Blasts from the past preserved

Variety's Achievement in Int'l Film Award: Olivier Courson

The acquisitions that made Studiocanal a giant also created one of the biggest film libraries in Europe. The company holds the international rights to around 5,000 European and American titles, with substantial catalogs for territories such as the U.K. and Germany.

But with rights come responsibilities, and Studiocanal has an active conservation and restoration program.

“We’ve been working on them for a little over a decade, so the majority of the films have been inventoried,” says Beatrice Valbin-Constant, who heads the restoration department. “We know what state they’re in and have a pretty good idea of the elements that make them up.”

In the most urgent cases, photochemical restorations have been carried out, producing 35mm prints that will serve for the next 50 or 60 years. “All our films have a safety net so that a more substantial restoration can be performed in the future,” Valbin-Constant says.

The company chooses 25 films each year for digitization, with two films getting a fuller restoration. The need to save a pic from complete degradation is always a consideration, and it’s not necessarily the oldest that are most at risk. Some films from the ’60s and ’70s have problems because their negatives are aging badly, such as Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s 1975 film “Le Sauvage,” restored last year and screened at Cannes.

Beyond emergencies, the choice depends on the promise of the material and opportunities to connect with film history. Jean Renoir’s “Grand Illusion” was chosen for restoration to mark the film’s 75th anniversary this year, but also because it presented a chance to make a digital copy from the original nitrate negative. “The results are magnificent when the negative has been conserved correctly and is in good condition,” says Valbin-Constant.

In this case she had only documents to guide her, but if possible she likes to work with someone connected to the film, ideally the director or cinematographer. “It’s more interesting, but it also means you’re faithful to the film,” she says. “It remains the work of a director and the product of a certain moment in time, so I try not to interfere with that.”

The next restored film that will be released is Marcel Carne’s “Port of Shadows” originally shown in 1938, followed by Alain Corneau’s 1979 “Serie noire” and “Purple Noon,” Rene Clement’s 1960 take on “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

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