Amazing Tales from the Archives, 2018

Elzbieta Wysocka at SFSFF 2018. Photo ©Pamela Gentile

with presenters Robert Byrne, Martin Koerber, Russell Merritt, Davide Pozzi, Cynthia Walk, and Elzbieta Wysocka

Presented at SFSFF 2018
Musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin

E.A. Dupont’s 1923 feature The Ancient Law, about the son of a rabbi who leaves the shtetl to become an actor, was reconstructed by the Deutsche Kinemathek in 1984 based on various export copies found in other archives. When Weimar-film scholar Cynthia Walk pointed out certain imperfections in the restoration, it led to a complete reworking of the film, giving it a totally new appearance, reintroducing the color, and prompting the composition of two new music scores (one of which the Donald Sosin Ensemble performs for the film’s screening on Sunday). Professor Walk and Martin Koerber, head of the Deutsche Kinemathek film archive, tell the story.

“They are not pictures, but realities,” said Moving Picture World about the latest demonstration of Kinemacolor films in 1910. The UK-based Natural Colour Kinematograph Company, owned by pioneering producer Charles Urban, made a big splash in the early 1910s, adding a lifelike color palette to actualities, short fiction films, and even some features. After many attempts, state-of-the-art technology has finally allowed for the restoration of Kinemacolor films with their stunningly naturalistic images. Davide Pozzi, head of L’Immagine Ritrovata film restoration laboratory in Italy, demonstrates how digital tools have helped to recuperate these unique and vivid treasures.

Richard Oswald’s recently rediscovered The Hound of the Baskervilles is a German film featuring an American Sherlock Holmes, a Russian Watson, an Italian Baskerville, and based on a British classic. Its restoration is no less an international project—a print found in Poland with Czech intertitles blended with a French version provided by an Austrian collector. The story of the film’s rediscovery, reconstruction, and restoration is a yarn worthy of the great detective himself. UC Berkeley film scholar Russell Merritt, preservationist Robert Byrne, and archivist Elzbieta Wysocka of Filmoteka Narodowa (Poland’s National Film Archive) unravel the intriguing plot.