (1984, 1h55, France/Egypt)

A presentation of the Cinémathèque française, Misr International Films and TF1 Droits Audiovisuels. A restoration of Misr International Films and TF1 Droits Audiovisuels carried out by the Cinémathèque française with the support of the CNC, of the Fonds Culturel Franco-Américain (DGA-MPA-SACEM-WGAW), of the Archives audiovisuelles de Monaco and the Association Youssef Chahine. The works have been made from the image negative and the sound magnetic tapes at Eclair and at L.E.Diapason studio.


• Pit and The Pendulum by Roger Corman (1961, 1h20, USA)

A presentation of Alta Vista Productions and MGM Studios/Park Circus. 

35mm archival print made in conjunction with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and producer Jon Davison from the original negative at Fotokem Los Angeles with Mato DerAvanessian and supervised by Roger Corman. Damaged shots were restored digitally and re-cut into the film.


• Rendez-vous de juillet by Jacques Becker (1949, 1h39, France)

A 2K restoration presented by Gaumont.

Image work made by Eclair, sound restored by L.E. Diapason with Eclair. The film will be released in French theaters and on DVD/Blu-ray.





• Terrore nello spazio (Planet of the Vampires) (1965, 1h28, Italy/Spain) by Mario Bava

A presentation by Fulvio Lucisano, Nicolas Winding Refn and CSC Cineteca Nazionale. The movie has been digitally restored from the original 35mm Kodak Eastman Color negative, courtesy of Italian International Film.

The color correction via colorimetry comparison of an original 35mm positive copy courtesy of the Cineteca Nazionale was carried out under the supervision of assistant director Lamberto Bava.

The digital intermediate process using 35mm Kodak polyester copies and 35mm color-positive copies by Fotocinema Roma in 2015.


• Tiempo de morir by Arturo Ripstein (1966, 1h30, Mexico)

A presentation by Sidonis Calysta. The film has been restored by ALAMEDA FILMS at LABOFILMS MEXICO under the supervision of Enrique Alagón, Adolfo Alagón and Gabriel Elvira at LABODIGITAL under the supervision of Charles Barthe.


Film restorers are not about to give up on celluloid

Kate Taylor

4/7/2016 12:00:00 AM

There is a sign on the door of my local video store that says: “This store is not closing.”

It’s not actually a statement of existential defiance; Toronto’s Queen Video has just closed its flagship downtown location, but its Bloor Street store where I rent remains open. That’s a relief because my professional and personal needs are eclectic to say the least and no, not everything is on Netflix, iTunes or YouTube.

As the physical distribution of discs is gradually replaced by online streaming, we find ourselves in an odd transitional moment where everybody seems to believe they can – and should be able to – get everything everywhere any time, but the reality is rather different. I turned to Queen Video for The Avengers recently; not the superhero movie franchise but the 1960s British TV show, a cult classic in the detective genre.

There it was, a title you can’t find on Netflix or iTunes. (Nor are there complete episodes on YouTube, to which I will sometimes resort in moments of desperation.) After all, Queen Video on Bloor still has a library of 60,000 titles; Netflix Canada won’t discuss how many it might have at any given time, but outside estimates put it around 4,000.

We think we are drowning in content, yet often the wonders of instantaneous global distribution seem to be narrowing our choices rather than expanding them. Marvel’s Avengers? Netflix is all over it. But as we chase after those shiny new releases, we risk losing our taste for the old stuff.

Meanwhile, the digital technology that was supposed to rescue the back catalogue from oblivion, restoring and preserving fragile celluloid for future generations, poses as many problems as it solves. The digital age is full of false assumptions about access and availability, and film is a fleeting medium, its materiality under more direct assault than ever before.

I did a mini accessibility audit this week on another title, The Manchurian Candidate, a classic political thriller from 1962, because a digital restoration will be screening in Toronto next week at TIFF Cinematheque as part of its Restored! series. It’s a well-known film, directed by John Frankenheimer, starring Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh, and there was a remake in 2004 which you can get on iTunes, but neither that service nor Netflix has the original. Of course, you can find both at Queen Video on Bloor – as long as that location stays open.

If we are now losing the full range of content that a really good video store can deliver on demand, we have always been at risk of losing the films themselves. When Howard Levman, the owner of Queen Video, has to replace a lost or damaged disc, he often finds the old movies that his customers used to love just aren’t available any more. While archives established in North America and Europe as far back as the 1930s have long worked to preserve film, the truth is that celluloid is fragile and, if you can clean, repair and digitize old film prints, you can’t do it if nobody saved them in the first place. The Film Foundation, the U.S. film preservation and restoration organization founded by director Martin Scorsese in 1990, estimates we have lost half of all movies made before 1950 and more than 80 per cent of those made before 1929.

