There's a great interest around the issue of film conservation and restoration in Argentina, the country with the largest filmic repertoire in Latin America, but also one that is suffering the almost total disappearance of its silent films, and big problems with old sound films too. Accordingly, a new institution, the Cinemateca y Archivio de la Imagen Nacional
, was recently funded and is actually investing in the formation of specialized professionals. Davide Pozzi
, director of the Laboratorio L'immagine Ritrovata
of Bologna, moderated an interesting conference on these topics, starting from two restored films that will be shown at the Mar del Plata Film Festival
: Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up
(1966), a restoration curated by Cineteca di Bologna
in association with Istituto Luce Cinecittà
and under the supervision of Luca Bigazzi; and Cuban film Lucia
by Humberto Solas (1968). In the words of Pozzi: "These films are almost coeval, yet totally different. Lucia
is black and white, while Blow Up
is colour. This is a fundamental aspect to understand the right methodology to apply, which does not only involve the physical restoration of the film with the elimination of scratches and filth, but also a subjective part requiring a series of philological choices."
Pozzi argues that the original negative is the best source material: "We had it for Blow Up
, while for Lucia
we had to resort to scholarly texts that helped us understand the light choices of the DoP, which by the way are different in the three episodes of the film." Colour correction is one of the most subjective aspects then: "The perception of colour varies from culture to culture, it's different for an Italian and an Asian. It also changes according to the epoch. Today's technology allows us to do whatever we want, but we have to restrain ourselves, respect the original and not to embellish the film. If we have a 35mm print, that's the best proof of how the film looked like back in the day. In the case of Blow Up
, we worked on a print from Martin Scorsese's private collection."
Another method is to discuss it with the director or DoP directly, in case they're still alive. "You still have to discount half of what they say because they might want to change their work ex post, in particular if it was their debut film. Both Olmi for The Tree of Wooden Clogs
and Bellocchio for Fists in the Pocket
were inclined to re-elaborate the look of their films, and we had to persuade them not to do it."
The Laboratorio L'immagine Ritrovata employs about 80 people working on about 80 films per year. Restorations can also require months of work - it took 8 months for Blow Up
, a restoration that involved the participation of Michelangelo Antonioni's and Carlo Di Palma's widows too. Among the issues tackled during the conference, the choice of which films should be brought back to life. "It's normal to choose the big masterpieces, especially if this coincides with some anniversary, but we should also start restoring less famous films too, exactly as they do in France, where the Culture Ministry finances the digitalization of the entire filmic repertoire. Technology today is cheaper and opens up big opportunities also for less known films and filmmakers."