NFAI workshop to help preserve India’s cinematic heritage

Shoumojit Banerjee

2/25/2016 12:00:00 AM

The National Film Archive of India, the country’s largest film archive and custodian of the Indian film heritage, is conducting a workshop in film preservation and restoration to help conserve the nation’s cinematic legacy.

The NFAI, in collaboration with the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) and the Film Heritage Foundation (FHF), will conduct a one-of-a-kind 10-day workshop beginning February 26 titled ‘Film preservation & restoration workshop India 2016’.

The objective of this programme is not only to augment the infrastructure and capacity of the NFAI but also to build an indigenous resource of film archivists and restorers who can work towards saving India’s cinematic heritage.

“There is no culture of ‘preserving’ in this country. The first week-long workshop held in Mumbai in the Films’ Division last year was a resounding success. Fortunately, the fact that film preservation is a specialised field and that we need to build an indigenous resource of trained archivists that can take this movement forward is a fact that is gradually impressing itself,” said Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, who heads the FHF, commenting on the genesis of the workshop.

The ten-day advanced course has been specially designed by David Walsh, head of the FIAF Technical Commission, with focus on intensive practical training in current film preservation and archival practices.

“Since Indian cinema has been gaining attention of researchers and scholars across the world, it becomes imperative that these aspects along with meta-data management be made ready as per universal standards,” Mr. Dungarpur said.

The workshop will be an advanced course with emphasis on documentation, cataloguing, projection system and the importance of preserving films in celluloid and digital.

Lectures and practical sessions in the workshop will be conducted by leading archivists and restorers from preeminent film institutions in the world such as the George Eastman Museum, Selznick School of Film Preservation, FIAF and L’Immagine Ritrovata, and is supported by Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project’. There will be equal emphasis on preservation of heritage on celluloid format along with digitisation, said NFAI Director Prakash Magdum.

“Even though India is one of the largest producers of movies in the world, general awareness about film preservation is abysmal and is not looked as a career option. So, through this workshop, we will showcase the use of the latest technological advances that will prolong the life of celluloid film,” Mr Magdum said. The NFAI in recent years has carried out digitisation of nearly 500 films and the restoration of 300 more a few years back.



Berlinale Classics

1/14/2016 12:00:00 AM

The Berlinale Classics series of the 66th Berlin International Film Festival will present premieres of six films, two German and four international productions, five of them world premieres.

Heiner Carow’s semi-autobiographical film Die Russen kommen (The Russians are Coming, GDR, 1968) is set in the waning days of World War II. For 16-year-old Günter Walcher, the defeat of the Nazis is a catastrophe that brings his world to collapse. But a film about fascism without anti-fascist heroes was a no-go for the East German regime, and the film was banned before completion. In 1987, it was reconstructed based on a severely damaged work print, as only small sections of the negative had survived. Digital technology has now enabled the DEFA Foundation, in cooperation with the German Federal Film Archive, to produce a new restoration by combining footage from disparate source elements that varied in optical quality.

The American film The Road Back directed by James Whale in 1937, also references a slice of German history. It is based on the eponymous Erich Maria Remarque novel about four German infantrymen who face a difficult road back to civilian life. In 1939, after protests from Germany, Universal Studios re-edited the film without consulting the director. The festival is showing a reconstruction of James Whale’s original 1937 theatrical release version, preserved by the Library of Congress in collaboration with NBCUniversal and Martin Scorsese's The Film Foundation. David Stenn and the UCLA Film & Television Archive provided skills and film footage.

“It’s particularly fascinating that two of the Berlinale Classics movies are closely linked to censorship in Germany's past", says Rainer Rother, section head for the Retrospective and artistic director of the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek foundation. Heiner Carow’s The Russians are Coming is among the films that were banned or censored in East Germany for political reasons. We are showing several of those films in this year's Retrospective "Germany 1966. Redefining Cinema". Another illuminating example of the interference to which those films were subjected is The Road Back. It is proof that the political influence of the Nazi authorities was not restricted to Germany.“

With the digitally restored version of Bakushu (Early Summer), Berlinale Classics is once again presenting a work by Japanese master director Yasujiro Ozu. The 1951 film, about a young woman named Noriko whose family is trying to marry her off, is one of Ozu’s later works. Noriko is played by Ozu’s favourite actress, Setsuko Hara, who died in September 2015 at the age of 95. The 4K digital restoration project by the well-known Japanese production company Shochiku was led by Ozu’s former assistant cameraman Takashi Kawamata and cinematographer Masashi Chikamori, known for his work as a DP on Yoji Yamada films.

