EXCLUSIVE: Nina Menkes' QUEEN OF DIAMONDS Restoration Gets A New Trailer From Arbelos

J Hurtado

4/19/2019 12:00:00 AM

A new distributor on the block is making big waves with their acquisition and restorations of classic film from around the world. From the ashes of Cinelicious Pics has risen Arbelos, who've already worked on stunning restorations of Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie and Bela Tarr's Satantango, and among their many exciting upcoming projects we now have Nina Menkes' '90s feminist touchstone, Queen of Diamonds to look forward to.

Queen of Diamonds will open with a run at BAM in New York on April 26th, followed by an LA opening on June 15th. Both locations will have opportunities to engage with Menkes in the form of Q&A's as well as the chance to attend Menkes' Sex and Power: The Visual Language of Oppression talk on select dates. This is a unique opportunity that anyone within driving distance of these events should definitely put on their calendar.

Arbelos has given us an exclusive first look at the restoration trailer, you will find it below along with a couple of sample stills from the film.

Nina Menkes' QUEEN OF DIAMONDS New 4K Restoration 

Opens NYC on 4/26 at BAM

Opens LA on 6/15 at UCLA Film & Television Archive

An Arbelos release and co-presented with the Eos World Fund. New restoration by the The Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. 

From Friday, April 26 through Thursday, May 2, BAM presents a brand new restoration of Nina Menkes’ radical, feminist feature, Queen of Diamonds (1991). Menkes will appear in person following the 7pm screening on April 26; she will also present her celebrated talk Sex and Power: The Visual Language of Oppression, followed by a Q&A, on April 27.

In one of the most jarringly original independent films of the 1990s, a disaffected blackjack dealer, (played by the director’s sister Tinka Menkes), drifts through a neon-soaked dream vision of Las Vegas and experiences a series of encounters alternately mundane, surreal, and menacing, while death and violence hover ever-present in the margins. Awash in lush, hallucinatory images, Queen of Diamonds is a haunting study of female alienation with intellectual heft and formal rigor, from a filmmaker whose work can be compared to Akerman, Fassbinder, and Lynch, but with a unique, singular vision all her own.

Queen of Diamonds will also be presented, along with Menkes’s nightmarish true-crime feature The Bloody Child, by the UCLA Film & Television Archive at the Billy Wilder Theater in Los Angeles on June 15th.

Based on her viral Filmmaker Magazine article “The Visual Language of Oppression: Harvey Weinstein Wasn’t Working in a Vacuum,” Menkes’ Sex and Power examines the ways formal shot design is gendered. Analyzing a series of film clips by major filmmakers—including Scorsese, Welles, Spike Lee, and many others—Menkes shows how traditional cinematic language underlies and supports sexual assault, harassment, and employment discrimination against women. The presentation has appeared at Sundance, Cannes, and the AFI International Film Festival, and is currently being made into a feature length documentary. Maria Giese, who instigated the historic ACLU and EEOC investigations against the Hollywood studios’ Title VII violations, will moderate a discussion following the talk.

Nina Menkes is the writer, director, and cinematographer of six feature films, including Magdalena Viraga (1986), Phantom Love (2007) and Dissolution (2012). Her films have shown widely at major festivals, including Sundance, Locarno, the Berlinale and she has had retrospectives internationally. Menkes has received American Film Institute and Guggenheim Fellowships, and was an artist-in-residence under the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program. She is currently a faculty member at California Institute of the Arts, and developing two new projects: Minotaur Rex, a horror-drama about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, (produced by Eos World Fund), and Heatstroke a psychological thriller about two sisters set in Cairo and LA (produced by Marginalia Pictures).

"Nina Menkes is one of the most provocative and challenging artists in film today.” 

Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times


Queen of Diamonds may become for America in the 90’s what Jeanne Dielman was for Europe in the 70’s: a cult classic using rigorous visual composition to penetrate the innermost recesses of the soul.”

-Berenice Reynaud, The Chicago Reader


Montclair Film Festival Premiering Restored ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’

Dave McNary

4/5/2019 12:00:00 AM

The Montclair Film Festival will hold the world premiere of the restoration of the 1959 movie “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Variety has learned exclusively.

The black-and-white film, directed by George Stevens, has been restored by Twentieth Century Fox and the Film Foundation. The holocaust drama was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three, including best supporting actress for Shelly Winters. It will be screened May 5 at the Clairidge 2.

