What Does Film Preservation Mean To You?: As of this writing, Friday morning February 12, 2010, 8:50 a.m. Eastern time, we are a couple of days from a very ambitious online film event: "For The Love of Film," a film-preservation themed blogathon hosted by the sites Self-Styled Siren and Ferdy on Film. The ambitiousness pertains not merely to content, but to a goal—there's a fund-raising component to the project.
And we are mere hours from another ambitious and exciting online film event: the live-streaming of a new restoration of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, put together, if I'm not mistaken, the redoubtable Frederick Murnau Foundation. "It's said that nearly an hour of footage, long thought to have been lost, has been added," enthuses Roger Ebert, who provides details of the virtual screening at his blog. I'll be watching.
I'm scheduled to write a contribution to the blogathon, and I'm kind of stumped about what to do, but I'm thinking. And my thoughts on the subject are a bit of a jumble now, except for the fact that, in this bright chilly February I'm more inclined to watch old movies, very old movies, than new ones. The still-embargoed-for-review Shutter Island being an exception. And of course, Shutter Island being a Scorsese picture it has a lot more to do with old movies than most contemporary fare. I think also of a current conversation over at Dave Kehr's site, wherein various film scholars are weighing in on the status of the Republic Pictures library, and the corporate entities that aren't going to preserve, let alone let us see in non-preserved form, motion pictures that aren't even 70 or 80 years old by now. I think of the bit-torrent site that make samizdat of such fare and wonder if it's going to be the future of termite cinephilic consumption. Or if it already is the future of termite cinephilic consumption. I think about the image above left, from Ernst Lubitsch's 1921 Die Bergkatze (The Wildcat), a preserved film, and I consider it as a product of pure imagination willed into physical manifestation, and am blown away. And I think of Eric Rohmer's pronouncement that what made Rossellini great was that he had no imagination. And I think about how even the good reviews of the latest Duplass brothers' film, citing its deliberately ugly and unimaginative cinematic style, gives me the feeling that I'd rather watch a 24-hour loop of Hugo Haas/Cleo Moore pictures, Ludovico technique style, than ever lay eyes on it. And I think, well that's kind of a pigheaded attitude, and a part of me thinks, well, yeah, own it, and another part of me knows I'll end up seeing Clyde or Jonah or whatever the hell it's called (okay, I looked it up, it's Cyrus) in any event. And may even like it.
I think of the digital technology that's now an inextricable part of film preservation, and of a small label that uses said technology to restore and preserve, for instance, the original Green Archer serial, and how lucky is the cinephile who's got a jones for the original Green Archer serial (I'm one of them). How small is the label? Well, they "press" the results of their restorations on CD-Rs. Holy crap, and now I see they're putting the thing on Blu-ray!
I think about all of this stuff, and I think about how it makes the cinephile a creature who is truly unstuck in time. And trust me, that Green Archer serial is a hoot.