Also from Asia is the Taiwanese film Ni Luo He Nu Er (Daughter of the Nile) by Huo Hsiao-hsien, made in 1987. It is the director’s first film focusing on a female protagonist, and also notable for its depiction of Taipei in the 1980s. The digital restoration was based on the original 35 mm negative and was done under the aegis of the Taiwan Film Institute with Chen Huai-en, the film's cinematographer, overseeing the 4K-restoration.

Another digitally restored film from the US in the Berlinale Classics section is John Huston’s classic Fat City, made in 1972 with virtuoso cinematography by DP Conrad Hall. It features Jeff Bridges in one of his first screen roles, as the talented boxer Ernie. The melancholy tone of the film is set by Kris Kristofferson’s hit “Help Me Make It Through the Night". The film was restored from an original 35 mm negative and digitised in 4K by Sony Pictures, under the supervision of Grover Crisp.

The Berlinale Classics section will open with Fritz Lang’s 1921 silent film classic Der müde Tod(Destiny). The digitally restored version, made possible by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation, will premiere on February 12, 2016 in the Friedrichstadtpalast Friedrichstadtpalast (see press release from Dec 2, 2015). Broadcasters ZDF / ARTE commissioned new music for the film from composer Cornelius Schwehr, which will be played by the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin (RSB), with conductor Frank Strobel at the podium.

Berlinale Classics programme

Bakushu (Early Summer)
By Yasujiro Ozu, Japan, 1951
Monday Feb. 15, 2016, CinemaxX 8
World premiere of the digitally restored version in 4K DCP

Fat City
By John Huston, USA, 1972
Friday Feb. 19, 2016, CinemaxX 8
International premiere of the digitally restored version in 4K DCP

Der müde Tod (Destiny)
By Fritz Lang, Germany, 1921
Friday Feb. 12, 2016, Friedrichstadtpalast 
World premiere of the digitally restored version in 2K DCP 
Music by the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin (RSB) conducted by Frank Strobel

Ni Luo He Nu Er (Daughter of the Nile)
By Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan, 1987
Sunday Feb. 14, 2016, CinemaxX 8
World premiere of the digitally restored version in 4K DCP

The Road Back
By James Whale, USA, 1937 
Tuesday Feb. 16, 2016, CinemaxX 8
World premiere of the restored version in 35mm

Die Russen kommen (The Russians are Coming)
By Heiner Carow, East Germany, 1968/1987
Saturday Feb. 13, 2016, CinemaxX 8
World premiere of the digitally restored version in 2K DCP


Para que o passado sobreviva ao futuro

Daniel Oliveira

11/1/2015 12:00:00 AM

Parceira profissional de Martin Scorsese há 24 anos, Margaret Bodde foi a pessoa que o cineasta escolheu para confiar um de seus projetos mais importantes: a Film Foundation. No Brasil para receber uma homenagem na Mostra de Cinema de São Paulo pelos 25 anos da instituição, a sua atual diretora conversou com O TEMPO sobre a história e o funcionamento da fundação, e seus desafios em um mundo digital.

Queria que você começasse me contando um pouco da sua formação, e como você chegou ao cargo que possui hoje na Fundação.

Eu trabalho com Martin Scorsese há 24 anos, um ano a menos que a existência da Film Foundation. E uma das coisas de que ele gostou quando nos conhecemos e conversamos sobre trabalhar juntos era que eu tinha estudado cinema, conhecia a história do cinema, me interessava e me importava com ela. Meu primeiro emprego depois da faculdade foi na Library of Congress, cuidando do arquivo de filmes e fotografias, então eu tinha algum background em preservação. E eu também tinha trabalhado com distribuição independente, em uma das primeiras encarnações da Miramax. E o Marty gostou de que eu tivesse trabalhado para alguém tão duro e exigente como Harvey Weinstein. Ele achou que a combinação de todas essas habilidades funcionaria bem.

Então, você já começou na direção da Fundação?

Não. Eu comecei, na verdade, como assistente dele. Eu ajudava na produção dos filmes, e a preservação e a administração da Fundação eram parte do meu trabalho. Era algo em que eu ajudava quando tinha tempo. A gente ainda estava tentando entender o que a Fundação era, o que faria, como ajudaríamos. E em três ou quatro anos, Marty achou que os resultados que estávamos atingindo eram tão bons e importantes que me pediu para focar exclusivamente na Fundação. Ele arrumou outra assistente, eu fiquei com a parte de preservação e também produzi alguns documentários para ele.