The festival, now in its eighth year, will take place May 3-12 in Montclair, N.J., and features more than 150 films, events, discussions and parties. The festival had previously announced that it would open with a screening of Tom Harper’s “Wild Rose,” with star Jessie Buckley attending for a post-screening Q&A at the Wellmont Theater.

This year’s Storyteller Series will include A Conversation with Mindy Kaling, moderated by Stephen Colbert, taking place May 4 at the Wellmont and A Conversation with Ben Stiller, moderated by Colbert, on May 5 at MKA Upper School. Olympia Dukakis will attend for a Q&A following the May 5 screening of Harry Mavromichalis’ documentary “Olympia” at MKA Upper School.

The festival’s fiction film highlights include Michael Tyburski’s “The Sound of Silence,” starring Peter Sarsgaard and Rashida Jones, Noble Jones’ “The Tomorrow Man,” starring John Lithgow and Blythe Danner; Mary Harron’s “Charlie Says” with Harron attending on May 4; Alex Thompson’s SXSW Audience Award winner “Saint Francis”; and Guy Nattiv’s “Skin,” starring Jamie Bell, Danielle Macdonald, and Vera Farmiga.

Documentary highlights include Roger Ross Williams “The Apollo,” which will screen May 4; Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce’s “Framing John Delorean,” portions of which were shot in Montclair; Montclair’s own Erin Lee Carr with true crime thriller “I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth Vs. Michelle Carter”; and the premiere of Ken Spooner and Mike Mee’s “Life With Layla,” which examines the opioid epidemic through the experiences of a New Jersey family.

The festival is also screening its first Family Centerpiece film, Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone’s “The Elephant Queen,” presented by The Nature Conservancy. The Documentary Centerpiece will be “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool” on May 10, with director Stanley Nelson attending for a Q&A.

“This year’s festival program reflects a wide range of concerns and points of view that speak to the
current state of our cinematic world,” said Montclair Film Executive Director Tom Hall. “Film is a global community, held together by our collective passion for the power of cinema. We look forward to our artists and audiences coming together to share that passion at the festival.”

Here are the titles in competition:


AMERICAN FACTORY, directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert
HONEYLAND, directed by Tamara Kovetska and Ljubomir Stefanov
THE HOTTEST AUGUST, directed by Brett Story
MIDNIGHT FAMILY, directed by Luke Lorentzen
PAHOKEE, directed by Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan


DIVINE LOVE, directed by Gabriel Mascarano
A FAMILY SUBMERGED, directed by Maria Alche
MANTA RAY, directed by Phuttiphong Aroonpheng
MONOS, directed by Alejandro Landes
ONE MAN DIES A MILLION TIMES, directed by Jessica Oreck


JULES OF LIGHT AND DARK, directed by Daniel Laabs
LIGHT FROM LIGHT, directed by Paul Harrill
MICKEY AND THE BEAR, directed by Annabelle Attanasio
PREMATURE, directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green
THE WORLD IS FULL OF SECRETS, directed by Graham Swon


FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO, directed by Daniel Karslake
THE INFILTRATORS, directed by Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera
LIFE WITH LAYLA, directed by Ken Spooner and Mike Mee
MOSSVILLE: WHEN THE GREAT TREES FALL, directed by Alexander Glustrom


Defogging Wanda

Ross Lipman

3/25/2019 12:00:00 AM

In early 2007 the UCLA Film & Television Archive received a call from Hollywood Film and Video announcing that the lab was, sadly, closing—and clearing its vaults in two days’ time. Anything left was doomed to the dumpster. The next morning a group of us arrived to see what we could salvage.

Walking through the musty basement, dank stairwells, and narrow aisles was like walking through a shuffled deck of cards: artifacts from the 1950s to the present lay atop each other, in seemingly unknowable order. The only light came from a few incandescent bulbs hanging irregularly amid the dark corridors of shelves, casting a yellow glow that dropped quickly into shadow. Aging equipment was everywhere, some still functional, some showing years of rust, dust, and corrosion. Puddles of oily water lurked underfoot reflecting sickly rainbows, and the smell of old chemicals and mold hung in the air.

The films lay about in differing arrays, long forgotten by their makers: B, C, and D movies, industrial films, commercials, printing tests, and the stray experimental short. We began making piles to save in our collection.

