Cinema Revival Returns to the Wex
It’s been six years now since the Wexner Center for the Arts began its formal celebration of film restoration, Cinema Revival.
Though the film center shows restored films year round, this festival allows it to dig into the art of restoration, talk about the process, and reveal newly restored Hollywood classics and underseen gems from around the world, as well as unearth home movies and other obscurities the public would never see were it not for the concerted efforts of film preservationists.
The Wex’s Director of Film/Video Dave Filipi believes the work of film preservationists is invaluable.
“It goes hand in hand with film preservation. The preservation part I think everybody has a good handle on at this point,” he says. “In many cases, they’re works of art. In many cases, they’re documents of the times they were made, documents of societal trends. I think we’ve gotten to the point where everybody understands why we preserve this film heritage.”
The ultimate goal? To get films looking like they were when they were first released.
“In a lot of cases, people really haven’t been able to see the film the way it was meant to be seen, so that’s important,” Filipi says.
He uses John Huston’s 1952 film Moulin Rouge as an example.
“Huston was so intentional and so deliberate about the look of the film, really trying to capture that essence of the late Belle Epoque of Paris life, that time period and the feeling of the Moulin Rouge. What has been available for many years has not looked good,” Filipi says. “I happened to be able to see this restoration in Italy last summer and it looked so beautiful.”
Saturday evening’s Restoration Roundtable highlights the process involved in taking faded or crumbling prints and restoring them.
“We’re going to have Grover Crisp from Sony, which is a for-profit film studio that I think is often looked to as one of the leading film studios in terms of taking care of and restoring and preserving its collection,” Filipi says. “Then you have Mike Pogorzelski from the non-profit Academy Film Archive and Margaret Bodde from The Film Foundation, that often serves as everything from the instigator to the catalyst of bringing projects together.”
They’ll show clips from a handful of films that were partnerships either with the Academy and the Film Foundation or between everybody.
“I thought it would be interesting to hear how some of these projects work, where archive and studios are working together to do a restoration,” Filipi says.
One of those gorgeous restorations, this one getting its world premiere at Cinema Revival, is the Mae West 1933 classic I’m No Angel.
“People are aware of and have maybe even seen I’m No Angel, but this is a brand new restoration using state-of-the-art tools to make it look as good as possible,” Filipi says. “So in a way, you’re seeing it for the first time because it’s likely you haven’t seen it looking this good.”
The purpose of Cinema Revival is not simply to show off the newest techniques for restoring classic films, though.
“I think it’s important to highlight the work of the Film Foundation and their Africa Film Project,” Filipi says. “We’re showing two this year with The woman with the knife (La femme au couteau) and Muna Moto.”
Why is this important?
“There are all these filmmakers that American audiences haven’t had the chance to see,” he says. “Maybe they had kind of a release when they first came out and were playing at festivals and specialty venues in the 60s and 70s, but then countries didn’t have the infrastructure to preserve these films and to keep them in circulation. This initiative comes along and they are scouring the continent of Africa and the countries that have any kind of film tradition. They’re identifying the most important films and restoring them and preserving them and then also that next step, they’re promoting the screening of these films all around the world. Maybe that’s the most important reason for film restoration—we make judgments about film history based on what we know and what films we’ve been able to see. There’s all kinds of films that resurface every year that make us step back and reassess things.”
The 2020 lineup boasts cinematic classics like this as well as international fare, including Jean-Pierre Dikongue-Pipa’s Muna Moto. But a couple of odd choices have snuck into the program.
“Revenge of Frankenstein is a restoration done by Sony pictures. I really love the Hammer horror films, so that was one reason—my personal taste,” Filipi says. “We try to have a nice mix of things so hopefully there will be something over the course of the weekend that will appeal to everybody. Horror has its own audience and I think the chance to see this horror film in a beautiful new restoration will be really enticing to some people.”
And Jan de Bont’s 1994 Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock vehicle, Speed?
“I can’t believe how many people I’ve talked to who’ve never seen Speed. It just seems incomprehensible,” Filipi says. “If you were alive and capable of seeing movies when it came out, everyone saw Speed. That was part of the impulse to show it.”
There was more to it than that. Filipi says that part of the goal of Cinema Revival is to recontextualize things.
“We started to think that would be kind of a fun film to show in this context,” he says. “And, of course, every five years there’s a new Keanu Reeves resurgence. We just started to really have fun with the idea of showing this Keanu Reeves film, this film that’s really familiar to us but maybe younger people have only heard of it, never seen it on the big screen.”
Among the highlights Filipi is most excited to share is the program of Hollywood Home Movies.
“Hollywood Home Movies is exactly what it sounds like,” he says. “This will be the first time that Mike Pogorzelski, who’s the head of the Academy Film Archive, is going to be able to be here and we are incredibly excited about that.”
The program offers a patchwork of donated home movies, restored by the Academy Film Archive, boasting backstage goofiness from Jerry Lewis, footage of Cary Grant on the set of Gunga Din, as well as picnic at the home of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
“I think people are really going to enjoy that program,” Filipi says.
“I’m very passionate about preserving our culture, whether it’s American film culture, whether it’s film from other cultures,” he says. “If you don’t restore and preserve them, they might be lost and who knows what you’re losing?”
The festival runs Thursday, February 27 through Tuesday, March 3. Full passes are $30 for members, students and seniors; $35 for the general public. A pass gets you into all screenings and discussions as well as the Wex’s winter exhibitions and the passholder lounge.
Full line up for Cinema Revival: A Festival of Film Restoration
- Thursday, Feb 27, 4:30 p.m. – La femme au couteau
- Thursday, Feb 27, 7:00 p.m. – White folks call it madness but we call it Hi De Ho: An ”All Colored” Vitaphone Program
- Friday, Feb 28, 4:30 p.m. – Muna Moto
- Friday, Feb 28, 7:00 p.m. – Hollywood Home Movies from the Academy Film Archive (1931 – 1970)
- Friday, Feb 28, 8:45 p.m. – Speed
- Saturday, Feb 29, 11:30 a.m. – The Technicolor Reference Collection – A 1950 Survey
- Saturday, Feb 29, 1:45 p.m. – Ride Lonesome
- Saturday, Feb 29, 3:30 p.m. – I’m No Angel
- Saturday, Feb 29, 5:30 p.m. – Restoration Roundtable
- Saturday, Feb 29, 6:30 p.m. – Cinema Revival Reception
- Saturday, Feb 29, 7:30 p.m. – Moulin Rouge (1952)
- Sunday, March 1, 12:30 p.m. – Go West
- Sunday, March 11, 2:15 p.m. – Way of a Gaucho
- Sunday, March 1, 4:00 p.m. – Revenge of Frankenstein
- Monday, March 2, 4:00 p.m. – Duet for Cannibals
- Tuesday, March 3, 7:00 p.m. – Son of the White Mare
For tickets and additional information, visit wexarts.org.