September 1 - October 5
From September 1 through October 5, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents Recently Restored, a series of seventeen films showcasing recent achievements in film restoration. Accompanying the series are several screenings of DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME, Bill Morrison's imaginative and informative documentary centered on the discovery of long-lost silent films in a former Yukon boomtown.
This recurring series is by no means the only place in our program where restoration efforts are highlighted. Three of our week-long runs this month — NO MAPS ON MY TAPS, L'IMPORTANT C'EST D'AIMER, and IL BOOM — feature restorations, as do our upcoming runs of Jean-Luc Godard's LA CHINOISE and LE GAI SAVOIR in early October.
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).
Restoration 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: 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, all the films in this series are presented in digital formats. We want to emphasize, however, that important achievements in photochemical film restoration and preservation continue to be made, as demonstrated in the latest edition of the UCLA Festival of Preservation, which will be presented here in October.
— Martin Rubin, Associate Director of Programming
Special thanks to Bret Berg, American Genre Film Archive; David Marriott and Ei Toshinari, Arbelos Films; Tim Lanza, Cohen Film Collection; Clemence Taillandier and Maxwell Wolkin, Film Movement; Brian Belovarac, Janus Films; Jonathan Hertzberg, Kino Lorber; Dennis Doros and Amy Heller, Milestone Film & Video; Andrea Benveniste, 20th Century Fox; Ben Model, Undercrank Productions; Dennis Chong, Universal Pictures.
SATURDAY DOUBLE-BILL DISCOUNT!
Buy a ticket at our regular prices for the first "Recently Restored" film on any Saturday in September, and get a ticket for the second "Recently Restored" film that day at the discounted rate with proof of your original purchase: General Admission $7; Students $5; Members $4. This discount rate applies to the second feature only. Discount available in person at the box office only.
1989, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Italy/Mexico, 123 min. With Axel Jodorowsky, Blanca Guerra.
“A grand work of art, full of symbols and imagery that reach beyond language to something primal and original.” — Noel Murray, AV Club
Cult director Jodorowsky (ENDLESS POETRY, EL TOPO) brings his cinema of surreal poetic shock to its apex with this violent tale of twisted mother-son love steeped in his unique blend of spiritualism and bloody carnality. Fenix, a Mexico City circus magician, is the product of the abusive union of a high-wire performer and an American knife-thrower. The child Fenix goes mad after witnessing his father mutilate his mother, but a decade later she reappears armless, to lead him from the asylum in order to save and enslave him. Mother and son travel the world performing a strange pantomime act and living like Siamese twins in a relationship of utter dependency. When Fenix feels the urge to stray, a mother’s jealousy unleashes the ultimate manifestation of her power. In English. 2K DCP digital restoration from the American Genre Film Archive. (BS)
2001, David Lynch, USA, 147 min. With Naomi Watts, Laura Harring.
"Best Film of the Decade." — Village Voice critics' poll
Using his favorite story hook of "A Woman in Trouble," Lynch’s bizarre, beautiful mystery takes a walk on the dark side of Hollywood. Shortly after arriving in Tinseltown, starry-eyed starlet Betty (Watts) finds an amnesiac stranger (Harring) at her doorstep. As Betty becomes obsessed with unraveling her new companion's mystery, we begin to suspect that neither woman is quite who she appears to be, and that they might not be strangers after all. MULHOLLAND DR. was hailed as a return to form for Lynch, earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Director. 2K DCP digital restoration from Janus Films. (Christopher Sanew)
When Knighthood Was In Flower
1922, Robert G. Vignola, USA, 117 min. With Marion Davies, Forrest Stanley.
- Sun, Sep 3rd 3:00pm
This lavishly produced costume drama was an enormous, critically acclaimed hit, establishing William Randolph Hearst protégée Marion Davies as a bankable star and credible actress. She gives a winning performance, full of sass and charm, as Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's kid sister, whose heart belongs to Captain of the Guard Charles Brandon (Stanley) but whose blustering brother wants to palm her off in an alliance-cementing marriage to France's doddering monarch Louis XII. The excellent restoration from the only surviving 35mm nitrate print includes color-tinting and recreated hand-colored effects. 2K DCP digital restoration from Undercrank Productions. (MR)
1968, D.A. Pennebaker, USA, 78 min.
