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‘The Juniper Tree’ Trailer: Feminist Fairytale Stars Baby Björk in Her Feature Film Debut

Jude Dry

3/4/2019 12:00:00 AM

Exclusive: A new restoration of Iceland's black-and-white fairytale from 1990 gets its first-ever New York theatrical run courtesy of Metrograph.

Before she was known only by her first name, and long before her awe-inspiring performance in Lars von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” proved that musicians can sometimes out-act even the best actors, the beloved and enigmatic Björk made her feature film debut in a black-and-white film called “The Juniper Tree.” Based on a witchcraft tale from the Brothers Grimm and directed by Nietzchka Keene, “The Juniper Tree” premiered in competition at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival. Unfortunately, the fantasy arthouse indie never received theatrical distribution, making a new 4k restoration and re-release especially enticing.

As evidenced in IndieWire’s exclusive trailer for the new restoration — featuring stunning cinematography of Icelandic vistas and Björk’s already-honed onscreen naturalism — it’s clear that this vintage work deserves renewed attention.

Per Metrograph’s official synopsis: “Björk, then still the frontwoman of the Sugarcubes and not quite yet an international superstar, plays a woman fleeing with her sister from the persecutors who put their mother to the torch for crimes of witchcraft in this debut film by the late Nietzchka Keene, an evocation of medieval life full of harshness, fervor, and free-floating terror, with DP Randy Sellars capturing majestic, often otherworldly Icelandic landscapes in breathtaking black-and-white, returned to original luster thanks to a new restoration. Experimental filmmaker Pat O’Neill provides the dream sequences to this ravishing rediscovery, a feminist fairy tale that evokes Bergman and Tarkovsky while being at the same time unlike anything you’ve ever seen.”

The new restoration was done by the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. Arbelos Films will premiere “The Juniper Tree” at Metrograph for a one-week exclusive theatrical engagement from March 15-21, with a national expansion to follow.

’Neill provides the dream sequences to this ravishing rediscovery, a feminist fairy tale that evokes Bergman and Tarkovsky while being at the same time unlike anything you’ve ever seen.”

The new restoration was done by the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. Arbelos Films will premiere “The Juniper Tree” at Metrograph for a one-week exclusive theatrical engagement from March 15-21, with a national expansion to follow.

And here is the first look at the new poster, courtesy of Areblos Films:

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Martin Scorsese and the African Film Heritage Project Are Bringing Four Vital Films Home

Michael Nordine

2/23/2019 11:00:00 AM

The restorations are screening on their home continent for the first time.

The African Film Heritage Project has announced that it will screen restorations of four African films on their home continent for the first time as part of the 50th anniversary of the Pan African Film Festival of Ouagadougou. THE AFHP is a partnership between the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI), Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, along with its affiliate archive the Cineteca di Bologna, and UNESCO. The movies in question are Med Hondo’s “Soleil Ô” (1970), Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamima’s “Chronique des années de braise” (1975), Timité Bassori’s “La Femme au couteau” (1969), and Jean-Pierre Dikongue-Pipa’s “Muna Moto” (1975).

The AFHP will also present seven African films previously restored by Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, including work by the likes of Ousmane Sembene, Djibril Diop Mambety, Shadi Abdel Salam and Ahmed El Maanouni.

“I can’t tell you how really deeply inspired and excited I am by African films; ‘Yeelen,’ ‘Touki Bouki,’ ‘Trances,’ ‘La Noire De…,’ ‘Al Momia,’ ‘Bamako,’” said Scorsese in a statement. “I keep going back to these pictures and each time the experience is richer. My appreciation just keeps growing for the talent, the power, and the wisdom of African cinema. Many thanks to FESPACO for its truly amazing work, and here’s to 50 more years.”

“Through it, African filmmakers have chosen to be the lucid, critical and empathetic conscience of their continent, and indeed of the world itself. They have refused to be cynical about the world. They have put their faith in and cast their lot with the human, offering a genuine cinematic humanism, rooted in resilience and optimism in the coming of better futures.”