E como a Fundação surge, e qual era seu objetivo inicial?

A Fundação foi originalmente criada por cineastas como Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas – eram cerca de nove, no total. Originalmente, ela deveria chamar atenção e levantar fundos para a preservação do cinema. E construir pontes entre os estúdios, com fins lucrativos, donos dos direitos dos filmes, e os arquivos, sem fins lucrativos, e que tinham grande parte dos negativos desses filmes. Porque não havia nenhum tipo de colaboração ou diálogo entre os dois, e esses fundadores queriam usar seu poder e autoridade para fazer com que esses dois elos trabalhassem juntos, com a Fundação no meio para financiar projetos que não fossem de propriedade dos estúdios ou que tivessem um maior caráter de urgência. E, claro, chamar a atenção do público em geral e da indústria para a importância de abrir os cofres, as caixas, olhar os negativos, ver se eles estão vinagrando, salvar aqueles que estão se deteriorando mais rápido. Então, a Fundação se tornou uma voz que a indústria e o público escutavam. Porque quando Martin Scorsese e Steven Spielberg estão falando, as pessoas querem ouvir. E isso era importante para eles – e para mim, também, porque eu amo cinema: usar a fama e a paixão que o público tem pelo trabalho deles como alicerce da Fundação.

Como ela funciona na prática?

Nós criamos um programa principal, que era a preservação e restauração de filmes, e essa era a essência da Fundação. Não começamos pensando em trabalhar apenas com o cinema norte-americano, só que acabamos iniciando por ele porque havia uma demanda tão grande. Mas nos primeiros anos, também atuamos no cinema indiano, com a obra de Satyajit Ray, porque o Arquivo da Academia estava trabalhando nos filmes dele. E eventualmente, migramos para o cinema inglês, italiano. Não muitos franceses porque a França toma ótimo cuidado de sua história cinematográfica. Também fomos para o Japão, onde restauramos “Rashomon”. E nos últimos anos, o Marty decidiu focar na cinematografia de países em desenvolvimento com o World Cinema Project, que se volta para lugares onde não existem arquivos nem infraestrutura para cuidar de sua história audiovisual. A gente vai até esses locais e conversa diretamente com os realizadores, ou seus herdeiros, filhos, netos ou os próprios produtores, e perguntamos se eles sabem onde estão as cópias. Às vezes é sim, outras não. Algumas é “no armário”. Daí, nós colaboramos com eles para que esses filmes, que são marcos na cinematografia de seus países, e do mundo, sejam restaurados, preservados – e distribuídos. Essa é a maior diferença do World Cinema Project: quando os direitos estão disponíveis, nós distribuímos o filme.

E qual é o maior desafio desse trabalho?

É a transição da película para o digital. Por 130 anos, o cinema consistia de uma mídia. E você pode pegar um rolo de filme de 100 anos, esticá-lo contra a luz e ver o que está gravado nele. Se você pegar uma fita beta e não tiver um reprodutor próprio, não vai saber o que tem ali. Então, é impossível saber se esse material vai sobreviver porque estamos vivendo uma transição muito rápida. É como se todos os pintores decidissem que as telas, tintas e óleos não servissem mais. E imediatamente, todo mundo tem que pintar na tela do computador. Sei que é uma analogia dramática. Mas essa decisão feita pela indústria, por questões de custo e distribuição, foi muito rápida e pode ter consequências que ninguém previu.

Como isso afeta o trabalho da Fundação?

Nós estamos alerta a essa questão. Porque a melhor forma de preservar um filme, mesmo que ele tenha sido feito digitalmente, ainda é a película. Idealmente, você ainda deve ter masters separadas em preto e branco que manterão seu trabalho vivo e acessível por muitos e muitos anos porque a evolução digital é tão rápida hoje que ninguém sabe se o formato padrão atual vai ser reproduzível em 50 anos. Mas à medida que a película se torna menos disponível e mais cara, espero que isso nunca aconteça, mas pode chegar um ponto em que ela não seja mais fabricada. E isso afeta a preservação diretamente. Porque vamos precisar confiar no digital para preservar filmes feitos no passado, em película, e não sabemos a vida útil dessas mídias. Sabemos algumas coisas que podem ajudar, como migrar o filme anualmente de um HD para outro – para que você tenha certeza de que o material ainda está ali. Mas ainda temos mais perguntas do que respostas no que tange a preservação, pelo menos até termos um formato digital estável que não mude a cada seis meses e se torne obsoleto e não-reproduzível cm cinco anos – daí, a importância da migração.

