Recently Restored 2015
Through August 6
From July 3 through August 6, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents “Recently Restored,” a series of seventeen films showcasing recent achievements in film restoration. Also attached to the series is the Chicago premiere of FROM CALIGARI TO HITLER: GERMAN CINEMA IN THE AGE OF THE MASSES, a film-history documentary of related interest.
Film restoration is distinguished from conservation (storing prints and other media in optimal conditions) and preservation (transferring a film to a more stable storage medium, such as from nitrate stock to safety stock). Restoration involves a more active intervention designed to return a film to an original state that has been compromised by such factors as deterioration, damage, fading, loss of footage, and loss of information (such as color-tinting). It is a relatively recent phenomenon in the timeline of film history, seldom undertaken before the 1970s. Stimulated by the advent of the home-video market and cable movie-channels, restoration efforts gained momentum in the 1980s and 1990s, with several high-profile examples (NAPOLEON, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, VERTIGO) winning attention and even a degree of box-office success.
The most important — and potentially problematic — development in the history of film restoration has been the shift from photochemical, film-based processes to digital processes. The first feature film to be restored digitally was Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS in 1993. The prevalence of higher-resolution home-entertainment formats such as Blu-Ray and HDTV has increased the demand for superior copies that more closely approximate the film’s original theatrical quality.
Digital tools have given archivists greater control over such factors as dirt, scratches, shrinkage, color grading, and even the replacement of damaged or missing areas by culling information from other, more intact areas of the print. Digital restorations are currently considerably more expensive than photochemical ones. They also carry the danger of overzealously removing such perceived imperfections as grain, flicker, and jitter to produce a sterile, excessively smooth, and inauthentic result.
These problems highlight an essential principle of film restoration: that it is not simply a matter of replicating a universally agreed-upon original version of the film. The differences in the tools, materials, and conditions by which the restored version is produced and presented make such purity impossible. This was true of film-to-film restorations (such as those involving movies originally filmed on nitrate stock and/or projected on arc-lamp projectors), and it is even more true of film-to-digital ones. Film restoration necessarily involves a negotiation between the original source and the current technology, and, accordingly, it requires a high degree of informed but inevitably interpretative judgment on the part of the restorationist.
Reflecting the increasing dominance of digital tools and processes in film restoration, this series includes only one movie on 35mm film (LITTLE MISS MARKER). The rest are presented in the reigning exhibition format of DCP, and, of those, eleven are in 4K, the current high end of digital movie resolution. We want to emphasize, however, that important achievements in photochemical film restoration and preservation continue to be made, as will be demonstrated when we host the latest edition of the UCLA Festival of Preservation in October.
— Martin Rubin
If you are interested in learning more about film restoration, we recommend the following online articles, all of which contributed to the writing of the above introduction:
- David Bordwell, “Pandora’s Digital Box: Pix and Pixels,” Observations on Film Art, February 13, 2012.
- Glenn Kenny, “Film restoration in the digital domain: A Chat with James White,” Some Came Running, March 14, 2013.
- Ross Lipman, “Conservation at the Crossroads,” Artforum, October 2013.
- Österreichisches Filmmuseum, “Digital Film Restoration Policy,” Film Museum, September 20, 2011.
- Andrew Pollack, “Digital Film Restoration Raises Questions About Fixing Flaws,” The New York Times, March 16, 1998.
- Steven Rosen, “Is It Best or the Worst Time for Film Restoration?,” Indiewire, March 11, 2015.
1972, Peter H. Hunt, USA, 166 min.
With William Daniels, Ken Howard
“1776 insists on being so entertaining and, at times, even moving, that you might as well stop resisting it...It is the first film in my memory that comes close to treating seriously a magnificent chapter in the American history.” — Vincent Canby, The New York Times
“There’s no better way to celebrate than by watching 1776.” — Hillary Busis, Entertainment Weekly
The film adaptation of the Tony-winning musical provides a brisk but surprisingly substantial recap of the efforts of Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson to persuade a contentious Continental Congress to declare “independency” from Britain. Often witty and at times a bit bawdy, the book by Peter Stone (CHARADE) delivers vivid thumbnails of nearly all the political players, a head-on confrontation of the slavery debate, a suspenseful climax, and a heartfelt surge of patriotism at the end. The songs by Sherman Edwards include the controversial “Cool, Considerate Men,” cut from the film’s release version (reputedly at the request of Richard Nixon) but now restored. Widescreen 4K DCP digital restoration from Sony Pictures Releasing, taken from the original camera negative and approved by director Peter H. Hunt. (MR)
A Hard Day's Night
1964, Richard Lester, UK, 87 min.
