Martin Scorsese Unspools Rare Nitrate Prints at TCM Festival

Carolyn Giardina

4/7/2017 10:00:00 AM
The Oscar-winning director also remembered Robert Osborne in his remarks.

Martin Scorsese received a standing ovation as he introduced a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much — one of four extremely rare nitrate prints that will be shown at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre during the TCM Classical Film Festival, which opened on Thursday and runs through Sunday.

“Retrofitting a theater to make it capable and safe to project nitrate is an enormous undertaking,” said the Oscar-winning director, who is also founder and chair of The Film Foundation, of the recently completed retrofit at the Egyptian. “This stock was used in the earliest days of cinema. It’s known for its deep, richer blacker and grey tones. They glow."

“But nitrate film also had a problem in that it decomposes and the bigger problem was that it blew up. It was flammable,” he said. “We are lucky to still have a few nitrate prints that have not decomposed; some are nearly 100 years old because they were stored in temperature-controlled vaults. Only a few theaters can project nitrate, so these films are rarely seen.”

During his remarks, Scorsese also remembered Robert Osborne, who passed away last month. “I don’t think there’s any better way to celebrate him [than with the festival]," Scorsese said. "He was a real lover of film, and seeing the films in the original way they were meant to be seen.”

The print of The Man Who Knew Too Much was struck in 1946 and donated to the George Eastman Museum in 1999.

The festival will additionally screen nitrate prints of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's Black Narcissus (the late Powell was married to Scorsese's longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, who has been working with Scorsese to preserve his films); Otto Preminger's Laura; and Ginger Rogers musical Lady in the Dark.

"The nitrate retro-fit of the booth at the Egyptian Theatre is a natural extension of The Film Foundation's mission," said Jennifer Ahn, managing director of the Foundation. "Providing access to these treasures through the exhibition of nitrate prints is a powerful way to engage audiences and underscore the importance of protecting our cinematic heritage."

Partners in the effort also included the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, TCM, the American Cinematheque, Academy Film Archive and George Eastman Museum.



3/15/2017 12:00:00 AM


In a landmark cinematic and television event, the newly restored version of Oscar®-winner Marcel Ophüls’ 1976 documentary THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE will be presented MONDAY, APRIL 24 (5:00-9:45 p.m. ET/PT), Holocaust Remembrance Day, on HBO2. Following the film’s restoration by the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation, the rarely seen epic was presented at the Berlin, Toronto and New York film festivals in 2015. This HBO2 presentation marks the world television premiere of the restored version.

The documentary will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and affiliate portals.

THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE explores the relationship between individual and collective responsibility, as Ophüls investigates then-recent alleged war crimes committed by France in Algeria and by the U.S. in Vietnam in light of atrocities committed by the Nazis. The director was inspired by the 1970 book “Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy,” by Telford Taylor, a counsel for the prosecution at the Nuremberg trials, who became a harsh critic of America’s escalating involvement in Vietnam.

Filmed 30 years after the end of World War II and the Nuremberg trials, the film draws on the unique perspectives of those who lived through the conflict and those who came of age afterward. THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE features rare archival footage and interviews with both victims and architects of atrocities, raising essential questions about the moral choices made by individuals and governments in the latter half of the 20th century that are equally relevant today.

“It seems to me that THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE, which flopped pretty badly when it first came out, is the best work I ever did in my life, or at any rate the most personal and the most sincere of my films,” says Marcel Ophüls. “Now, thanks to Martin Scorsese and The Film Foundation, and with the help of my favorite studio, my favorite child has been put back into circulation as an adult. Needless to say, I’m immensely grateful!”

“THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE is a monumental documentary achievement; an essential work of historic and intellectual importance,” notes Martin Scorsese, founder and chair of The Film Foundation. “The film was unavailable for decades and, strongly encouraged by my friend Jay Cocks, the Academy and The Film Foundation undertook the nearly ten-year process of restoration. We were incredibly fortunate to have support for this project from Olivia Harrison’s Material World Charitable Foundation and Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation.”

After years of research, The Film Foundation and the Academy Film Archive discovered an original, unlabeled, 16mm camera negative of THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE in a studio vault, and worked closely with Ophüls and producer Hamilton Fish on its restoration. Newly discovered original recordings of Ophüls’ interviews with French and German speaking interview subjects were restored and substituted for the existing English-language voiceover tracks. New subtitles in English, French and German were created for the restoration so that the participants’ own voices can now be heard, along with Ophüls’ questions.

The original film screened at the 1976 Cannes and New York Film Festivals, and was hailed by Vincent Canby as “a standard against which all other non-fiction cinema must be measured.”

THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE was written and directed by Marcel Ophüls; produced by Hamilton Fish, Ana Carrigan and Max Palevsky. Michael J. Davis served as director of photography, with editing by Inge Behrens and Marion Kraft, and sound by Paul Carr and Anthony Jackson. The film was restored by the Academy Film Archive in association with The Film Foundation and Paramount Pictures, with restoration funding provided by The Material World Charitable Foundation, Righteous Persons Foundation and The Film Foundation.


Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation Unveils African Film Heritage Project

Dave McNary

3/2/2017 12:25:00 PM

Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation has unveiled the African Film Heritage Project to locate, restore, and preserve African films in a partnership with the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers and UNESCO.

Scorsese announced the initiative Thursday, noting that it follows the foundation’s World Cinema project.