Mas se película é a melhor forma de preservação, é possível manter esse ideal com todos os laboratórios fechando no mundo todo?

Isso é uma crise. Revelar e reproduzir cópias não é um processo artesanal, algo que pode ser feito em uma escala pequena. A economia e a logística desse trabalho precisam ser feitas em escala industrial. Se alguém pensar em abrir um laboratório pequeno, para fazer 100 cópias por ano, eles vão à falência em um mês. Então, é um problema enorme e eu não sei qual é a resposta. Nos EUA, ainda há um bom laboratório em Nova York e dois em Los Angeles. Marty acabou de filmar seu último longa, “Silence”, em película e teve que mandar o material de Taiwan para o único laboratório em LA que ainda revela filme para produção.

Existe algum lugar hoje em que a preservação da memória cinematográfica está especialmente ameaçada, em que a intervenção é mais urgente?    

Há vários. Mas um continente com o qual estamos particularmente preocupados é a África. Porque acabamos de fazer a restauração de “A Garota Negra”, de Ousmane Sembene, e ninguém sabia onde o negativo original estava. E ele é um marco, o “Cidadão Kane” da África. Se ele estava perdido, imagine os menos reconhecidos. Nós o encontramos, e o que o World Cinema Project quer é fazer isso para todas as principais cinematografias da África. 

E o Brasil, como você avaliaria o estado da preservação cinematográfica aqui? 

Gostaríamos de trabalhar em mais projetos brasileiros. Eu conversei com algumas pessoas da Cinemateca e queremos ajudá-los a identificar filmes especialmente necessitados de preservação. Acabamos de fazer o “Limite”, nosso primeiro trabalho brasileiro, mas um apenas não é o suficiente. 

E o que mais surpreendeu você nesse trabalho desde que você começou há 24 anos?

Que eu ainda estou fazendo (risos). Porque a área da preservação evoluiu. E eu fico feliz em saber que a Fundação ainda existe, é relevante e serve um propósito na cultura cinematográfica. 

E nesses 25 anos, houve algum projeto que tenha sido especial para você, como amante do cinema? 

Um projeto recente de que eu estou extremamente orgulhosa é a restauração do documentário de cinco horas do Marcel Ophuls sobre Nuremberg, “The Memory of Justice”. Foi feito em 1976, e não foi visto desde então porque os direitos das imagens de arquivos e música haviam expirado. E a Fundação decidiu restaurá-lo e renovar os direitos para exibição em festivais e sessões não-comerciais. Foi um projeto de três a cinco anos especial para mim porque, quando alguém me diz “não é possível”, é quando eu realmente quero fazer. A Fundação tem o privilégio de ter o Marty e os outros diretores que nos permitem ir aonde outras pessoas não podem. E o que tornou esse projeto ainda mais especial é que o Marcel Ophuls ainda está vivo e pôde ir a vários festivais, então o filme dele ganhou uma segunda vida. E é um documentário profundamente relevante sobre várias questões que nos assolam ainda hoje. 

Scorsese é um dos maiores cinéfilos do mundo, mas também um dos diretores mais importantes em atividade. O quanto ele ainda pode colaborar no trabalho da Fundação? 

Muito. Desde sugerir títulos que precisam ser restaurados, que estão indisponíveis ou em risco, até levantar fundos e assistir aos testes de restaurações em progresso. E, quando o filme está pronto, ele é muito envolvido no processo de conversar com a mídia e o público sobre por que aquela obra é especial. Acabamos de exibir sete filmes restaurados pela Fundação no New York Film Festival, e Marty estava lá introduzindo cada um para seus conterrâneos e explicando para eles a sua importância.

Quais são os planos para os próximos 25 anos?

Nós criamos um programa educacional sobre a história do cinema, com uma disciplina para que alunos do ensino fundamental e médio nos EUA entendam a linguagem cinematográfica. Como histórias são contadas visualmente – o que um diretor faz, o que um diretor de fotografia contribui, o trabalho do roteirista. Ele introduz jovens à ideia de que há filmes antigos que são importantes e dos quais eles talvez gostem e que os enriqueçam culturalmente. “Eu me torno um espectador melhor e mais ativo, mesmo de filmes atuais, porque eu entendo a gramática do cinema. E quero preservar os filmes do passado porque sei o valor deles”. É um programa que está crescendo, e que eu gostaria de levar a outros países com suas cinematografias próprias. Isso é o que eu vejo no futuro: educação, acesso, exibição dos filmes em película – temos uma iniciativa para criar um espaço de exibição em película em Los Angeles.