FESPACO takes place from February 23 to March 2.

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Celebrate Film Restoration with the Wexner Center

Hope Madden

2/19/2019 12:00:00 AM

For the fifth consecutive year, the Wexner Center for the Arts celebrates the art and artistry of film restoration with its Cinema Revival festival. The program offers moviegoers the chance to see beautifully restored films — groundbreaking classics, blockbusters and underseen gems — while digging into the process that protects these treasures for viewers of today and tomorrow.

The five-day event kicks off Thursday, February 21 and runs through Tuesday, February 26, offering a docket of 16 films as well as conversations with some of the craftspeople who brought these cinematic gems back from the brink.

Among the lineup of highlights is a restoration of Taylor Hackford’s 1985 Russian intrigue and dance film, White Nights.

“In 1985 when it was released, it was a really big film, but I feel like it’s kind of fallen by the wayside,” says Rita Belda, Vice President of Asset Management, Film Restoration and Digital Mastering for Sony. “Because the main characters are trapped in Russia and they’re part of a political game, it felt like it was interesting to revisit now.”

Belda’s department is responsible for Sony’s entire feature film and television catalog.

“Our job is to manage the assets,” she says, “to preserve them, protect them and make sure that they last into the future. Our mission is to make sure that all of the films in the library are preserved and available for viewing.”

She recalls a time when a request for White Nights drew her attention to the rough quality of the title in Sony’s archive.

“A few years ago I got the request to send a DCP of White Nights to the Chicago Film Festival,” she says. “I started looking into the materials and I was really unhappy with what we had. It didn’t hold up to the artistry of the film.”

She felt the film deserved better.

“The cast is amazing. The performances are incredible,” she says. “And just the opportunity to see Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov on the big screen is really powerful. When the material doesn’t hold up to the original vision, it becomes a challenge to me for restoration, to get the material back to the quality that audiences would have seen in the original release.”

When schedules aligned and funds became available, White Nights landed on Belda’s restoration docket.  

“We started with the original negative,” she recalls. “It was dirty. So we scanned the negative at 4K and then we evaluated it further for dirt and scratch and did a full digital restoration, and then we pulled in the director, Taylor Hackford, who oversaw the color correction and audio restoration.”

Says Belda, Hackford’s collaboration on the project made for an incredible experience.

“He expressed to me that he was really thrilled that we were able to go back and do this in a major 4K restoration,” she says. “He was very generous with his time and his stories.”

She recalls one particular episode when Hackford was especially careful in guiding the color correction of a scene starring his wife, Helen Mirren.

“It was one of my favorite moments,” she says. “There was a shot where the light fell off of her face, and that was a shot that he was particularly interested in making sure it was perfect. That was something I thought was really lovely.”

A returning expert for Cinema Revival, Belda’s excited to get the chance to participate again and learn from other speakers in the program.

“I am a really big fan of the Wexner Center and what they do,” she says. “I think it’s awesome that David (Filipi) and his team are exposing people to the art and artistry of both cinema and the people who are working so hard to preserve cinema. It’s incredible to be a part of that.”

She’s also eager to premiere the newly restored White Nights with a Columbus audience.

“I am excited to present this film because I think a lot of people have not seen it, certainly not in a theatrical context,” she says. “That’s where the preservationist and the film fan in me come together. It’s great to be able to preserve the film and it’s even better to watch them with an audience. That’s what I’m looking forward to, because it’s a really excellent opportunity to visit with people in Columbus and show them this movie, but it’s not much work.”