With The Beatles, Wilfrid Brambell
“The CITIZEN KANE of jukebox musicals.” — Andrew Sarris
“One of the great, life-affirming landmarks of the movies.” — Roger Ebert
Still one of the most exhilarating movie experiences, the Beatles’ first film looks and sounds crisper than ever in this meticulous 2014 upgrade. Given a free hand, director Lester revolutionized the music movie (and begat the music video) with injections of handheld verité, Mod zeitgeist, Mad. Ave. design, and slapstick surrealism. Entirely spontaneous in their film debuts, the Fab Four tweak assorted authority figures and outdash their frantic fans en route to a big TV broadcast. 4K DCP digital restoration from Janus Films, taken from the original camera negative and audiotapes and approved by director Richard Lester. (MR)
Full Moon In Paris
Les nuits de la pleine lune
1984, Eric Rohmer, France, 102 min.
With Pascale Ogier, Fabrice Luchini
“Invigoratingly comic...ranks with the very best of Rohmer.” — Vincent Canby, The New York Times
“One of Rohmer’s best, and certainly his most vigorous, films...Ogier’s exuberant, irrepressible energy — and eroticism — become a part of the film and of Rohmer’s universe.” — Richard Brody, The New Yorker
The fourth film in Rohmer’s “Comedies and Proverbs” series, FULL MOON IN PARIS expands upon the proverb (entirely invented by Rohmer), “He who has two houses loses his mind.” Romantically involved with a suburban homebody (Tcheky Karko), tragicomically hip Louise (the hauntingly lovely, short-lived Ogier in one her last roles) wants to have it all. She maintains a pied-à-terre in Paris for late-night partying spiced with platonic friendships and harmless flirtations, but she finds her balancing act threatened by the forces of of desire and irony. Although Rohmer’s gift for sophisticated dialogue is in full flower, a wordless passage on a dance floor provides one of his great tour-de-force scenes. In French with English subtitles. 2K DCP digital restoration from Film Movement. (MR)
Two Men In Town
Deux hommes dans le ville
1973, José Giovanni, France, 100 min.
With Alain Delon, Jean Gabin
“A cool and measured look at the criminal justice system...unembellished by histrionics or allegory — and all the more powerful for it.” — Sheri Linden, arts meme
“Brilliantly structured, TWO MEN IN TOWN evokes comparisons with some of the classic French criminal dramas.” — Svet Atanasov, DVDTalk.com
This powerful indictment of capital punishment draws authenticity from the participation of ex-con/novelist/screenwriter/director Giovanni (LE TROU, CLASSE TOUS RISQUES), who himself spent time on death row. Closer to the fatalistic social consciousness of Lang’s YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE than to the New Wave genre-riffing of Melville and Malle, TWO MEN IN TOWN (remade in 2014 with Forest Whitaker and Harvey Keitel) centers on the relationship between a paroled safecracker (Delon) trying to go straight and a veteran social worker (Gabin) trying to help him. The film benefits immensely from the charisma of three generations of French crime-film icons, not just Gabin and Delon, but also up-and-coming Gérard Depardieu in a showy supporting role as an aggressive young thug. In French with English subtitles. 4K DCP digital restoration from the Cohen Film Collection. (MR)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Das Cabinet der Dr. Caligari
1920, Robert Wiene, Germany, 75 min.
With Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt
“More than just a textbook classic...a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
“This gothic masterpiece has seeped into the very soul of movie-making itself, continuing to cast its unbreakable spell — thrilling, chilling, electrifying.” — Mark Kermode, The Guardian
No film boasts a more distinctive and influential look than this legendary German classic. Although it remains the purest example of expressionist art ever put on the screen, there is much more to CALIGARI than its striking visuals. A pioneer horror film as well as a subjectivity-laced forerunner of art cinema, its intriguing story ingeniously links an insane asylum, a carnival sideshow, a somnambulist, and a series of senseless murders. Its political implications are still hotly debated: Is CALIGARI a radical critique of authority, or a reactionary affirmation of it? Silent film with recorded music score performed by the Studio for Film Music at the University of Music, Freiburg. 4K DCP digital restoration from Kino Lorber, taken from the preserved camera negative at the German Federal Film Archive. (MR)
From Caligari to Hitler:
German Cinema in the Age of the Masses
Von Caligari zu Hitler
2014, Rüdiger Suchsland, Germany, 114 min.
“An evocative, beautifully constructed essay-documentary.” — Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice
Taking his title from Siegfried Kracauer’s seminal film-history tome, critic/historian Suchsland uses Kracauer’s wider career as a pioneer cultural critic (along with contemporary commentary from filmmakers Fatih Akin and Volker Schlöndorff and historians Thomas Elsaesser and Eric D. Weitz) to frame a fascinating overview of German cinema during the Weimar era. The heart of the film is a wealth of beautifully preserved excerpts, encompassing not only canonical classics such as NOSFERATU and M, but also underrated works such as SPIES and PEOPLE ON SUNDAY, and, most revelatory, enticing extracts from films virtually unknown today, such as Robert Reinert’s NERVEN (“more modern than CALIGARI”), Paul Czinner’s biting bourgeois critique FRÄULEIN ELSE, Werner Hochbaum’s proletarian, proto-neorealist BROTHER, and the bizarre Billy Wilder-written musical A BLONDE DREAM. In German with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
1969, Peter R. Hunt, UK, 143 min.