For example, TIFF’s Restored! series includes Insiang, a 1976 family drama by the Filipino director Lino Brocka. It’s the second instance where the Film Foundation and the Film Development Council of the Philippines have funded a restoration of a film by Brocka who, despite the difficulties of working under the censorship of the Marcos regime, created about 60 films before his death in 1991.

“No more than five or six survive,” says Cecilia Cenciarelli, the Italian restoration expert from Cineteca di Bologna who oversaw work on Insiang, repairing a broken and glue-stained master print. “[For most] there’s no element to start a restoration. This is obviously tragic since Lino Brocka is considered the most influential filmmaker of the Philippines, the most popular and the most militant.”

Master prints may be destroyed by improper storage or lost when private film labs close down; if they do still exist, restoration is expensive work as every frame needs to be cleaned up and repaired. In theory, digitization should simplify this process, but restorers say you can’t really automate their work: For example, you can run a film through a digital process that removes all the scratches on every frame but you risk removing material from the film itself.

“When digital came along, it was going to be the solution; it was going to be cheaper, it was going to be faster. None of that is true,” says Margaret Bodde, executive director at the Film Foundation. The film restoration community continues debating whether old films should be restored to the original celluloid format or simply digitized. Restoring celluloid to celluloid is actually cheaper, but producing a new digital master is often a film’s best hope for the future, ensuring it can be screened and distributed.

Still, restorers are not about to give up on the celluloid experience. “My heart lies in analog,” reflects Nicola Mazzanti, director of the Cinémathèque royale de Belgique, whose restoration of the 1975 feminist masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is also included in the TIFF series. Indeed, he once caused a furor by proclaiming that the Technicolor of 1955 was like God – it could not be copied. But “the idea we would work hard with a filmmaker on restoration that can only be shown in a handful of places [that still have analog projectors] gives me pause.” In the end, he has to opt for digital restorations.

The film preservationists also worry that, as a generation grows up that has never seen celluloid, we will lose the credentials to restore old films.

“A previous generation knew film as light-projected; we had an aesthetic knowledge of what film looked like, what colours were appropriate,” says Bodde. “New generations … today they are looking at Internet data.”

Film archives tend to view all films as social documents and while high-profile classics may get priority for restoration because they can be released on DVD and screened at festivals, the goal is to save everything. In Brussels, for example, Mazzanti just received 2,000 film prints from the Belgian army that he will add to the 1.2 million canisters of film that are already stored in his institution. “It’s very unglamorous,” he says. “There is a huge amount of material that needs to be preserved so that some day it can be seen.”

And even the famous stuff may have increasing problems finding its audience. Part of the challenge for the back catalogue of old movies is that, outside of the specialized cinémathèque circuit where restored films are much sought after, the general public may be less interested in classic films than they used to be. Queen Video’s business used to be 80 per cent back catalogue and 20 per cent new releases; today those ratios are reversed.

“Public tastes have changed,” Levman says. “Young people aren’t interested in watching a Godard, a Kurosawa, a Sam Peckinpah from the 1970s.” He used to rent out Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai several times a week; now, it goes out a few times a year.

Rents on Bloor Street storefronts are high; inevitably the day will come when Levman’s Annex location also has to shut. He figures that the DVD and Blu-ray discs are the last formats we will hold in our hands; no one will bother setting up physical distribution for the fancy new 4K formats coming down the pipe. The economics won’t justify it.

Plus, the digital formats are continually changing. One looming issue for preservationists is that films that were born digital may become impenetrable to future generations.

“The formats change so radically. You have a problem with not being able to play back something that was made 10 years ago,” said Bodde. “A film you can always pull it out and hold it up to the light to see what is there; I don’t know what we’ll have in 10 years, but I wager you won’t be able to do that.”

Indeed, if we have a film preservation problem now, we may have a worse one in the future.

Editor's note: An earlier digital version of this story incorrectly stated that TIFF is showing a restored print of The Manchurian Candidate; however, it is actually a digital restoration. This version has been updated.


Cracking the Code

Nick Pinkerton

3/29/2016 12:00:00 AM

IF YOU WERE TO DEVISE the platonic ideal of a pre-Code movie it would probably look quite a bit like Tay Garnett’s 1930 barrelhouse melodrama Her Man, which transposes the “Frankie and Johnnie” story—then recently recorded to great acclaim by musician Jimmie Rodgers—to a blind tiger in Havana, where the dregs of all nations congregate and copulate.