O trabalho da Fundação existe porque diretores e produtores não pensaram em preservar seu trabalho há 100, 70, 50 anos. Você acha que os realizadores hoje estão mais conscientes dess importância?

Gosto de pensar que sim. Mas sinto que, porque o digital é tão fácil e tão disponível, talvez os cineastas não pensem muito na necessidade de preservar esse material. Só porque está no Youtube ou no HD do seu computador não significa que está seguro. Seu computador pode morrer, seu notebook pode ser roubado. Você deve ter múltiplas cópias, com arquivos descomprimidos, em mais de um lugar. Essa é uma mensagem que ainda precisa ser divulgada, e a Fundação está trabalhando para que ela seja ouvida pelos realizadores.                 



NYFF: Martin Scorsese on Film Preservation

Film Comment

10/27/2015 12:00:00 AM

The 53rd New York Film Festival kicked off its showcase of revivals with Ernst Lubitsch’s magnificent Technicolor comedyHeaven Can Wait in a gorgeous restoration by 20th Century Fox in collaboration with the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation. Afterward, Martin Scorsese, founder and chair of The Film Foundation, was on hand to recall the early challenges in persuading studios of the need to preserve their films. His interlocutor at Alice Tully Hall was Director of the New York Film Festival Kent Jones, whose own tribute to filmmakers and film history, Hitchcock/Truffaut, previews tonight at the Film Society of Lincoln Center alongside a program of Hitchcock films, in advance of its release on December 2.

KENT JONES: It’s your first time in the new Alice Tully Hall.

MARTIN SCORSESE: It’s my first time in the new Alice Tully, because the other [Film Foundation] events have been at the Walter Reade for the past few years.

KJ: We were just talking backstage and I realized that Heaven Can Wait and Brooklyn, a Fox Searchlight picture, are both on 35mm. I wanted to start with the beginning, which is when you first realized the need for restoration and preservation actually had to exist. It was at a screening in L.A., right?

MS: Yes. It was at LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I always imagined the room to be this big, but it was much smaller. They would have these wonderful programs back in the early Seventies, and one of the big ones was 20th Century Fox. They had restored a number of films—SunriseBlood Money,Seventh Heaven, the Rowland Brown pictures, about four or five of them. And they showed all the prints from the Fox vaults at the program.

KJ: So it all begins with Fox.

MS: Yes. I saw this film [Heaven Can Wait] in the original studio nitrate print. If you see nitrate on a big screen, there is a difference from “safety film.” This goes off the subject a bit, but I was talking about projecting a certain classic film off of a Blu-ray on a big screen for young people who are 13 or 14 years old. The impact, if it has any, is still the same, but it’s not a film experience. It’s a different kind of experience, and I think it’s akin to the difference between nitrate film and the celluloid that we’ve known for the past 50 years or so.

So we’d go on weekends—Jay Cox was with me, Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma, a number of people—and they were showing everything from the silent films to the Fifties ’Scope pictures. And the black-and-white nitrate was amazing. This was right before I made Mean Streets in 1973. Around the same time I was living in Los Angeles, trying to see classic films, and we really couldn’t find good copies. If we were at a studio—Steven was at Universal, I was working for a while as an editor at Warner Brothers—and I’d ask to screen a film, they’d show me a studio print or something. But we were aware it was difficult to see complete films, films that weren’t scratched, or where the color wasn’t messed up.

We had seen Wilson [44] in 35mm Technicolor nitrate, The Black Swan [42], Blood and Sand [41], all these extraordinary uses of Technicolor from the late Thirties as part of the LACMA program. Wings of the Morning [37], the first British one… We didn’t know the full extent of it until one of the nights at LACMA, they were showing Niagara and The Seven Year Itch. So we sit through Niagara, which is a beautiful Technicolor film noir. And then there was a break, and before the second film begins, Ron Haver—who was amazing and pulled this all together, this show—comes out and says that the print of The Seven Year Itch from the studio is faded. This is 1972, or ’71. The Seven Year Itch was made in ’55. What made this so dramatic is that Niagara was made a couple of years before in ’53. When Fox got their first anamorphic lenses, every film, black and white or in color, they all had to be made in ‘Scope. And the color system was changed from a three-strip to a Monopack. So Ron Haver comes out, tells the audience that it’s a little faded, and everybody groaned. We had missed some other ’Scope films during the week that didn’t live up to their original glory, so to speak, and apparently the audience was quite aware of this. Then Ron said, “Listen. What’s going to happen is that we’re going to put a filter—” and people started yelling “No, no! Don’t put the filter back on! It goes out of focus! Please!” They were trying to correct the color by putting gels in front of the lens that would melt and make it go out of focus. So I said: “What the hell is going on?” The film starts, and it’s pink and blue. The whole thing! Beautiful stereophonic sound. Whatever you may think of Billy Wilder’s film, the Axelrod thing, the color, high Fifties, we’re talking an iconic film…We were so disappointed—our eyes were treated to this extraordinary Technicolor of Niagara and the films that had preceded it, and this was like falling off a cliff.

