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La Film Foundation, mémoire du cinéma

Thomas Sotinel

10/19/2015 12:00:00 AM

A Lyon, tout au long du Festival Lumière, qui s’est achevé le 18 octobre, les films semblaient la plupart du temps parfaits : dans Marius, Raimu et Pierre Fresnay arboraient des mines resplendissantes ; dans David Golder, de Julien Duvivier, tourné comme le précédent en 1931, la voix d’Harry Baur résonnait et gémissait comme s’il était dans la pièce. Les couleurs de La Momie, de l’Egyptien Shadi Abdel Salam, éblouissaient comme elles avaient ébloui le grand cinéaste britannique Michael Powell, à la sortie du film, en 1969.

Cette perfection ne va pas de soi, et le festival a drainé, outre ses dizaines de milliers de spectateurs, presque tout ce que la planète compte de professionnels qui se vouent à la préservation et à la diffusion du patrimoine cinématographique : directeurs de cinémathèque, archivistes, historiens, restaurateurs… Au premier rang desquels l’équipe de la Film Foundation, créée par Martin Scorsese en 1990. C’est la Film Foundation qui a restauré La Momie, tout comme Colonel Blimp, de Michael Powell (1943), ou Larmes de clown, du Suédois Victor Sjöstrom (1924). Le but n’étant pas de constituer un fonds autonome mais d’enrichir les cinémathèques du monde entier.

Margaret Bodde, l’une des proches collaboratrices de Martin Scorsese (elle a produit nombre de ses documentaires) supervise le travail de la fondation, dont le conseil d’administration est constitué de réalisateurs – contemporains et cadets du fondateur, George Lucas et Alexander Payne, Steven Spielberg et Wes Anderson…

L’irruption du numérique

Il y a un quart de siècle, il s’agissait de sauver les films américains de la dégradation des supports, film nitrate en voie de désintégration ou film couleur qui prenait des libertés avec la réalité. « Depuis, la plupart des studios ont intensifié leurs efforts de préservation, observe Margaret Bodde, mais leurs collections sont si massives qu’il leur est impossible de tout garder. » C’est le travail du fondateur et des administrateurs que de sélectionner les films qu’il faut secourir. « Marty [Martin Scorsese] fait preuve d’une intuition troublante quant aux dangers qui peuvent menacer un film, explique-t-elle, il nous dit : “Il faudrait voir où en est Trafic en haute mer” [de Michael Curtiz, avec John Garfield, 1950]et, de fait, lorsque nous contactons l’UCLA [l’université de Los Angeles], qui détient le matériel, ils nous disent que l’affaire est urgente. »

Le travail en direction des cinématographies d’Afrique, d’Asie ou d’Amérique latine est du ressort du World Film Project, désormais intégré à la fondation. A Bologne, où elle travaille avec le laboratoire l’Immagine Ritrovata, Cecilia Cenciarelli centralise les demandes de restauration venues du monde entier et voyage ensuite à travers le monde – sa collègue Margaret Bodde la décrit comme « la James Bond du patrimoine cinématographique » pour démêler les questions de droits d’auteur ou pour convaincre les autorités de l’intérêt du projet.

L’exercice est d’autant plus difficile que l’irruption du numérique ne cesse de remettre en cause les techniques et les buts mêmes de la préservation.« Pendant cent ans, les fondements technologiques du cinéma sont restés les mêmes, explique Margaret Bodde, depuis l’apparition du numérique, ils ont changé au moins dix fois. »

C’est pourquoi on peut trouver sur le site de la Film Foundation une page destinée aux cinéastes débutants qui leur rappelle que « ce n’est pas parce que votre film est sur YouTube qu’il est préservé » et qui leur donne quelques conseils élémentaires : toujours conserver les éléments dans des formats non compressés, les changer de support au moins tous les trois ans… Parce que c’est aujourd’hui que se font les programmes des festivals de patrimoine du siècle prochain.

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Diretor não quer só a cópia digital, diz Martin Scorsese

Guilherme Genestreti

9/29/2015 12:00:00 AM

O diretor Martin Scorsese, 72, será uma espécie de homenageado indireto da  39ª Mostra de Cinema de São Paulo, que começa em 22 de outubro. 

Mas não conte com retrospectiva de longas como "Taxi Driver", "Touro Indomável" ou "Os Bons Companheiros". O festival paulistano presta homenagem ao lado restaurador desse cineasta lendário, que em 1990 criou a associação The Film Foundation, entidade que preserva filmes antigos.

