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'Film: The Living Record of Our Memory' review: A dynamic look at what it takes and means to save cinema from the trash

There is a documentary aspect to every film, whether it is a family film, a commercial film, or the brightest mainstay: images and sound capturing moments that commemorate people, animals, places . They endow impermanence with eternity. But imagine a world where those movies are gone – by some estimates, there are % of the silent films and half of the talking films already exist. In the powerful and perceptive Film: The Living Record of Our Memory, Inés Toharia is a documentary filmmaker specializing in film preservation , invites us to think about how cinema has become an integral part of the human experience.

The director spent quality time with several well-known filmmakers and many “backstage people” who, as one interviewee put it, put their energy into maintaining a large number of A moving image created by the ravages of time, neglect and climate, not to mention becoming obsolete as formats and technologies continue to evolve. The Living Record covers a wide swath of land with breezy elegance that will delight and inspire fans and students alike. After a screening at New York’s Film Forum, bowing out to Los Angeles at the American Film Center, it’s a natural fit for screenings in film buffs and film studies classes, and would be no slouch in history and art classes.


Bottom Line Inspiring.

Release Date:
Sunday, March 5 (Los Angeles)
Director and screenwriter:
Inés Toharia 1 hour59minute

Dozens of artists and experts who appear in the docs, many in new interviews, include Costa-Gavras, Jonas Mekas (died at 740), Patricio Guzmán, Ken Loach, Wim Wenders and Fernando Trueba. However familiar sampling of Western celebrities may be, one of the strengths of the Toharia method is its breadth. Available in six languages, the document directs a survey of archivists, conservationists and filmmakers around the world. Among the many poignant points she makes is the need to redefine the canon beyond the usual skepticism in America and Europe. Toharia noted that two of the world’s three largest film industries are in India and Nigeria.

Like any novelty, movies were initially viewed as novelties. The film roll itself and the stories it contains are one-offs. Some films melted because of the silver they contained, others burned in nitrate flames. But for anyone who has been lulled into complacency by digitization, The Living Record makes it clear that digitization is not a foolproof solution. Towards the end of its runtime, the document briefly outlines possible remedies, or it could be a poem in technological prose: Synthetic DNA, Nanofilm, Piql Film, 5D Memory Crystal, Totenpass.

No matter how much is lost, the vaults of the Library of Congress and the vast holdings of archives and cinemas around the world are daunting: too much material to preserve at best temperature. Cinematographer Daniel Vilar captures the confined air of these storage rooms as much as he focuses on the congealed or decomposed contents of jars that he failed to find in time. For those, the hard work of preservation can take years.

As one interviewee stated, loss is the basis of archiving. If you’ve ever experienced the loss of a movie gem (or — whimper! — a home movie), the eager goal is to prevent more such casualties. With love and perseverance, dedicated professionals rescue potential treasures from basements, abandoned homes, and dark places where rats die. They also rescue obsolete equipment—machines and equipment that, with the advent of digitization, are not relevant to film processing labs but are necessary for anyone still working with film stocks. Loach fondly recalls how Pixar’s digital gurus came to his rescue, digging into the sentimentality of the company’s collection of quaint old gear when he needed encoding tapes for editing.

Edited in The Living Record, by Abraham Lifshitz and Helmer, with precision and elegance, to Effortless pulse propels the document and brings new light to the term “archival material”. Toharia digs into the collection that makes her doctor’s heart beat faster, making clever choices. Whether the film depicts Nazi-era Vienna, Dust Bowl immigrants, or Japanese-American internment camps in California during World War II, she eloquently reminds us how much we learn about other cultures and our own through watching films.

She recognizes an important awakening for LA Rebellion filmmakers, and the value of Stan Brakhage’s hand-drawn films and Barbara Rubin’s edgy tour. Among her interviewees were the relatively unknown celluloid artist Emmanuel Lefrant and Bill Morrison, known in arthouse cinema for the beauty of cinematic thinking
Painful and rotten footage. Toharia admits to the ultra-romantic MacGuffin in the famous filmmaker’s lost film (though, one interviewee suggested, it’s better not to find Hitchcock’s The Mountain Eagle). But her doctor also pointed out that many films were barely seen or written about by authors who weren’t even on the fringes of textbooks.

The field of film conservation offers a model of international cooperation through exchanges and cooperation through joint efforts of foundations, archives and cinemas. FIAF (International Federation of Film Archives), established in 80 as the French film archive The joint venture, the Reichsfilmarchiv in Berlin, the British Film Institute and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, now has more than 80 organized in dozens of countries.

Whether the work of these organizations should be government-funded projects rather than entrepreneurship is another pressing question via The Living Record course. Either way, if we are to learn from the past—a big assumption, but perhaps it is too early to succumb to despair—then this work is important, in the purest sense of the word, to Its preservation has the most far-reaching political consequences. Through film, we witness atrocities and miracles, crimes against humanity and everyday joy. We know where we come from and see our dreams. Costa-Gavras put it succinctly: “Politics is not ‘Who did you vote for?’ Politics is everything.”

Full credits 941392

Publisher: Kino Lorber
Production Company: El Grifilm Productions, Filmoption International Director and Screenwriter: Inés Toharia
Producers: Isaac Garcia, Paul Cadieux
Director of Photography: Daniel Vilar
Editors: Abraham Lifshitz, Inés Toharia Music: Robert Marcel Lepage
Archives Consultant: Adrian Wood

English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Catalan Romanian, Arabic
1 hour minutes

THR Communications 264559

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