It was such a shock. We began to realize that everything since the Monopack was like this. This was the studio print. How did it get like this? It’s only been a few years! You couldn’t see the features of the actors anymore. You could, but it isn’t the same as seeing their faces in the lighting style of the Classical Hollywood era, either black and white or color. You couldn’t see what you were supposed to see. On top of that, you’re dealing with icons of cinema: Marilyn Monroe, a film that—

KJ: —Tom Ewell.

MS: Well, Tom Ewell no, but this is American theater, translated to screen. You’re missing the narrative, you’re missing the performance. Something is wrong with the image. So then they put the gels on, and it started to get soft, and people started to stamp their feet and get really mad, and that’s when we said “Let’s get out of here.” And we walked out. There were about five of us, and we were like: “What the hell? How can this be?” We’d seen bad copies of films on television, but not in a museum, not such a dramatic change. I saw House of Bamboo[55] at the studio: terrific stereophonic sound but the image was distanced and aged in a way. Long story, it goes on like this because we tried to find prints of films by 1975, ’76, and—oh, even The Leopard [63]! It was difficult to get a print to see that was in good condition of this film. The American version was two and a half hours or so, but even that was gone, so we got a 16mm print, but that was magenta.

I remember when we inquired further, Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma too, they said that we can’t keep all these prints around. I’m not talking about the studio prints, but at that point we realized the future of what had been created up until 1950 or 1960, that if nobody was made aware of it, it really came down to people going into the vaults and going through the cans. And that’s hard to do, because the people who are employed that way, they’re there to make sure that if they’re sent down there, they can find something—and that’s about it. But when they open these cans and look at them, for example, there was no system. Also around that time, in 1970, MGM went under and the films went somewhere else. Paramount had sold all of their pre-1948 films to Universal before video came out, thinking that there were no more legs in them, that they couldn’t make any money from them. There was an idea that film libraries were something that you had to get rid of. There were stories of negatives being burnt and thrown away.

KJ: And negatives that had been run into the ground, that had been used again and again.

MS: Particularly for very famous films. They began making more prints off of the original negative, over and over again, because there was a demand for it, and that disintegrated the negative.Rope [48] was that way, but it’s been restored by Fox. A lot of the prints were often original neg on that. But it was one of those things we began to realize: that the studios were in flux, that things were changing. There was no time for people to think what films are, what they were, what they can be, and what they are to a new generation. We got a bad rap in a way because we were young kids in our late twenties or so, and they thought we had to go to school to learn films. Some of the older guys working out there would say: “We didn’t have to school to learn how to make a film.” I’d say: “No, it’s not that you have to go to school to make a film. We’re very lucky to be involved with certain professors.” We got our hands on some equipment—but that’s New York. There was very little independent filmmaking in New York. Not enough, I should say. There was an impact—Cassavetes, Shirley Clarke, all the avant-garde cinema. There was an impact. But one wasn’t fed into the industry if you wanted to go that way. And I knew that narrative cinema was my thing.

KJ: You guys were the upstarts.

MS: Yeah, we were. They kept saying: “Well, what do you want to see these films for?” And we kept pushing them for making new prints. And the man who came in and made the biggest buyout was Ted Turner, getting all those films from Warner Brothers.

KJ: Who everybody thought was a villain at first because of colorization.

MS: Yes. Well, there was a battle there with colorization because there was that line: “Last time I looked, I owned it, and I’m going to do what I’m going to do.” And then it was a conflict about the value of the work of art. How can it be a work of art if it’s a commercial thing? Hmm. [Pauses] Let’s think about that. No! It means a lot to people. It’s inspired artists, novelists, poets, and painters, not just people who simply enjoy making narrative on film. It was really a mindset that had to be changed.