A Mostra exibe 24 das mais de 700 obras restauradas pela instituição, entre elas "Como Era Verde o Meu Vale" (1941), de John Ford, e "Rashomon" (1950), de Akira Kurosawa.

Em entrevista à Folha, por e-mail, Scorsese faz um balanço dos 25 anos da organização que capitaneia ao lado de nomes como Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen e Francis Ford Coppola. Para ele, a revolução que substituiu as cópias em película no cinema traz uma dúvida: será que filmes capturados digitalmente poderão ser projetados no futuro, como as versões em 35 mm?

O cineasta também comentou o convite que recebeu para desenhar o pôster da Mostra. Para o cartaz, usou um storyboard de seu próximo filme, "Silence", previsto para 2016, sobre jesuítas portugueses perseguidos no Japão do século 17. Questionado sobre detalhes desse longa e aspectos de sua carreira, o diretor se manteve em silêncio.

*

Folha - O que descreve o storyboard de "Silence" que você selecionou upara criar o cartaz Mostra de São Paulo?
Martin Scorsese - O storyboard descreve uma cena crucial no filme e eu pensei que os desenhos funcionariam bem para o pôster. Tive a honra de ser convidado para isso.

  Martin Scorsese/Divulgação  
Poster da 39ª Mostra de Cinema de Sao Paulo, com arte assinada pelo diretor Martin Scorsese // exclusivo Ilustrada Foto: Arte Martin Scorsese/Divulgacao ***DIREITOS RESERVADOS. NÃO PUBLICAR SEM AUTORIZAÇÃO DO DETENTOR DOS DIREITOS AUTORAIS E DE IMAGEM***
Poster da 39ª Mostra de Cinema de São Paulo, com arte assinada pelo diretor Martin Scorsese

Na sua opinião, a associação The Film Foundation foi capaz de realizar o seu propósito?
Há agora uma consciência disseminada sobre a importância do cinema e da preservação. E com a transição da película para o digital, há uma noção de que o filme é precioso.

Por quê?
Os cineastas não querem perder o filme como um meio e só ter a opção digital. Manter os filmes é absolutamente essencial na preservação deles. Sabemos que os filmes de mais de cem anos atrás ainda podem ser projetados. Seremos capazes de exibir um filme capturado digitalmente em 10 anos? Infelizmente não sabemos a resposta para essa pergunta. Ainda há muito trabalho a fazer para garantir que o trabalho criativo dos cineastas seja preservado para o futuro.

A Mostra planeja sessões especiais para exibir alguns desses filmes. Em sua opinião, qual é a importância de que novos públicos vejam esses clássicos na tela grande?
Gosto de pensar que não há algo coisa como filmes "antigos", mas filmes que alguns podem ainda não ter visto. Um filme é novo para uma plateia se eles nunca o viu antes. E a melhor maneira de vivenciar esse filme é pela forma como ele foi originalmente concebido para ser visto -na tela grande, com a melhor qualidade de imagem e compartilhado com o público. A missão da associação The Film Foundation é restaurar e preservar filmes –e já ajudou a salvar mais de 700 até agora. De igual importância é ter certeza de que esses filmes estão disponíveis para ser vistos pelo público. Todos os anos, centenas de exibições de filmes restaurados com financiamento da fundação são exibidos em locais em todo o mundo, em museus e festivais como esta apresentação emocionante em São Paulo.

Como é a escolha dos filmes que serão preservados?
A fundação ajuda a restaurar, em média, de 20 a 30 filmes por ano, trabalhando em parceria com arquivos de filmes de todo o mundo. Os projetos são propostos anualmente com base na necessidade mais urgente. Priorizar projetos é difícil, pois há muito mais do que podemos financiar. Ao decidir quais os filmes a restaurar, consideramos significado cultural e histórico, a condição física dos elementos e se eles são raros. Nós sempre tentamos trabalhar a partir dos negativos originais da câmera.

Você está envolvido na preservação de que filmes agora?
Atualmente, estamos trabalhando em vários projetos exclusivos, incluindo restaurar o corte original do diretor de "The Road Back" (1937), de James Whale, que tinha sido considerado um filme perdido por muitos; o documentário de quatro horas e meia "The Memory of Justice" (1976), de Marcel Ophüls "; e o drama mudo raramente visto "Rosita" (1923), de Ernst Lubitsch, estrelado por Mary Pickford. Estou pessoalmente envolvido em todas essas restaurações. Considero um privilégio ser capaz de ajudar a garantir que estes tesouros sejam restaurados e guardados para as gerações futuras.