Full Cinema Revival lineup:

Thursday, February 21

4:30 p.m. The War at Home (1979) 4K restoration

7:30 p.m. Filibus (1915), introduced by Amy Heller and Dennis Doros, Milestones Films

Friday, February 22

4:30 p.m. From ‘Sunrise” to “Die Hard”: The History of 20th Century Fox, presented by Shawn Belston, 20th Century Fox

7 p.m. True Stories (1986), introduced by Lee Kline, Criterion Collection

Saturday, February 23

12 p.m. Notorious (1946), Introduced by Eric Luszcz, Criterion Collection

2:30 p.m. Detour (1945), introduced by John Polito, Audio Mechanics

4:45 p.m. Prisoners of the Earth (1939), introduced by Margaret Bodde, The Film Foundation

6:30 p.m. Cinema Revival Reception

7:30 p.m. White Nights (1985), introduced by Rita Belda, Sony Pictures

Sunday, February 24

11:30 a.m. Laurel and Hardy X 4 (Helpmates [1932], County Hospital [1932], Busy Bodies [1933], That’s That [1937])

1:30 p.m. Battling Butler (1926), introduced by Tim Lanza, Cohen Film Collection

3:30 p.m. That Brennan Girl (1946)

Monday, February 25

4:00 p.m. Les rendez-vous d’Anna (1978)

Tuesday, February 26

7 p.m. Claudine (1974) with postscreening conversation with Simone Drake

Festival passes are $30 for members, students and seniors, $35 for the general public.

Purchase festival passes or individual movie tickets at www.wexarts.org.

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2019 UCLA Festival of Preservation offers a weekend of cinematic rarities and surprises

Kenneth Turan

2/12/2019 2:55:00 PM

Can you improve on the best? Can you make the most anticipated event on the calendars of discerning cinephiles even more fun and festive? The UCLA Film & Television Archive is about to try.

The occasion in question is the beloved UCLA Festival of Preservation, the 19th edition of which is filled, as always, with a deeply satisfying cornucopia of films, forgotten gems and rarely revived classics that never fail to both astonish in their diversity and dazzle in their newly restored glory.

But while previous iterations of the festival have spread their riches over a month of screenings, this year’s celebration, which opens Friday at the Hammer Museum’s Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood, is going to fit its offerings into one very busy and exciting weekend.

For the first time, the festival’s 23 programs are going to run consecutively, starting at 9 a.m. Friday and lasting until midnight and beyond all three days.

You can buy tickets to individual programs or, if you are feeling especially festive, you can splurge for a $50 pass that lets you experience every last one of them, which at about $2 per event is quite the bargain for those with the necessary stamina.

The 1930 Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy short "Hog Wild," directed by James Parrott, screens Feb. 17.

The 1930 Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy short "Hog Wild," directed by James Parrott, screens Feb. 17. (UCLA Film & Television Archive)

Once again, the variety of films and television, all restored by UCLA, is astonishing, running the gamut from the antics of Laurel and Hardy to austere independent gems like Christopher Munch’s “The Hours and Times” to one of a kind programs such as “U.S. Presidents In the Hearst Newsreels,” going from William McKinley to Lyndon Johnson with lots of folks in between.

Classics of various genres also get their due, including 1958’s original television version of “Days of Wine and Roses” with Piper Laurie and Cliff Robertson as the protagonists.

“The Mortal Storm” directed by Frank Borzage in 1940, was one of Hollywood’s most prescient films, starring Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart and Robert Young in the story of a Jewish family destroyed by the Nazi party, which is said to be one of the reasons American films came to be banned in Germany.

A scene from the 1946 film "Enamorda."

A scene from the 1946 film "Enamorda." (UCLA Film & Television Archive)

A splendid work of a very different type is 1946’s Mexican standout “Enamorda,” a tale of the Mexican Revolution inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” Starring María Félix and directed by Emilio Fernández, it benefits from the gorgeous cinematography of Gabriel Figueroa.

One of least known films in the festival, 1933’s “My Lips Betray,” is a lighter-than-air piece of fluff that starts the weekend off.

“Lips” stars the charming Lilian Harvey, one of Germany’s most popular stars who had a brief Hollywood moment, as a singer who captures the heart of a king. Look for a cameo by Mickey Mouse.

As a fan of the brooding film noir genre, it’s a pleasure to report that UCLA has restored several features that fit that description. Best of these are two from 1949: “The Crooked Way” and “Trapped.”