“There are so many films in need of restoration from all over the world,” he said. “We created the World Cinema Project to ensure that the most vulnerable titles don’t disappear forever. Over the past 10 years the WCP has helped to restore films from Egypt, India, Cuba, the Philippines, Brazil, Armenia, Turkey, Senegal, and many other countries.

“Along the way, we’ve come to understand the urgent need to locate and preserve African films title by title in order to ensure that new generations of filmgoers — African filmgoers in particular — can actually see these works and appreciate them. FEPACI is dedicated to the cause of African Cinema, UNESCO has led the way in the protection and preservation of culture, and I’m pleased to be working in partnership with both organizations on this important and very special initiative.”

Cheick Oumar Sissoko, FEPACI secretary general, said that the effort is necessary.

“Africa needs her own images, her own gaze testifying on her behalf, without the distorting prism of others, of the foreign gaze saddled by prejudice and schemes,” Sissoko said. “We must bear witness to this cradle of humanity which has developed a rich and immense human, historical, cultural and spiritual patrimony.”

Irina Bokova, UNESCO director-general, said the effort would promote cultural diversity, facilitate access to African classics, and foster African creativity.

The project will support the restoration of an initial selection of 50 films as identified by FEPACI’s advisory board, made up of archivists, scholars, and filmmakers who are active in Africa. It will also conduct a survey to locate the best existing film elements for each title in African cinémathèques and film archives.

Further details will be disclosed at a press conference during the 2017 Pan African Film Festival of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.


Group's rescue of old films preserves glimpse into past

Terry Mikesell

2/23/2017 5:00:00 AM

Want to see an older movie?

Good luck with that.

Film archivists have estimated that half of all American films made before 1950 and more than 90 percent of films made before 1929 are lost forever.

The Film Foundation, established in 1990 in New York by director Martin Scorsese, has taken a leadership role in the restoration and preservation of films.

"I've seen the power that film has to bring people together in the shared, communal experience of moviegoing," foundation Executive Director Margaret Bodde said. "It's been a lifelong passion dedicated to making sure that films from the past survive so that future generations can be inspired by these great works and have a unique and vivid window into history."

Bodde will discuss the work of the foundation at 7 p.m. Friday at the Wexner Center for the Arts as part of the series "Cinema Revival: A Festival of Film Restoration." Afterward, the Cuban film "Memories of Underdevelopment" (1968), which was restored as part of the foundation's World Cinema program, will be screened.

During its 27-year history, the foundation has saved more than 750 movies. Many of those dated to pre-1949, when movies were made on volatile nitrate film stock that was easily combustible, emitted toxic fumes and degraded without proper storage. Such film also contained silver — so many works were destroyed to recover the precious metal.

In 1949, acetate-based "safety" film was created, eliminating the danger of fires. Degradation, however, remained a problem.

The introduction of the foundation, with Scorsese at the helm, drew attention to the issue.

"While there have always been film archives, people got a greater sense of how our film heritage was literally disappearing," said David Filipi, director of film/video for the Wexner Center. "It was turning to nitrate dust in film cans all over the world.

"The Film Foundation is leading the worldwide cause of film restoration and preservation."

The foundation doesn't physically restore the films, Bodde said. It raises money for restoration and preservation projects and assists with logistics.

"We fund the projects, but we also try to help secure elements. We're actively involved with the projects."

When a film is restored in the traditional way and preserved, she said, a new master is archived in its original format.

"Photochemically, you wind up with a new negative on current, stable film stock and a print on current, stable film stock," Bodde said. "We always want to preserve the original materials; they're put into super-cold storage."

Digitally made films are restored into a digital format for archiving; if possible, a film version is also made, Bodde said.

Whether these formats will be useful in the future remains to be seen; just ask anybody with a shelf full of movies on VHS tapes.

"It's a really challenging time because of the constant changing of digital formats for film capture and film storage," Bodde said. "We have to constantly adapt to our knowledge that we're gaining as time goes by with how best to preserve digital work. That's a big issue for archivists: What's the best format for those to preserve digital?"

The foundation is committed to preserving all genres, she said.

"The need is so great for noncommercial works, like documentary or avant-garde or newsreel footage. We want to make sure we're preserving and representing the whole range in filmmaking styles and genres, and going to where the need is the greatest."

Plus, old movies have historical value.

"When we look back at a Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin film, or newsreel footage from the turn of century, we see how people moved, how they dressed and how they interacted," Bodde said. "It's a rare and treasured window into the past."

Besides "Memories of Underdevelopment," the Film Foundation will screen "Beat the Devil" (1953), starring Humphrey Bogart and Jennifer Jones, during Cinema Revival. Such screenings are part of the Film Foundation's mission.

"Preservation and restoration are really one side of a coin," Bodde said. "The other side is exhibition and access.

"The purpose of preservation and restoration are so people can see those films or maybe discover them in 20 years. New generations have access to the films because of the work we're doing now."

Commercial value doesn't enter into the foundation's decisions; what's publicly ignored now might have value years later.

Bodde cited "Vertigo," a movie that she said was a bust when it was released in 1958. In 2012, "Vertigo" was named the greatest movie ever made in a poll by Sight and Sound magazine.

"You try to have a long perspective," she said. "Something that may seem like it's a little undervalued today, that may change. What we try to do it balance the budget and scarcity of materials and the cultural and artistic value of the material, whether it's a feature film, a documentary or newsreel footage.

"If something is really unique and it's the only element known to be available, the onus, I feel, is on us to make sure it's well taken care of."



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