While Film Forum programmer Bruce Goldstein has made pre-Code his bailiwick for years, the Museum of Modern Art gets to plant their flag on Her Man, which will be playing at Fifty-Third Street along with four other Garnett films and Chester Erskine and John H. Auer’s 1936 Frankie and Johnnie, one of the last screen appearances of the troubled, wrenchingly emotive torch singer Helen Morgan.

Her Man establishes itself as something special from the opening credits—written in wet sand on the beach, with each “card” washed away by the surf—and within the first reel vaults into the sublime. After being turned away from US soil and hopes for a new life, tattered and used-up b-girl Annie (Marjorie Rambeau, in a performance that anticipates Susan Tyrell’s Fat City souse) heads back to Havana. Her walk to her accustomed haunt, the Thalia, is recorded in a tracking shot which follows her down the teeming main drag of the pleasure district, ducking heedless horse carts and familiarly making her way through the rowdy, brawling polyglot masses literally tumbling out of every saloon door. The concert of casual gestural precision and individual detail that Garnett gets from his crowd scenes, here as throughout, is electrifying, while the fluidity of the camera movement and dense tapestry of sound give the lie to the persistent idea that cinema’s transformation into an audio-visual art sent it back to the drawing board.

The real focus of the story isn’t Annie, who soon settles back into a fog of blue ruin and self-pity, but one of her younger coworkers, Frankie (Helen Twelvetrees), who is handled by slickster pimp Johnnie (Ricardo Cortez), and has somehow retained a glimmer of goodness despite making her living picking pockets while batting her doll eyes at suckers and spoon-feeding them sob stories. The trouble begins when she levels her eyes at Dan Keefe (Phillips Holmes), an angelically handsome sailor on a stopover whose only possessions are a medal attesting to uncommon valor, a striped sweater that gradually disintegrates through the course of the movie, and a dream of clean living.

Moviegoers acquainted with the period will undoubtedly find some key elements of Her Man familiar. The setting and setup are reminiscent of Josef von Sternberg’s The Docks of New York (1928); Dan and Frankie’s rebirth before a church altar might very well have been cadged by Leo McCarey for his Love Affairnine years later; and the raucous, reckless shore-leave atmosphere is akin to that of Raoul Walsh’s Sailor’s Luck (1933)—though it should be said that Her Man deserves extra marks for sozzled sordidness, and the climactic barroom brawl contains back-breaking suicidal stuntwork of a sort rarely seen outside of 1980s Golden Harvest productions. And gourmands of period argot would be hard-pressed to find a more sumptuous spread, starting with Frankie’s sisterly admonition “You got the heebies bad, grab yourself a coupla snorts.”

The reappearance of Her Man was precipitated by the discovery of the original camera negative in the Library of Congress’s Columbia Pictures collection—the 4K DCP playing MoMA is the result of a collaboration between Sony Pictures and the Film Foundation. To see the film in its original format in New York you’d have to have been around in 1967. In Andrew Sarris’s The American Cinema, published the following year, the author, still fresh from seeing Cinémathèque Français loan prints of Her Man and The Spieler (1928), defined Garnett’s personality as that of “a rowdy vaudevillian.” To this I might add that he shows significant control in the midst of knockabout chaos, and that Her Man exhibits several resourceful examples of visual synecdoche, such as representing Annie’s return to Havana entirely with shots of her legs and worn-down pumps, swabbed out of the way on the ship’s deck like so much refuse.

Garnett was a former gag man for Hal Roach and Mack Sennett, and that pedigree is certainly more evident here than in what is his best-known work, the 1946 film of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice. MoMA’s program offers a selection of rare, lesser-known Garnett titles. Most of these come from the late 1920s and early ’30s—including a single screening of The Spieler in the late afternoon on Thursday—with 1953’s Main Street to Broadway an outlier. Outside of Her Man, the rest of the program is 35 mm: theMain Street print from the MoMA archive; The Spieler in what adjunct curator Dave Kehr describes as a “gorgeous” print from the Eastman Museum; and Celebrity (1928), “an on-the-fly ‘restoration’ composed of reels from two incomplete prints, one from MoMA and one from the Library of Congress.” It’s more Garnett than has been seen in one place in many moons, and if it’s even still a thin slice to evaluate a fifty-year career on, there’s no denying that Her Man is a rolling, heaving, helluva a good time—and that’s on the level.

Her Man: A Forgotten Masterwork in Context” runs March 29 to April 4 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.



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