In one aisle, buried in a large stack on the floor, I found some 16 mm reels labeled “WANDA. Harry Shuster.” Who on earth was he? Surely this couldn’t be the classic independent film by Barbara Loden? Her name was nowhere to be found on either the boxes or the leaders. Taking no chances, I kept the oddity apart from my other discoveries; in fact, I took it back to our lab in my own car.

Immediately unspooling the reels on my workbench upon arriving, I realized we’d uncovered a piece of history. It was that Wanda—and no less than its original camera rolls. Harry Shuster, as I’d guessed, was the film’s producer. One more day and it would have gone to landfill.

But how to fund a restoration? Enter The Film Foundation, which has saved so many classic works over the years. In coincidental great timing, they’d recently begun a partnership with Gucci, whose express aim was preserving works by women visionaries. And so our work commenced.

At that time digital restoration was advancing rapidly but had not yet overtaken photochemical printing in archival practice. Thus our work would be on good old-fashioned film, at least initially. We began as Loden had herself, with a blow-up to 35 mm. But our route quickly began to vary. The exact stocks she used no longer existed, and their “official” replacements were problematic, increasing contrast and distorting color.

A crucial component of Wanda’s production, as I found in the camera rolls, was its Kodak Ektachrome ECB (7242) film stock, which has a unique color palette completely unlike Eastmancolor negative, Eastman Commercial film (ECO), or Kodachrome. In a stroke of luck, the bulk of the film was on this, and unfaded.

After extensive testing at Cinetech Laboratory we decided to avoid Kodak’s designated internegative, a holdover from a previous era that was not optimized for printing from projection-contrast film. To reduce contrast, we instead printed the reversal camera rolls to a low-speed negative camera stock and used pull-processing to reduce contrast—as I’d successfully done on a number of past titles. It’s interesting to note that in the intervening years, Kodak abandoned the interneg I nixed in favor of the camera stock. But this was years before that took place, and the result was stunning color.

Ironically, this led to what might strike some as an archival quandary. While the new color closely matched the original rolls, it was in fact much better than the old distribution prints, which apparently looked awful. To quote an early review in the British journal Films and Filming by Gordon Gow:

For the first couple of minutes, I thought it was all a ghastly mistake, this terrible muzz-colour . . . But soon it became obvious that Barbara Loden meant it to look messy, as if real life had been recorded perchance by an amateur photographer with cheap film and poor laboratory facilities.

It’s a nice interpretation. But was it valid? In Film Journal’s Summer 1971 interview with Loden, I found this:

Ruby Melton: The color in the film often has a washed-out, grainy effect and the lighting is sometimes very dim. Were these effects intentional?

Barbara Loden: Unless you have your own laboratory, it's difficult to control the quality of the color. In our original print the color looked extremely good, but later prints made by different labs were not such good quality.

Another question that arose was aspect ratio. 1.85 was clearly written on the leaders of an old 1970 distribution print in UCLA’s collection, as was common with 35 mm features at the time. Yet others disagreed. A pre-restoration French DVD release by Isabelle Huppert, Ronald Chammah, and Gemini Films chose the 16 mm native aspect ratio of 1.33, while the U.S. pre-restoration Parlour Pictures DVD release chose 1.66, in dialogue with the film’s cinematographer, Nick Proferes.

To get to the bottom of the matter, I consulted Proferes directly. He told me that Wanda had been shot on a 16 mm Auricon hand-modified by none other than D. A. Pennebaker to a wider aspect ratio. In those days Super 16 was coming into popularity as a low-budget option that offered a wider aspect ratio, 1.66, when blown up to 35 mm for theatrical exhibition. Rather than re-outfit his company with Super 16 gear, Pennebaker literally hand-filed his camera’s aperture plates to something near 1.66 for the shooting of his concert film Sweet Toronto.

Yet I had the original camera rolls in my hands, and it was clearly 1.33, on double perf stock that would have precluded a 1.66 or Super-16 shoot. To be sure I wasn’t delusional I also checked with Pennebaker himself, who said quite certainly that Proferes hadn’t used one of his modified Auricons on Wanda. My guess is Nick used it on another, later film.