By 1979, I had really had it, and I couldn’t find anything that was in any good shape, and I decided to make Raging Bull in black and white. Also because there were about four other boxing films coming out that year: The Main EventRocky 2, andMatilda, the boxing kangaroo. [Audience erupts in laughter] Well, the Australians were a big deal with Mad Max… So what’s gonna be the difference? You’ve got a nice comedy, you got the Rocky thing, you got a kangaroo. But the red gloves? What isthat? We’re gonna be killed! Let’s just do it black and white. The studio was originally not for it, but we eventually got that done.

I was so angry about [color stock fading], the only thing I could do was to send an angry letter out about the fact that now every film has to be made in film at the studios, and if everything has to be made in color, that’s when the color gets cheaper. [As a director] you spend all that time designing in color—because whether it’s shades of browns and grays, you still have to design it, and then time it. It means something, the way you see things, and that’s just when the color’s not going to last. Just when you have to do it, that’s when it’s going to be bad. The time where it did last, which was the old Technicolor, it was considered mainly for musicals and comedies and Westerns, that sort of thing. I said that you can’t work when one of your major tools is being destroyed, and we have to do something to get a better color stock. So I attacked Eastman Kodak and sent out letters around the world to the filmmakers asking them to sign this petition to get a stronger, stable printing stock. There were many signatures, everyone from Ingmar Bergman to Kenneth Anger. Everyone signed it except Bob Altman. Bob Altman said that it’s not the film manufacturer, it’s the distributor. And I think he’s right. Afterward he became part of The Film Foundation, and he understood. But it was okay—we had to go after something, and I brought this idea of the color fading.

Then I began to realize, if that’s what you think about our culture, then there’s nothing in the culture. It’s a culture that you use up and throw away. You don’t care about it. If everybody’s walking around thinking that film changed their life, that a book changed their life, thinking that it’s going to be there all the time, to keep a continuity with the younger generations of this thing… If you think art is important at all, whether it’s commercial art or not, it seems to me it’s art. Maybe some are better than others. If it’s good, bad, or indifferent. It’s still art and we all know it’s very, very hard to even make a bad film.

KJ: Yeah…

[Audience laughs]

MS: Very hard. But if it comes out really bad, that’s why. With all of that effort and all of that love that was put into something—in most cases—and it means something to people, if the idea was just to show it only for a little while and then maybe show it cut up on TV, and then that’s it, what are we talking about in our culture? So I put together a program that I took around the world when we opened up Raging Bull and went on tour with it. We started with the trailers in color, one of them being Invaders from Mars [53], William Cameron Menzies’ film, very low-budget super Cinecolor film. And they were all laughing in the audience and I said: “What are you all laughing at? This is Close Encounters.” Those who know about the film I’m talking about, you know it’s the great William Cameron Menzies. There’s a new book coming out about him finally. You should see it and read it. Menzies is so important in production design.

This is one of the films that certain people saw at a certain age and it’s your cinema now—this is where it came from. So if you say “Invaders from Mars, who wants to keep it? Let it rot”? It’d change the industry! Funny, you know? Then I went into films by [Franz] Boas, North Native American tribal ritual dances, which were done in 1915, 1920. And then I showed a clip of a rocket going to the moon, NASA footage, I think. You see the rocket going in this glorious magenta. You made it to the moon, but the film was gone. It’s really interesting. What kind of thinking is this? And it was really a level of consciousness that we tried to change.

It was hard because Eastman Kodak said that we had to talk and they said, you know, this is not our thing. There is a stable stock: it costs a penny more a foot. And the studios at that time didn’t want to pay that. It’s not like now. If you’re going to send, what, 10,000 prints out or something, 4,000 prints, it’s a lot of money. But no one ever thought of it, to pay that extra penny a foot for the more stable stock. But that changed a lot. Everything changed, I think, by 1983-84. They made that stock available at no extra cost and that stock was called LPP at the time, and then it got better and it got much better and it continues to.

The point is that the film itself is no longer going to be around much longer. Yet we all know that the only stable element for preservation of film, even when you go through it digitally and you do your whole digital 4K, 6K, whatever it is. The only stable thing ultimately—you make separation masters and everything onto black and white— [is] celluloid, which supposedly lasts about a hundred years, 70 to 100 years.

KJ: A round of applause for celluloid.

MS: George Lucas was with me the other day, and we were talking and he says: “Yeah, it’ll last 10 years.” “Oh come on George, I’m telling you that celluloid…” He said: “If you’re doing a DI, you’re making a digital film.” I said: “I know, but still…” So we’re using film and digital at times.

KJ: The Film Foundation was formed in 1990 and over 600 films have been restored.

