[Originally published in Queen Anne & Magnolia News, May 19, 2010]
Hand me a film festival catalogue and the first thing I’m going to look for is the archival stuff.
It’s not just that the odds (and classical discipline) favor an older movie being better than a new one. A lot of worthy films have never received their just due, or have dropped out of circulation. Some have been given up as lost: no prints or negative known to survive.
Still, miracles happen. Some “lost” films have been sitting in the studio vaults all along, in mislabeled cans. Or a print may turn up in a Mittel-European or South American archive, its title translated into something unrecognizable. And sometimes people â€” whose grandfather used to be a projectionist, say â€” find the darnedest things sitting forgotten in the attic.
Festival screenings are often the best opportunities we’ll ever have to catch up with such movies. They also offer the chance to watch restorations of movies we’ve seen, but seen only in cut or bashed-up or dupe prints, or via improperly formatted TV or home-video presentations. And don’t shortchange the privilege of encountering them on the big, communal screen they were intended for.
In a spirit of “celebrating the landmark films that continue to shape our cinematic future,” SIFF 2010 is presenting nine vintage feature films, two documentary looks into movie history and three silent pictures with live musical accompaniment.