Cinema Ritrovato 2009

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Uli Ruedel
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Joined: Sat Jun 06, 2009 2:47 am

Cinema Ritrovato 2009

Postby Uli Ruedel » Thu Jul 30, 2009 1:43 pm

First, a belated hello again everyone -- and kudos to Paul and Richard for making this forum happen!

Anyways, a couple weeks ago I returned from the Cinema Ritrovato. As always, connecting to old and new friends, and the screenings, more than made up for the blazing heat, and I can only warmly (no pun intended) recommend this festival to anyone who hasn't gone. For those who couldn't this time, I thought I'd share some impressions and information regarding the silent comedy relevant events and news here, to add to Lisa's post.... especially re. the new restoration of Les Vacanes de M Hulot, and the premiere of the Chaplin Project restorations, A Day's Pleasure and Sunnyside.

Chaplin... this event pretty much marked the closure of the Chaplin project, as far as the restoration of the films owned by the Association go. (Meanwhile, as Lisa posted, we're eagerly awaiting the release of the Keystones on DVD!). Again, the scores were beautifully adapted for live performance by Timothy Brock. In a press conference, he elaborated on his approach to keep the material as Chaplin has written it (and I'll try to paraphrase what he shared from my notes), but to orchestrate it for a mid-1920 small band, like for instance Abe Lyman's (with whom Chaplin had recorded music), much along the lines of the original orchestration of the City Lights score. While the instrumentation, keys and flow of the music may have changes, he said he strived to treat it with care, and keep the music with its extremely Chaplinesque themes (Chaplin, he stated, was "one of the greatest tune smiths out there.") light and melodically driven. Not surprisingly, the screening in the Piazza Maggiore was a treat, and included as a coda Keaton's One Week, with a new score by T. Brock, and again with him conducting the Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini. A nice way to revisit the maligned Sunnyside (a fellow Chapliner admitted this might have been the first time he saw it from beginning to end!) and A Day's Pleasure (which personally I've always found pleasant, also due to the participation of Babe London, and in its anticipation of the structure of Laurel and Hardy shorts like Perfect Day).

Hulot... like many, I wondered why in particular the film needed restoration, but an extensive and absolutely fascinating FIAF summer school presentation shed some light on it. The photochemical and digital restoration respects and follows Tati's last, 1978 cut, but apparently it was the very meddling and re-cutting of the film that created the mechanically, not chemically, bad state of the material (which is part nitrate, part safety stock). As restorer Hervé Pichard from the Cinémathèque Française outlined, this restoration was really a follow-up project from the Thomson Foundation after their restoration of (the French version of) Ophuls Lola Montes, like Tati's a film they see as aimed at a general public but stylistically against the stream of the time. Anyways, more details on the restoration can be found in a wonderful little booklet, a souvenir program of the restoration (but really a proper little companion to the Jour de fête issue of Cahiers Du Cinema and the Playtime coffee table book) available at the Cannes screening, apparently, and in Bologna, but luckily available online here (ready your laser printer!):
http://www.thomsonfilmfoundation.org/fileadmin/user_upload/en/pdf/highlights/LIVRET_VMH_final_mai2009.pdf
After the open air screening of the restoration, it was hard to get the Hulot theme out of the head, but truly fascinating was to hear it, I guess for the first time ever for most or maybe everyone in the seminar, in its original version (it was re-orchestraded for the 1960s reissue). That is because the restoration project included an in depth version comparison between the '53 original, the 1960s reissue (which added the stamp at the end) and the last version, 1978 with the Jaws joke (which, I learned, nontheless goes back to the original storyboards!). I was always under the impression the original version was lost, but am happy to be wrong and asked about the preservation of these alternate versions, and apparently there are some protection elements already. The answer to my question also included the magic word "bonus DVD," so it seems we can hope the D-Cinema version as well as the general release and "prestige" prints (with the final color shot spliced on) will be followed by a DVD or, hopefully, Blu-ray release. A wonderful project, and my hope would be that the Thomson Foundation, Les Films de Mon Oncle and the Cinémathèque do consider the preservation of the two black and white versions of Jour de fête. Those "earlier" versions matter, as the seminar impressively proved, and in case of Jour de fête include the only one with final approval by Tati, after all.

Lastly, I should mention that a "best of" of this year's entries in the series Cento Annni fa curated by Mariann Lewinsky, which presents films from exactly a century ago, was published on DVD. Fascinating viewing, but an essential acquisition for French silent comedy aficionados in particular due to the inclusion of a Cretinetti and a Linder. This year, the Cineteca Di Bologna has chosen to make their publications available for online purchase, so the disc can be found here:
http://www.cinetecadibologna.it/comprare/categorie/obj_1909
The launch of the online store is also great news for those who haven't been able to purchase any or all of the Cineteca's fantastic Chaplin publications, by the way. Some, it seems, are OOP, but essential ones like Brownlow's In Search of Chaplin (bilingual) and Un comico vede il mondo, Lisa's lavishly and lovingly illustrated edition of A Comedian Sees the World (Italian only) are still available:
http://www.cinetecadibologna.it/comprare/categorie/cc_volumi

Anyways, that's it from me on this festival. Unfortunately I couldn't make it to the Harry d'Abbadie Arrast screenings, sort of a companion to the Progretto Chaplin. One film was even called A Gentleman of Paris... if Lisa or anyone else made it, please do share some observations!

With a big thanks (if they're reading!) to all who organized this wonderful festival --

Uli

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