MS: The thing about The Film Foundation came out about the late 1980s… I tried to find films and restore the negatives by making new prints, and I would get permission from the studios to make new prints. The one that was the hardest was Pursued[47], Raoul Walsh’s Freudian Western. Once we got that, they couldn’t make a print of the original negative. And so Bob Rosen at UCLA at the time said: “Why don’t you take whatever color you guys have at this point and put it together and bring it to the studios and explain to them and see if you can create a little group.” And so with Mike Ovitz at CAA, we put together The Film Foundation. Sydney Pollack joined up, and Steven of course, and Lucas and Coppola.

KJ: And Altman.

MS: And then Altman came in, Robert Redford…

KJ: Clint Eastwood…

MS: Yeah. So what I did was while I was editing Goodfellas, I went through these books they call The MGM Story and The Warner Brothers Story, and they had every film that the studios made. And I tried to put them in order of, not importance, but a kind of necessity, whether it was a film I liked, I thought was overlooked and/or whether it’s a film that was Warner Brothers’ first two-strip Technicolor film. So I tried to put them in A, B, and C categories, and then I would get meetings with the heads of the studios with these books. They would let me in because I’d just done Goodfellas. I think it was one of those things where, you know: “He did Goodfellas and people like it but just… he has this thing. Just let him do his thing. Let him come in. Don’t make any kind of any fast moves.” You know what I’m saying? That kind of stuff. I remember it was Mickey Schulhof at Sony, because George Lucas went to the head of Sony at the time, Mr. Morita, and Mr. Morita said: “Michael Schulhof is the man, see him.”

So we got a meeting with him and when I gave him the book, he looked through it and he said: “You did this?” And I think what was very sweet about it is that he realized: “Yeah, they love these things. They love it.” He said, “You really went through all that?” It was every one of them. And then there was Bob Daly and Terry Semel, and Bob turning around to Warner Brothers and saying: “The problem is 20 years from now. What’s going to happen when we start doing the same thing?” That was the key to it. How is this going? Once you start with your photochemical restorations—digital was not around that clear at the time—but once you start that way, how is it going to change and how is it going to be? How is it going to be cared for and preserved?

The whole key of The Film Foundation was to unite the archives with the studios because, as I used to say, the studio was not only in production and distribution of a film, but it was production, distribution, and conservation. This art belongs to everyone. I said, you’re the custodians. That’s the idea. You have the great responsibility for preserving this work. Prior to that, the archives, from what I experienced, what I saw, were suspect, because they would find prints in garbage pails or whatever. But those films technically belonged to the studio, not the archives. And so in the worst-case scenario, they’re considered thieves. And it turns out—I remember it was the main head executive there at Universal years ago, when UCLA somehow restored For Whom The Bell Tolls from Universal Pictures, and Technicolor wanted to screen it at one of the theaters at UCLA, and they were stopped by the heads of the studio because they said: “It’s our picture. What are they doing? We own it.” But then they got involved too. Steven Spielberg went to Lew Wasserman and talked to him about it to try to change the thinking.

That’s a very different kind of thinking, you know. And at the same time, video started, and it was enormous. Then they realized that there’s no such thing [as] “an old film is just a film,” but, as Peter Bogdanovich said, “there’s also film that you’ve never seen.” That’s all. Kids know the difference to a certain extent with black and white, and even then if they show them in the right circumstances, it doesn’t matter after a few minutes. Anyway, that’s the general idea. Margaret Bodde and Jennifer Ahn…

KJ: Give them a round of applause.

MS: They were raising a lot of funding, an extraordinary amount. And one of the key things was that at the time we were told: “Don’t go into funding because it’s going to hurt possible funding for the archives from other places.” But I said, no, I think it’s something we could override if there was any kind of contention amongst the archives. At that time there were five, and now it’s seven. “If there’s any difficulty, we can override that. We’re talking about cinema. We’re talking about the film itself.”

KJ: Yeah. I think that that’s been overcome. Also, consciousness of film preservation has changed now. You mentioned something before, as we close, because we’re getting the high sign here—

MS: I’m sorry. It’s a long story. It’s 25 years, as it turns out.

KJ: I just want to close by saying that you know we’re celebrating the two anniversaries and the Fox anniversary, [and] just to say that you mentioned the idea of the studios being great custodians. This is the Fox story.

MS: Amazing. Every film, everything on the shelves. And all of that talk of the faded prints, forget it. This is the best. It’s amazing. I never thought I’d experience it, honestly.

KJ: I know, and that’s where it started. Thanks, Marty.

MS: Thank you, everybody.



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