O Brasil tem um filme restaurado pela fundação, "Limite" (1931), de Mário Peixoto. Por que decidiu preservar esse filme em particular?
"Limite" nunca foi lançado comercialmente e foi raramente visto no Brasil ou em qualquer outro lugar. Ao longo dos anos, alcançou uma espécie de status de lenda, especialmente por ter sido o único concluído pelo diretor Mário Peixoto, que tinha 21 anos quando o filme foi feito, em 1931. Tecnicamente inovador, de um expressionismo cheio de imaginação, profundamente poética ainda emocionalmente delicado, o filme é uma obra surpreendentemente madura e provocante, um feito verdadeiramente notável. Walter Salles tem sido um grande entusiasta deste filme e trabalhou durante anos em sua restauração, colaborando com Arquivo Mario Peixoto e seu curador, Saulo Pereira de Mello, bem como Carlos Magalhães e Patrícia de Filippi na Cinemateca Brasileira.

Há planos de restaurar outros brasileiros?
O Projeto Cinema Mundial [responsável pela restauração de títulos de todo o mundo], juntamente com Cineteca di Bologna e L'Immagine Ritrovata foi capaz de ajudar a garantir que esta obra-prima do cinema brasileiro ["Limite"] tivesse a preservação que merece. Esperamos ajudar mais filmes brasileiros.

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2015 AVANT-GARDE MASTERS GRANTS AWARDED

National Film Preservation Foundation

9/15/2015 12:00:00 AM
Twice a Man by Gregory Markopoulos is Among Seven Films Slated for Preservation

San Francisco, CA (September 15, 2015)—Works by Owen Land, Ken Jacobs, Fred Camper, and Slavko Vorkapich will be saved alongside Gregory Markopoulos’ Twice a Man through the 2015 Avant-Garde Masters Grants awarded by The Film Foundation and the National Film Preservation Foundation. All told, seven films will be preserved and made available through the 2015 grants.

Twice a Man will be saved through a grant to Temenos, an archive dedicated to the work of Gregory Markopoulos, which will partner with the Austrian Film Museum to complete preservation of this landmark work. “One of the touchstones of independent filmmaking Gregory Markopoulos’ Twice a Manis a fragmented re-imagining of Greek myth transposed to 1960s New York,” said Mark Webber, editor of Film as Film: The Collected Writings of Gregory J. Markopoulos (Visible Press, 2014). “This restoration of Twice a Man through the Avant-Garde Masters Grant program will ensure that the film will be available to be appreciated for generations to come.”

Among the titles green-lighted for preservation are The Doctor’s Dream (1978) by Ken Jacobs (SUNY Binghamton); Film in Which There Appear Sprocket Holes, Edge Lettering, Dirt Particles, Etc. (1966), Institutional Quality (1967), and A Film of Their 1973 Spring Tour Commissioned by Christian World Liberation Front of Berkeley, CA (1974) by Owen Land (Anthology Film Archives); Welcome to Come(1968) by Fred Camper (Northwest Chicago Film Society); and Moods of the Sea (1942) by Slavko Vorkapich (UCLA Film & Television Archive).

Now in its thirteenth year, Avant-Garde Masters is the pioneering program created by The Film Foundation and the NFPF that saves films significant to the development of the avant-garde in America. Funding was provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. The grants have preserved works by 61 artists, including Kenneth Anger, Shirley Clarke, Bruce Conner, Joseph Cornell, Oskar Fischinger, Hollis Frampton, Ernie Gehr, George and Mike Kuchar, and Carolee Schneemann. The full roster of projects is available here.

The National Film Preservation Foundation is the nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to help save America’s film heritage. Founded in 1996, the NFPF has supported film preservation in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia and has helped save more than 2,230 films and collections. The NFPF is the charitable affiliate of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress.