With George Lazenby, Diana Rigg
“Any Bond fan will tell you this is the best film in the series. It's my all-time favorite movie.” — Jeffrey Westhoff, Northwest Herald
“The only Bond film that gets beyond the dirty boy’s-book spirit of the series to a core of real emotion...It also has what are probably the best action sequences of any 007 adventure.” — Charles Taylor, Salon.com
It was the first James Bond film not to star Sean Connery, and the directorial debut of veteran editor Hunt, but many aficionados (including Christopher Nolan, who refers to it extensively in INCEPTION) rate this the best of the Bond movies. One-shot George Lazenby is an atypically (and intriguingly) vulnerable Bond, Diana Rigg is easily the most substantial Bond heroine, and the second half is an exhilarating blend of believable romance and spectacular action, as 007, out of favor after a dispute with M, becomes involved with a crime boss’s suicidal daughter (Rigg) and tracks arch-villain Blofeld (Telly Savalas) to an Alpine lair. To top it all off, John Barry’s score is often cited as the best in the series. Widescreen 4K DCP digital restoration from Park Circus. (MR)
Five Day Lover
L'amant de cinq jours
1961, Philippe de Broca, France, 95 min.
With Jean Seberg, Jean-Pierre Cassel
“Philippe de Broca's lyric boudoir comedy stays aloft in its own sphere; his originality is in his use of incongruities...The dialogue is graceful and often inexplicably touching.” — Pauline Kael
Director de Broca (KING OF HEARTS, THAT MAN FROM RIO) evokes Lubitsch and Ophüls in this morality-bending romantic comedy. Coming off BREATHLESS, Seberg was once again cast as an Anglophone in Paris — this time, a transplanted Englishwoman with two children and a devoted if dorky French husband (François Périer). She needs more than devotion, and she finds it with charming if caddish Antoine (Cassel), who, unbeknownst to her, is the kept man of her friend, the successful couturier Madeleine (Micheline Presle). The talented Seberg was largely unhappy with her movie roles, but FIVE DAY LOVER was one of her personal favorites. The décors by Bernard Evein (THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG) play wittily on a gilded-cage motif, and composer Georges Delerue (JULES AND JIM, CONTEMPT) contributes a lilting yet wistful score that perfectly suits the tone of the story. In French with English subtitles. 2K DCP digital restoration from the Cohen Film Collection. (MR)
Little Miss Marker
1934, Alexander Hall, USA, 80 min.
With Adolphe Menjou, Shirley Temple
- Sat, Jul 18th 3:00pm
- Mon, Jul 20th 6:00pm
“Thoroughly enjoyable...a great showcase for Shirley Temple.” — John Sinnott, DVDTalk
The late Shirley Temple was the biggest star of the 1930s and the greatest child star ever. LITTLE MISS MARKER marked her first major role, made on a loan-out to Paramount shortly after she had signed her long-term contract with Fox, and its smash success announced the birth of a phenomenon. Shirley’s sugar is mixed with a little more spice in this pre-Code adaptation of a Damon Runyon story. Left by her desperate father as a “marker” for a bet, she ends up in the reluctant custody of racetrack tout Sorrowful Jones (Menjou) and fits right in with the mugs and thugs of Runyon’s raffish universe. We are showing the original 1934 version, which was later altered to give Shirley top billing and to remove some post-Code no-nos. Newly restored 35mm print from NBC Universal Distribution. (MR)
1962, Orson Welles, France, 118 min.
With Anthony Perkins, Orson Welles
“Welles's nightmarish, labyrinthine comedy remains his creepiest and most disturbing work; it's also a lot more influential than people usually admit.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
“Splendid to look at and teeming with ideas about the individual, society, and of course, film itself.” — Amy Taubin, Village Voice
Welles called his dazzling, disturbing adaptation of Kafka’s 1925 classic “the best film I have ever made” and “closer to my own feelings about everything than any other picture I’ve ever made.” In his best role after PSYCHO, Perkins is in fine fidgety form as Joseph K., the office drone who finds himself inexplicably accused of an unspecified crime and embarks on a hapless quest for justice through an impenetrable maze of courtrooms, corridors, and offices. Welles ingeniously stitches together locations in Zagreb, Paris, and Rome to conjure up a nightmare world that is at once oppressively claustrophobic and vertiginously vast. While retaining the book’s black-comic tone, Welles adds a sexual dimension via a series of provocative women (Jeanne Moreau, Elsa Martinelli, Romy Schneider, and a mob of shrieking nymphets) whose erotic demands only add to K.’s woes. In English. 2K DCP digital restoration from Rialto Pictures. (MR)