A quick roundup before I head to Le Giornate del Cinema Muto! First, a few more notes on film preservation, which seems to be having a moment of mainstream attention. In this short article, head staff at NARA and the LoC are quoted; the article has the usual talking points, but it’s a good overview. After years of hype around digital access to cultural material, it is nice to see the conversation swinging back around to long-term preservation and how that can best be achieved. (Of course, I’m hugely in favour of access endeavours, but those generally get much more publicity than preservation initiatives!) The article sketches out how, despite what many people might think, analogue (polyester) film is still considered the gold standard for moving image archiving:
Add to this the fact that no one has come up with a satisfactory equivalent to old-fashioned film, which is a more robust, tangible medium than anything in the digital world. Archivists make repairs to decaying reels before copying the original onto polyester “safety” film stock. (Most film today, even what Hollywood types refer to as celluloid, is made of polyester.) Once they put the resulting print, called a preservation master, into cold storage, it can last several centuries.
“Film is simple,” says Criss Kovac, supervisor of the National Archives’ Motion Picture Preservation Lab. “It’s elegant. If we create a new copy and do the quality control, we know we can come back to it in a couple hundred years and it’s still going to be there, exactly the way it was when we printed it in 2014.”
Indeed, there are very compelling reasons to preserve film-to-film while the technology and material are available. However, digital technology has a huge role to play as well. The article closes with this nice quote from Gregory Lukow of the LoC:
The Library of Congress remains “committed to preserving film as film as long as we can,” Lukow says. “At the same time, we recognize that we have to position ourselves for the post-film world.”
In related news, Eastman House in Rochester, NY, just announced the acquisition of a digital lab, donated to them by Kodak. The facility will be used to preserve born-digital works, as well as for digitization of films from their collection, and will supplement their analogue preservation programme. Quoth Paolo Cherchi Usai:
“Motion picture film remains the best and most durable carrier of moving images. Cinema has thrived for over 120 years in photochemical form, and our museum is committed to preserving and presenting it as such for posterity. Film and digital are different media—each with its own merits. Our institution embraces their coexistence as powerful tools for creativity and knowledge. Our investment in the digital future will be as steadfast as our passion for cinema as an art form.”
It would be interesting to know more about what digital capabilities Eastman House had before this acquisition. The press release also notes that the lab will allow digital restoration to become a greater part of the curriculum of the Selznick School.
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Here are a few images that I’ve made that didn’t fit anywhere else in particular, but that amused me.
An Asta GIF that didn’t find a home in my review of Das Liebes-ABC (DE 1916):
From Dziga Vertov’s Энтузиазм (Симфония Донбаса) | Enthusiasm, A Symphony of Donbass (UkrSSR 1930):
A frustrated man in Tigre Reale (IT 1916):
And the best GIF for last … from Ernst Lubitsch’s Die Austernprinzessin | The Oyster Princess (DE 1919).
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Next post will come from Italy! Via Nina Giacomo (Primeiro Cinema), here’s a photo of a whole bunch of us Pordenone last year.
Looking forward to the festival and catching up with people! In the unlikely event that anyone reading this doesn’t know me already, come and say hi. :)