Created in 1990 by Martin Scorsese, The Film Foundation protects and preserves motion picture history—nearly 700 to date—and makes these films available to international festivals and institutions. The foundation's World Cinema Project restores, preserves and distributes neglected films from around the world. TFF teaches young people about film language and history through The Story of Movies, its innovative educational curriculum used by over 100,000 educators nationwide. Joining Scorsese on the board of directors are Woody Allen, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Curtis Hanson, Peter Jackson, Ang Lee, George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, Alexander Payne, Robert Redford, and Steven Spielberg. The Film Foundation is aligned with the Directors Guild of America, a key partner whose president and secretary treasurer also serve on the foundation’s board.

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Memories and Confessions of a Visit to Il Cinema Ritrovato

Peter Hourigan

9/1/2015 12:00:00 AM
 

Suddenly, I realised that this film was impregnated with the gaze of cinema goers from the time of the Occupation – people from all walks of life, most of whom would not have survived the war. They had been taken out of themselves after having seen the film one Saturday night, their night out. While it lasted, you forgot the war and the menacing world outside. Huddled together in the dark of a cinema, you were caught up in the flow of images on the screen, and nothing more could happen to you. And, by some chemical process, this combined gaze had altered the very substance of the film, the lighting, the voices of the actors.

This awareness of something special that seems to happen to a film over its life comes from 2014 Nobel Prize winning author Patrick Modiano’s The Search Warrant. (1) The narrator senses this aura when he is watching a film made many years before, and in a completely different world.

Usually, viewers at film festivals savour the fact that they are seeing a film that has not yet been impregnated by the gaze of other cinema-goers, that it is a virgin experience. But at Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato Festival the anticipations are different. Its audience knows it is seeing films that have absorbed the responses of some generations of film-goers, or that have suffered perhaps from years of neglect or loss, that have been witness to events of major international, political or cultural significance, or it’s something they saw long ago, perhaps when it was actually on release. This festival gives those films a chance to come alive again, to become part of the experience of new generations of film viewers.

Not all the films have become unknown – many are still vividly kept alive in history books, or in the memories of older festival-goers. But quite a few have suffered physically from the passage of time, of physical deterioration. Some have been believed lost forever. The Cineteca di Bologna plays a significant role in retrieving the past life of the cinema. Its laboratories, L’Immagine Ritrovato have become a widely recognised standard setter in the field of film restoration. Recently a new branch has been established in Hong Kong that will contribute to the restoration of Asian cinema history in the years to come.

Il Cinema Ritrovato is its annual festival, presenting recent rediscoveries and restorations and other films from international archives. Program curation highlights important technical or technological aspects, social, historical and cultural contexts, and individual significant films and restorations. This year’s event was the 29th edition.

It is easy for restorations of high-power films to hog the spotlight. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) or 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968) do not really have to justify the value of their being restored and re-presented in the best possible condition. But a film like Insiang (Lino Brocka, 1976) has to fight to regain its public recognition. Il Cinema Ritrovato screened a new restoration that more than eloquently made the case for its cultural worth, and the value of expensive new laboratory work.

Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival review

Insiang

Brocka, openly gay and critical of the Filipino political regime, always had a struggle to make his films. Insiang is a study of a young woman surviving in the slums, an environment that sucks humanity and joy out of its dwellers. The powerful opening sequence in an abattoir establishes the milieu and sets up its audience for a powerful confronting experience. It is still as uncomfortable as it is no doubt was for Filipino society at the time. Lino Brocka described his films as “first and foremost a character analysis: a young woman raised in a miserable neighbourhood. I need this character to recreate the ‘violence’ stemming from urban overpopulation, to show the annihilation of a human being, the loss of human dignity caused by the physical and social environment and to stress the need of changes (in) these life conditions.” (2)

The new print screened in Bologna is a triumph of film restoration, completed this year as part of the Martin Scorsese supported World Cinema Project. This project is rediscovering and restoring significant films from beyond the usual sphere of Hollywood and commercial filmmaking. It has already restored works from Asian, African and other Third World filmmakers. Insiang is on YouTube in a muddy, pallid copy. But the restoration is sharp, and rich, showing how Brocka exploited the technology he had to explore this world, and used two colour palettes to enrich his themes. There is the dirty, dun-inflected yellow, the colour of the slums, the dirt, the lack of any vegetation or other natural beauty where people are forced to live. Then splashing through this comes the shock of the manufactured colours, the electric pinks and purples and greens the shanty residents have chosen in attempts to brighten their lives – a T-shirt, a plastic utensil, a tablecloth.

Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival review

Black Girl

Two other beautiful World Cinema Projects restorations raised a different question. Given that film restoration is expensive and time consuming how do you decide on what films to restore? Ousmane Sembène’s La Noire de… (Black Girl, 1966) is a significant film for African Cinema and in Sembène’s career. Again focussed on a young woman, a Senegalese who takes a job as governess with a French family but finds herself reduced to little more than a maid. The film’s style is simple – at times almost to the simplistic – but always vibrantly cinematic, a single crisp black-and-white image revealing the always-present colonial, racial attitudes she faces. As with any strong piece of work, the fashions may date it, but not the emotions, the insights, the urgency. Clearly this is a work justifying restoration.

I was more ambivalent about Alyam Alyam (Oh, the Days Ahmed El Maanouni 1978). One of a number of films emerging from Morocco in the 1970s, it was the first to be directed by El Maanouni. Its protagonist is a young man who is expected to become head of his family when his father dies. El Maanouni has said, “I simply wanted to show the farmers’ faces, to honor their sounds and their images, their silences and their words, and that’s why I chose not to interfere and to opt for deliberately restrained composition and mise-en-scène.” (3) But to me it was so “restrained” that it was as though there was no sign of any cinematic involvement. Scenes were unstructured, with no clear purpose. Any interest was so parochial it amounted to little more than an example of Moroccan filmmaking of this period. Were there other films from this region and period that were more worthy of preservation, or of more relevance outside the immediate home territory?

A related programming strand highlighted several films of the “birth of Iranian New Wave Cinema”, when a number of filmmakers returned to Iran in the years before the Iranian Revolution overthrew the Shah in 1979 after periods abroad. Several of these filmmakers were to have a significant impact on Iranian cinema. Since that period, Iran has made some of the richest contributions to world cinema, and the precursors of this era certainly justify attention.

The selection gave a clear idea of from where the exciting cinema of Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf and their contemporaries would later emerge. Shab-e Ghuzi (The Night of the Hunchback, Farrokh Ghaffari 1965), adapted from a story in the original One Thousand and One Nights collection of stories, could be the lost cousin of Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry (1955) as a group of stage actors spend a frantic night trying to dispose of a corpse. As a piece of storytelling it is not very sophisticated or effective. Events are too obviously planted rather than evolving from character or situation, the acting is resolutely indifferent, and the structure is more amateur theatrics than cinematic. The film was not a commercial success at the time of its release, but is seen by many writers as a “turning point in Iranian cinema.” It is reputed to have provided an inspiration for later Iranian filmmakers that cinema could be a means of political and social criticism.

Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival review

The Night It Rained Forever

Kamran Shirdel’s Oon shab ke baron oomad ya hemase-ye roosta zade-ye Gorgani (The Night It Rained Forever, or the Epic of the Gorgan Village Boy, 1967) is ostensibly a documentary. But it is a much freer ramble on the form of documentary and media and journalism. On the surface it is about a heroic village boy valorised for saving over 200 lives when he stopped a train in danger of disaster after rain washed away the tracks. Shirdel used an almost tabloid approach to explore the reporting of the incident, the event itself, and questions of responsibility (and officials ducking accountability) with strong hints of official culpability. Using newspaper headlines, “talking head” interviews (intercutting two different versions from time to time), and new footage shot in the village by his camera crew it has some of the energy of Errol Morris’ much later Tabloid (2010) but it goes much further in the breadth of its interests, and is still an exciting piece of filmmaking.

Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival review

A Simple Event

Yek Ettefagh-e sadeh (A Simple Event, 1973) directed by Sohrab Shabid Saless is even more an intimation of Iranian films to come, and in particular the early films of Abbas Kiarostami. This quiet and seemingly undramatic film contemplates the life of a boy living by the Caspian Sea. This is not an idealised childhood. There are no moments of escapades, or games, or fun. One moment follows another moment in an emotionless parade. Getting up, breakfast, errands and chores, school (where he is not too bright, and doesn’t seem to have a circle of friends), more chores on the way home from school including selling the fish his father has caught. Into this almost numbing procession of events there is one “simple event.” His mother dies.

This “simple” life is observed with a quiet, dispassionate gaze that at the same time is saying this is a life worth observing, because it simply is a life. There is also a degree to which this quiet observation is saying so much more about life and society in Iran, and by extension the whole world, than any polemical piece of filmmaking. Its time spent with a child is a foretaste of the films not too far in the future from filmmakers such as Abbas Kiarostami (Khane-ye doust kodjast / Where is the Friend’s Home?, 1987), Jafar Pahahi (Badkonake sefid / The White Balloon, 1995) or Majid Majidi (Rang-e Khodā / The Color of Paradise, 1999).

