LYON — Hundreds of cinema restoration professionals meet in Lyon each year, as well as filmmakers, actors, and superfans, to admire and discuss cinematic gems, which might otherwise become victims of time and technology.
At this year’s festival Jean-Luc Godard’s iconic muse, Anna Karina, gave a master class and introduced the restoration of her 1973 directorial debut “Vivre Ensemble.” Also in town were the film’s original co-producers, the legendary Société Nouvelle de Cinématographie (SNC), a company with more than 80 years of production history in France. The film is in the process of a 4k update from the original Super 16mm negatives, with the restoration being handled by crowdfunding platform Celluloid Angels.
The film is set in the St Germain neighborhood of Paris’ Latin Quarter and the spirit of the late ’60s and pre-oil crisis ’70s sets the backdrop for the film’s love story. It was selected for the 1973 Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week line-up.
“Karina wrote, produced and starred in the film, using her own flat for catering, set and technical locale for the Paris scenes in the film,” SNC’s Ellen Schafer, told Variety. “The NYC scenes are all “stolen,” made with unauthorized footage Anna-Karina and her tiny crew managed to film during a short stay in the city. The film has an amazingly natural and free atmosphere, poetic yet serious and very 70’s!”
The restoration budget is nearly $140,000, more than $80,000 of which was provided through a CNC French film agency CNC grant. Celluloid Angels hopes to recoup the remaining difference between DVD sales, a potential TV broadcast deal and the aforementioned crowdfunding campaign which is currently 33% of the way to it’s $22,500 goal.
The restoration process has already commenced, and includes mixing the 16mm footage and 35mm blow-ups, in the event they can help the restoration stay faithful to the original film. A 4k restoration magnifies any defect or imperfection, which makes a project like this costly and time consuming.
“This ‘going-back-and-forth’ approach to the restoration has a major inconvenience: staying within the budget and timeframe. We must make difficult decisions and having the possibility to push the technical limits of the restoration is definitely in the best interest of the film,” said restoration supervisor Olivier Pruvost.
“Indeed this is an ethical question. If SNC is to respect Anna Karina’s artistic orientations, it is necessary to have the financial leeway to explore all technical solutions.”
Other Cinema Angels projects include Luc Besson’s “The Big Blue,” Georges Lautner’s “Monsieur Gangster,” and Maurice Delbez’s “Rue de Cascades.”