In this slideshow, one can compare 1.33 and 1.66 versions of the same shots. The 1.33:1 samples are scanned from the restoration blow-up internegative, and the 1.66:1 samples are from a prior DVD release, which was transferred from an old internegative. The samples illustrate how Wanda was shot safely for both aspect ratios. While the majority of the film has headroom suggesting widescreen intent, problematic moments arise. Note as well the qualitative difference between the sources. Both are only one printing generation away from the original 16 mm reversal camera rolls, but the restoration negative has substantially finer tonal detail. The old internegative also exhibits color pollution in its grain pattern.

The above shot is in 1.33:1—classical composition with Barbara Loden’s head vertically centered and fully depicted.


1.66:1—cropped. 1.66 framing was likely intended (and successful) due to the vertical frame level of Loden’s eyes and her position frame right, but the shot is less balanced than the 1.33.


1.33:1—Loden is fully framed within the shot.


1.66:1—cropped, with Loden’s head cut off. This shot features extensive motion that the camera tracks, but due to the unpredictability of action, it occasionally loses track of important compositional details. It’s still successful at 1.66, as the pillow in Loden’s shirt and Michael Higgins are the intended points of emphasis, but the framing results in a slightly distracting awkwardness.

The question returns then: how should one frame it? In looking closely at Wanda, it became apparent that all ratios worked well. My ultimate assessment was that Profores shot Wanda with both Academy format and widescreen exhibition in mind, as was sometimes done at the time. But none of the ratios worked for the whole movie. Virtually all shots had plenty of headroom and are most pleasing at 1.66, suggesting widescreen intentions—but there were moments of exception where both 1.85 and 1.66 proved problematic. To do the highest quality widescreen release in either of those formats would have required numerous framing “repos,” or re-positionings—something Loden hadn’t done at the time. In its native 1.33, many shots had copious headroom, but also a kind of classicism, with no invasive boom mikes. Further, Nick told me he had no widescreen guides in his viewfinder, so the camera’s 1.33 frame was his only visible guide while shooting.

At the time of the restoration, our workflow itself dictated which ratio we would choose. The project mandated true archival preservation to 35 mm film, and to save all picture information. We thus opted for a 1.33 preservation negative to make sure nothing was lost. That method prohibited repos, so our “safe” recommended projection aspect ratio was the classic 1.37/Academy ratio. Projectionists and venues could of course opt to vary from that if they so chose, by simply changing their projector plates.

The restoration premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. Nick was one of the guests and confirmed he thought the Academy ratio worked wonderfully. Our choice was in a sense validated years after the restoration was completed, when I came across an earlier interview with Nick. In the 1991 documentary I Am Wanda, he clearly states, “we had no idea of blowing it up.” Was this prior memory more accurate than his later one? It seems likely, but in the end the images tell their own story . . . and with so many conflicting accounts, I like to think the jury will always be out.

The MoMA screening was a huge success, with lines around the block, Sofia Coppola introducing, and—so I heard—Madonna incognito in the audience. Years later, we digitized the film for TCM at Modern VideoFilm with ace colorist Gregg Garvin, and I was delighted when Criterion picked it up for distribution in 2018.

Nowadays it’s common to digitize but rarer to complete photochemical stages of restoration. Wanda’s restoration journey was hence fortunate to encompass both analog and digital editions. The current release retains the Academy aspect ratio and color grading, but has, happily, applied further digital cleanup, eliminating excess dirt and scratches we’d been unable to address in our earlier work.

Today the film looks better than ever. It belies the oversimplified maxim that a restoration must look like the old viewing prints rather than its source, a notion that holds better for Hollywood titles than independent works. The film is now recognized as an American classic. Tracing Wanda’s trajectory, from its original release in shoddy prints, to the 2010 35 mm restoration that brought it back, to the Criterion digital release today, is to see a lost masterpiece arise from a fog.

All images courtesy of Marco Joachim, UCLA Film and Television Archive, and The Film Foundation/Gucci.


Jane Fonda, Thierry Fremaux, Alexander Payne Advocate to Save Classic Films at HFPA Restoration Summit

Pat Saperstein

3/10/2019 12:00:00 AM

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association rallied a roster of film world heavy-hitters Saturday at the Ace Hotel’s United Artists theater in downtown Los Angeles for the organization’s first Film Restoration Summit devoted to celebrating classic films and the urgent need to put more resources into saving them.

Naturally, the importance of preserving the big-screen experience was a major theme, but the event was mainly dedicated to celebrating films that have been brought back to life through the efforts of organizations such as Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation and the UCLA Film Archive.