“Quite simply one of the best rock concert films ever, thanks not only to some great performances, but also to the way it sums up the spirit of the time.” — Geoff Andrew, Time Out London
This pioneer music documentary by cinéma-vérité giant Pennebaker set the template for countless rock concert films to follow, while also capturing the spirit of Sixties counterculture at its grooviest high before the bad vibes set in. The occasion is the three-day Monterey International Pop Festival that marked the beginning of 1967’s Summer of Love. Using tight zooms and shallow focus to imbue the stars with a tactile aura, Pennebaker and his seven-camera crew immortalize a wealth of legendary performers and performances, including Janis Joplin stomping out a ferocious “Ball ‘n’ Chain,” Jimi Hendrix cremating his guitar for “Wild Thing,” and Ravi Shankar mesmerizing the crowd with his sitar finale. 4K DCP digital restoration from Janus Films. (MR)
1986, Donna Deitch, USA, 96 min. With Helen Shaver, Patricia Charbonneau.
"Delightful film...remarkable in its sense of place, its mesmerizing stream of music, and its sharply observed supporting roles. If only more gay films had that kind of richness and humanity." — Camille Paglia, Bright Lights Film Journal
When Todd Haynes’s CAROL triumphed in 2015, several astute reviewers noted that it was following in the footsteps of this trailblazing thirty-year-old indie, similarly based on a vintage novel (by Canadian gay author Jane Rule), and similarly dedicated to the proposition that lesbian romances need not have unhappy endings. Vivian Bell (Shaver), a prim Columbia University professor, arrives at a Reno guest ranch in order to wait out the requisite six-week period for a quickie divorce. She quickly catches the eye of Cay Rivvers (Charbonneau), a rowdy young casino worker with an actively gay lifestyle. Cay’s determined pursuit sends Vivian into an identity crisis, until the walls come tumbling down in a memorably authentic love scene, but Cay, for the first time in her life, wants more than a brief affair. Director Deitch concentrates on the process of self-discovery rather than melodrama, framed by the neon-and-desert-sun tones of Robert (THERE WILL BE BLOOD) Elswit’s elegant cinematography. 4K DCP digital restoration from Janus Films. (MR)
Bless Their Little Hearts
1984, Billy Woodberry, USA, 86 min. With Nate Hardman, Kaycee Moore.
"This wonderful neorealist look at a working-class black family in South Central LA is worthy of being placed alongside Burnett's KILLER OF SHEEP. Passionately recommended." — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
Billy Woodberry's first (and, to date, only) dramatic feature was scripted and photographed by his colleague in the UCLA-centered "LA Rebellion" movement, Charles Burnett. Although it and KILLER OF SHEEP are individually distinctive works, together they form a powerful statement on African American manhood, labor, and family life in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles during the difficult period between the 1965 and 1992 uprisings. The film centers on Charlie Banks (Hardman), whose position as head of a lower-income family is eaten away by chronic unemployment and his own evasions of responsibility. Woodberry's supremely observant style allows revelatory insights to emerge effortlessly from everyday activities, aided by ultra-naturalistic performances that peak in a celebrated, electrifying domestic argument filmed in an unbroken ten-minute take.
Preceded by Woodberry's short film THE POCKETBOOK (1980, 13 min.), based on a short story by Langston Hughes, in which an abandoned boy's attempted purse-snatching leads to a glimpse of another kind of life. 2K DCP digital restorations from Milestone Film & Video. (MR)
Killer Of Sheep
1978, Charles Burnett, USA, 93 min. With Harry Sanders, Kaycee Moore.
