Feb 9, 2014


Marissa Hicks-Alcaraz
As I'm only for the first time encountering debates regarding film restoration, it wasn't until Wednesday's class that I began to really examine a film for the state of its conservation or its restoration and to weigh in on the debates surrounding the topic. Perhaps I've been so conditioned to expect a certain kind of quality from older films, since I've almost exclusively, until recently, been watching films that have apparently been restored to “pristine conditions” ( i.e. sharp images, vivid colors, etc.), that I hadn't thought to question a film's appearance. Even though restorations seeking to bring back a film to its original condition have the ability to give films a certain aura or a sense of immortality, as if announcing that as old as these films get they will forever be available to audiences like the day they were was released, I believe there is still value in showing the natural quality and aging of a film.

But then I feel like I cannot make any definitive stance because one stance always prompts further questioning. For instance, will failing to restore a film to its original condition contribute to the deterioration of the film? Does merely maintaining the current state of the work risk loosing larger audiences, and therefore risk having the film fade into obscurity? And if one prefers the restoration to a film's original state, can we ever achieve bringing a film back to its original condition? Or, can reproducing multiple digital copies satisfy those who seek to maintain a film's current state and those wanting to restore a film to its original condition, or even enhance it?

I compared the Youtube video of Shirley Clarke's Portrait of Jason to the clip featured on Milestone's website, and I noted the subtle differences. The most obvious difference is in the shadows. The lighting in Milestone's restoration is much softer, allowing us to see Jason better, while the video on Youtube is much harsher, many of the details in his clothing and face are lost. While I'm not very familiar with film, I would imagine that the Youtube copy would have been closest to the original because of the technical differences. So, in thinking about which of the two I prefer and find most valuable, I find the ability to compare the two the most valuable and preferable. This way we get an optimized version with the help of the latest technical advances, but we don't loose the originality of the film. We see both worlds.


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