Starring John Payne as a World War II vet with amnesia who shows up in L.A. and discovers his criminal past, “The Crooked Way” benefits from the cinematography of the legendary John Alton.

Perhaps the greatest of noir cinematographers, Alton gives a master class in the creation of ominous, engulfing shadows, breathing life into noir staples like rain-slicked streets, deserted warehouses and sinister window blinds.

Also excellent is “Trapped,” starring Lloyd Bridges in his pre-“Sea Hunt” days as a counterfeiter who tries to play both ends against the middle. Also a visual treat, this Richard Fleischer-directed film has a crackling conclusion shot in a long-gone Red Car depot in downtown L.A.

Allene Roberts and Edward G. Robinson in the 1947 film "The Red House," directed by Delmer Daves.

Allene Roberts and Edward G. Robinson in the 1947 film "The Red House," directed by Delmer Daves. (United Artists / Photofest / UCLA Film & Television Archive)

Ready for more noir? Also benefiting from fine acting and a great location is 1951’s “The Man Who Cheated Himself,” starring Jane Wyatt a long way from “Father Knows Best” and a gruff Lee J. Cobb in a tale that twists and turns all the way to San Francisco’s iconic Fort Point.

Almost unclassifiable is Delmer Daves’ 1947 “The Red House,” half-psychological drama, half-thriller, that boasts an unnerving Miklos Rozsa score and a disturbing performance by Edward G. Robinson as a man who says things such as “you can’t run away from a scream.”

The preservation festival items that surprised me the most this year were silent, starting with two hours of “Preserved Silent Shorts and Fragments.”

This program showcases ultra-rare work from 1910 through 1916, when short films were top of the heap, and gives us a glimpse of what the world looked like physically as well as story-wise a full century ago.

Pauline Frederick, standing, in the 1925 silent film "Smouldering Fires," directed by Clarence Brown.

Pauline Frederick, standing, in the 1925 silent film "Smouldering Fires," directed by Clarence Brown. (Universal Pictures / Photofest / UCLA Film & Television Archive)

The one silent feature in the festival, 1925’s “Smouldering Fires,” is as unusual as its title. Directed by Clarence Brown, later Greta Garbo’s director of choice, it stars Pauline Frederick in a serious, sophisticated piece of work about love, age and power dynamics. It’s not at all what you might expect, which is just what the Festival of Preservation is all about.

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2019 UCLA Festival of Preservation

Where: Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd, Westwood. cinema.ucla.edu

When: Feb. 15-17

Cost: $8-$10; festival pass, $50

Feb. 15: “My Lips Betray,” 9 a.m.; “Voice In The Wind,” 10:41 a.m.; Selling L.A. Television: Local Kinescopes and Film Fragments, 1:40 p.m.; “The Crooked Way,” 3:15 p.m.; “El Fantasma del Convento,” 5 p.m.; “The Mortal Storm,” 7:30 p.m.; “Trapped,” 9:47 p.m.; “The Man Who Cheated Himself,” 11:20 p.m.

Feb. 16: “Playhouse 90: Days of Wine and Roses,” 9 a.m.; Preserved Silent Shorts and Fragments, 11:05 a.m.; Selections From TV’s “Stars of Jazz,” 2:08 p.m.; “The Killing Floor,” 3:43 p.m.; “Enamorada,” 6:46 p.m.; “Smouldering Fires,” 8:40 p.m.; “The Red House,” 10:20 p.m.

Feb. 17: “Alibi,” 9 a.m., Newly Restored Animation, 10:50 a.m.; Laurel and Hardy: Fugues of Destruction, 1:11 p.m.; U.S. Presidents in Hearst Newsreels, 2:53 p.m.; “Operation Bootstrap,” 5:08 p.m.; “Gay USA,” 7:36 p.m.; “The Hours and Times,” 8:59 p.m.; “A Boy And His Dog,” 10:11 p.m.

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