"An American masterpiece, independent to the bone." — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
Charles Burnett's first feature is a landmark of African American cinema. Unreleased for several years, it gradually attained classic status, winning top awards at the 1981 Berlin and Sundance Film Festivals and being chosen as one of the first twenty-five selections in the National Film Registry of culturally and artistically significant films. Filmed in beautifully gritty 16mm black-and-white with unflinching and richly detailed realism, KILLER OF SHEEP details the daily life of a Watts slaughterhouse worker and his struggle to sustain his emotional and family life in the face of grinding poverty. 2K DCP digital restoration from Milestone Film & Video. (MR)
1968, Joe Sarno, USA, 75 min. With Maria Lease, Marianne Prevost.
“Classy and sophisticated, beautifully shot, a juicy script, filled with wonderful performances and sexy as hell.” — Casey Scott, DVD Drive-In
Dubbed “the Ingmar Bergman of 42nd Street,” Joe Sarno stood out among porn-purveyors of the pre-hardcore era for his films’ strong scripts, solid acting, and classy cinematography, though with a decidedly non-Bergmanesque penchant for campy dialogue and bountiful breasts. Sarno’s films were also distinctive for their concentration on women and female desire. Men are indeed peripheral in VIBRATIONS, a Manhattan tale of two sisters — one promiscuous, the other prudish — whose tense, incest-inflected relationship is aggravated by the passionate sounds emanating from the room next door, where a free-spirited nymph engages in group sex and lengthy bouts with (to quote one reviewer) “a vibrator the size of a canned ham.” As an added attraction, the film’s running time is padded out with evocative views of rainy-day New York ca. 1967. ProRes digital restoration from Film Movement. (MR)
The Son Of The Sheik
1926, George Fitzmaurice, USA, 68 min. With Rudolph Valentino, Vilma Banky.
- Sat, Sep 16th 2:00pm
- Mon, Sep 18th 6:00pm
“Lush, exciting, genuinely erotic.”—William K. Everson, American Silent Film
THE SON OF THE SHEIK was the final film of legendary silent-screen idol Valentino, released shortly before his untimely death, and it is widely considered to be his finest effort. A follow-up to (and vast improvement on) the 1921 hit THE SHEIK, this ripe slice of Hollywood Orientalism features Valentino in a dual role as the original Sheik and his headstrong son Ahmed. The impulsive lad succumbs to the charms of Yasmin (Banky), an exotic dancer exploited by her ne’er-do-well father and his band of thieves, who kidnap and torture him. Mistakenly believing that Yasmin betrayed him, Ahmed resolves to subject her to a revenge-worse-than-death. The 50 SHADES OF GREY of its day, THE SON OF THE SHEIK applies Hollywood polish to the realm of borderline-transgressive sexual fantasy, with excellent trick photography, rousing action scenes, a solid script by Frances Marion, and impressive set design by William Cameron Menzies. Silent film with recorded music score. 2K DCP digital restoration from the Cohen Film Collection. (MR)
1916, Allan Dwan, USA, 73 min. With Douglas Fairbanks, Alma Rubens.
- Sat, Sep 16th 3:30pm
- Thu, Sep 21st 6:00pm
Fairbanks has an atypically serious role in this fascinating early anti-western that stays remarkably true to the anti-racist sentiments of the 1883 Bret Harte novella ("In the Carquinez Woods") on which it is based. He plays Lo Dorman, the offspring of an Indian woman who killed herself when his white father deserted her. Arriving in the western town of Excelsior, Lo attracts the interest of the town flirt and the jealousy of her male admirers. He retreats to the nearby woods (with spectacular scenery filmed in Sequoia National Park), but the arrival of a snake oil salesman and his Mexican mistress (Rubens) threatens the half-breed's sanctuary. The film takes a resoundingly dim view of the white townspeople; there is not an admirable one in the lot. In the end, its sympathies lie with neither the whites nor the Indians, but with the archetypal American figure of the outcast. This restoration includes elements from the excavation that is detailed in DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME (playing Sept. 15 - 20). Silent film with recorded music score by Donald Sosin on Thursday. 2K DCP digital restoration from Kino Lorber. (MR)