The HFPA has donated $6.5 million to such efforts since 1996, going toward 125 restoration projects.

Panelists Jane FondaThierry FremauxAlexander Payne, Sony’s Grover Crisp and UCLA’s Jan-Christopher Horak came together to discuss the necessity of stepping up preservation efforts, particularly for silent, independent and international films. A restored print of “A Fistful of Dollars”  screened after the presentation.

HFPA president Meher Tatna pointed out that as many as half of all films made before 1950 have been lost, and recalled that the organization has supported restorations such as Ida Lupino’s “The Bigamist” and Satjayit Ray’s “Apu” trilogy. The panel was moderated by Sandra Schulberg, whose IndieCollect organization works to preserve independent films.

Fremaux took the stage saying it felt bizarre for him to talk about the history of cinema at this moment because he’s in the middle of selecting films for Cannes. “I hope I won’t get confused and give you the Cannes opening night film,” he joked, “which by the way we don’t have, which is a problem.” The Cannes director also heads Lyon’s Institut Lumiere, devoted to preserving and screening historic films.

He gave audiences a quick refresher on the beginnings of cinema, throwing a bit of shade at Thomas Edison, whose early works were viewed on the small Kinetoscope viewer, as opposed to Louis Lumiere, who was the first to champion projection on a big screen.

“It’s still what we love, being together to watch images on a big screen. Maybe the revenge of Thomas Edison is called Netflix,” he quipped. Fremaux screened a number of fascinating location-shot films from the Lumiere brothers, shot in the late 1800s and early 1900s, some restored with help from the HFPA.

Fonda, who was honored at the Lumiere film festival last year, admitted that she’s no expert on the issue of preservation. She joked that being asked to be on the panel might be “to punish me because my favorite ex-husband colorized much of MGM’s film library.” Ted Turner was a pariah for the colorization debacle, she recalled, yet she pointed out that he actually preserved the MGM library, which led to the creation of Turner Classic Movies.

“We can’t know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been,” she proclaimed. “Perhaps we ought to put as much into saving film as we do into making it.” Later, as panelists called out the need for her Oscar-winning “Coming Home” to be restored, she almost looked like she was on the verge of pulling out her checkbook.

Crisp, who is executive VP of asset management, film restoration and digital mastery at Sony, explained how the advent of increasingly sophisticated digital techniques means that some films are restored repeatedly — “Easy Rider,” for example, is on its third restoration. Fonda quipped that the filmmakers may have been “too stoned” to properly care for the original film elements.

To provide a visual example of the huge difference restoration can make, Horak screened faded, murky scenes from Westerns that were brought back to vibrant color in the restoration process.

Payne described himself as a “Bologna geek,” not because he’s fond of processed meats but because he’s a regular at the Italian preservation-oriented fest, which he encouraged everyone to attend. The HFPA asked Payne to select a film he wanted to see restored, and he recalled a mentor’s words, “Always save the silents.” So he chose the 1926 Douglas Fairbanks movie “The Black Pirate” as the organization’s next restoration project.

“There aren’t a lot of contemporary directors who are film buffs, who go out to see old films,” Payne said.

Payne later reflected on the small screen vs. big screen debate. “I think if there’s no theatrical experience at all, then it’s TV. I’m kind of with Thierry Fremaux on that. But the flipside is, Netflix has opened up such an ocean of creativity to filmmakers.”

Fremaux said it’s also important to save cinemas, not just films, and gave a shout-out to Quentin Tarantino and his New Beverly Cinema. “We are here in this wonderful theater,” he said, gesturing at the gilded detail of the 1927 auditorium. “Cinemas are in danger — in Rome, there are no theaters in the city anymore.” He recalled Tarantino’s insistence that “Pulp Fiction” be shown at the festival’s anniversary screening with a 35mm print.

Fremaux said later that it’s his generation’s responsibility to preserve the culture, and then teach it to younger people, the way filmmakers like Scorsese and Tarantino are doing. “Then it will be their role to pay attention.”

“You have to be sure that the great classic films can be seen anytime, anywhere,” Fremaux said. “With DVD, but also in a movie theater.”

Even people who are great chefs at home love to go to restaurants, and sports fans flock to stadiums even though they watch sports on TV, he pointed out.

“The next great adventure,” Fremaux said, “is silent cinema. It’s full of treasures, all over the world.”



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