For the last three years, Il Cinema Ritrovato has explored the experience of filmgoing in Japan at the time of the transition to sound. This year saw the launch of a planned three year look at films from the introduction of colour into filmmaking in Japan. Along with another Ritrovato strand looking at selected Technicolor prints from elsewhere in the world, this approach highlights the relevance of looking at the relationship between various technological developments in Cinema, and audience responses and artistic and expressive possibilities for filmmakers.

Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival review

Tales of the Tara Clan

Two restorations demonstrated how good restorations can bring a film back to life. Kenji Mozoguchi’s Shin Heike Monogatari (Tales of the Tara Clan, 1955) was presented in a beautiful digital restoration. It is cinema’s loss that Mizoguchi made only two films in colour.

Japan’s filmmaking industry had been preparing for the introduction of colour even while World War II was raging. Because its cinemas needed only 10 to 20 prints even for a major film, the technical demands were different to America’s, where at that time up to 150 prints could be needed. This difference made reversal prints a possibility in Japan, whereas in USA Technicolor’s dye transfer process was more workable for Hollywood. But both processes produce different aesthetic results – and, sadly, original colour tonings can be lost in insensitive digital restorations.

Shin Heike Monogatari exploits the rich delicate shades of bright silk embroidered kimonos, or massed cherry blossom trees, or angry reds and blacks for scenes of conflict and dramatic action. Throughout, the colour is used to enrich the mood and tone of this famous Japanese historical tale of a time of civil war between two rival clans.

Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival review

Gate of Hell

Gate of Hell (Jigokumon, Teinosuke Kinugasa 1953) was not particularly well received by domestic audiences on its release, but it stormed through the West, including being honoured at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Awards. Filmed using imported Eastmancolor stock, it was its use of colour which so amazed Western audiences then – and now. Previously, I have only seen this film in perfectly adequate commercial prints, and I have been rather indifferent to this story of an impetuous love that destroys the object of its desire, when an heroic samurai, as a reward for his valiant defence of his lord, asks for the beautiful woman he has seen. But she is married – and faithful to her husband.

In this beautiful restoration, kimonos shimmering with their richness, skin luminescent, trees and flowers vibrant with life, the film re-acquires a depth and meaning that must have been there for the original audiences.

By contrast other films in this strand showed the effect of unsatisfactory restorations. The problem of colour prints fading to magenta is well known. But Eastmancolor negatives can also lose colour, and need restoration to regain the original colour. Sadly, several other films from this period were presented in newly minted prints – but from unrestored and faded negatives.

Ejima Ikushima (Ejima and Ikushima, Hedeo Oba, 1955) belongs to the tradition of historical court dramas, with a story familiar to Japanese audiences of an episode from Edo-period Japan. A Court Lady causes a scandal when she breaks a taboo, and visits a Kabuki performance. This sets off a chain of events with tragic outcomes. In its time, a highly successful film, the print on view today does it no justice. Whites in particular have turned to a jaundiced yellow, leaving the healthiest character looking sick, and depriving the rich silks of the contrasts that sets off their lushness. This deprivation of an important element of the film’s aesthetic is alienating for today’s audience, leaving a thinness in the film’s psychology. The stylised performance style feels flat and disengaging, rather than effective.

Hotaru No Hikari (The Firefy’s Glow, Kazuo Mori, 1955) was another film that suffered from this problem of an unrestored negative. This is a contemporary story, a sympathetic portrait of a young woman trying to sustain her family’s traditional business after the death of her parents. That business is creating patterns for kimonos, a wonderful opportunity for the colour camera. But it is the colour that has suffered most from the unrestored negative. Again, without the seduction (or distraction) of rich colour, what remains comes through now as a rather soft, sentimental film without the depth of involvement and compassion that Mikio Naruse would have brought to the story.

Il Cinema Ritrovato explored many other aspects of cinema’s history. I was sorry that a crowded schedule meant that I saw nothing in the program strand, Silence of 1915 and Armenian cinemaThe Armenian genocide of 1915 has been almost ignored or denied by much of the world. Only a handful of films have touched on it – one of the few films being La masseria delle allodole (The Lark Farm, Taviani Bros, 2007). The programs on offer at Bologna promised to give life back to actual documentary footage from 1911-18, testimony to the power of cinema to bear witness, to carry forward the soul of people and events from the past.

Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival review

Satanic Rhapsody

The event presentation of Rapsodia Satanica (Satanic Rhapsody, Nino Oxilia, 1915-17) also allowed the audience of 2015 to imagine itself back a hundred years. For this to happen, elements seemingly lost or separated over the years needed to be re-united again. Nino Oxilia was a young Italian director of promise, who made several “diva” films, wonderful melodramas of women and the tribulations they face because of passion. His career was cut short in 1917 when he was killed in World War I. Il Cinema Ritrovato screened another of his films, Sangue Bleu, last year. (4) Perhaps today it is hard to take the story of Satanic Rhapsody too seriously. A wealthy woman, aware that she is no longer as young as she once was, makes her Faustian pact with the Devil to have her youth restored. Lydia Borelli, who plays the woman, is a true Diva, with an imposing screen presence.

The film has been circulating as a pale grey-and-white ghost of itself on YouTube, but this is like all the life and personality has been drained from it. When the film was first presented one hundred years ago, it was accompanied by a special score. Recently this score was discovered, double an important discovery because not only is the score one of the very first written specifically to accompany a film, but it was written by a major Italian composer, Pietro Mascagni (Cavalleria rusticana). Then a very special print was discovered, one using stencil colouring, rather than toning and imbition. From this a new print was struck for a presentation in the beautiful opera house in Bologna, with the score played by L’Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna. The stencilling approach allowed for a greater use of colour than was general at that time, where a whole scene would be tinted in an appropriate shade – blue for night scenes, for example. With this particular elements could be picked out. The diva’s dress was a delicate shade of purple, the devil a vivid red. So, we had a wonderful venue, an excellent orchestra playing a very interesting score, and a rip-roaring melodrama with added allure from its new colour coat – the combination from which permanent cinematic memories are created.

Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival review

Visits or Memories and Confessions

But there was one more special film that has so far been seen by too few viewers to be impregnated directly with their beings – but which absolutely radiated with the essence of filmmakers, viewers, and all humanity. Made in 1982, Manoel de Oliveira’s Visita ou memórias e confissões (Visits or Memories and Confessions) has only been released since his death in April this year, at the age of 106. An intensely personal film, he didn’t want to be seen as self-indulgent or blowing his own trumpet, so he embargoed it until he had died. He was already over 70 when he made it, and no doubt did not expect to live another 33 years – or to make another 42 features, shorts and documentaries.

In 1982, he had been forced to sell the house that had been his family’s home for over four decades, a home alive with the memories, the spirit of generations of his family, and of his own married life. But his “memories and confessions”, after all, cover a lifetime, political regimes including the Salazar dictatorship, religion, cinema, history. Technically, it is a simple film – no elaborate tracking shots, or complicated photographic or editing devices, often basic, long held shots of a room, or a window, or an oleander bush in bloom.

At one level, Visita is so personal, you’d imagine it would mean something to his close immediate family. Or at least to cinephiles who have seen his work over the years. But it is redolent of so much understanding, of so much compassion and empathy, of so much human experience. Because I have been “following” Oliveira’s career from about the time he made Visita it was like having one last meeting with a beloved old friend.

I did wonder, however, how this film from a septuagenarian would connect with the latest generation of cinephiles. One of the joys of Bologna is that there are so many of these new filmlovers, many still in the final years of study. Some are seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey or Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990) for the first time during the Festival. It was wonderful to talk to some of them, who in fact had not yet seen any other films by de Oliveira – and they loved it. Its simple humanity also spoke to them.

So, now Visita sets out on its journey to film lovers around the world and for years to come, who will leave the imprint of their own experiences and spirit on this film.

Il Cinema Ritrovato
27 June – 4 July 2015
Festival website: http://www.cinetecadibologna.it/en/

Endnotes

1. Patrick Modiano, The Search Warrant translated from the French by Joanna Kilmartin, Harvill Secker 2014. Original French title, Dora Bruder. Modiano is also the screenwriter of Louis Malle’s Lacombe, Lucien (1974).

2. Il Cinema Ritrovato xxix edizione Festival Catalogue Bologna 2015.

3. ibid.

4. See http://sensesofcinema.com/2014/festival-reports/wellman-wajda-and-restored-italian-divas-the-28th-cinema-ritrovato-festival

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