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Lumière Festival: Walt Disney’s ‘Alice Comedies’ Being Restored, Distributed by France’s Malavida

LYON, France — Walt Disney’s “Alice Comedies,” a series of cartoons made before Disney went to Hollywood, have been freshly restored and re-packaged for global distribution by France’s Malavida Films, one of the specialty cinema companies announcing their 2017 lineups at Lyon’s Lumière festival vintage cinema market.

Disney made the silent shorts starting in 1923 when he was still a struggling cartoon filmmaker in Kansas City. They feature a young girl named Alice, originally played by Virginia Davis, who interacts with animated characters. Local company Laugh-O-gram Films produced them and subsequently went bust. Now they are in the public domain.

“These are the only films in the Disney catalogue that are not copyrighted,” said Malavida co-chief Lionel Ithurralde.

Malavida is a niche vintage arthouse movies outfit whose upcoming French releases include several works by British director Derek Jarman, including his 1976 drama “Sebastiane,” the first film ever shot in Latin.

Malavida tracked down the “Alice Comedies” reels in Amsterdam at the Eye film museum, the only institution in The Netherlands that buys film collections. They are also specialised in restoration. Malavida and Eye collaborated on the digital restoration of the Disney shorts with prominent Paris-based Titra Film labs.

“It was a quite complicated technical feat because the original material is 18 frames per second; but for restoration work you need 25 frames per second,” Ithurralde said.

Malavida have added music which they co-produced with French orchestra Orchestre de Chamber d’Hote. The orchestra composed the score which can also be performed for a live “cine-concert.”

The eight-to-twelve minute comedies, each of which used to be on one reel, include “Alice’s Wild West Show,” “Alice’s Spooky Adventure,” and “Alice’s Day at Sea,” all starring Virginia Davis.

Malavida are distributing them in France and selling them globally.

Other highlights from the presentations:

— Tamasa Distribution next year will theatrically re-release Nagisa Oshima’s erotic “In The Realm of the Senses” in French cinemas.

— Gaumont’s slate inlcudes Jean-Jacques Annaud’s dramedy “Hothead”; Carl Theodore Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” from 1928; the 1938 version of Abel Gance’s film “J’accuse,” which unlike the 1919 version is not silent; Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1959 noir “Two Men in Manhattan”; and, also from 1959, “The Lovers of Montparnasse,” about the last year in the life of Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani who died in poverty in Paris. This film was initially directed by Max Ophuls. He died during the shoot after which his friend Jaques Becker took over.

— Sidonis – this company specialized in Westerns is reissuing Mexican director Arturo Ripstein’s first film “Time to Die”; Walter Hill’s “Geronimo”; and also Richard Fleisher’s 1961 peplum pic “Barabbas,” among other titles.

— LCJ Productions has two films on their slate by Marcel Carné: “Law Breakers,” from 1971 and the short “Nogent, eldorado du dimanche,” which Carnè shot in 1929. Both are playing at the Lumière fest.

— Carlotta has, among other titles, Régis Wargnier’s “Indochine,” from 1992;  Lino Brocka’s “Manila in the Claws of Light”; and Wes Craven’s “The Hills Have Eyes.”

— Pathé’s many titles comprise Paul Verhoeven’s “Showgirls”; Patrice Chereau’s “La reine Margot”; and Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.”

— Lost Films has Pierre Filmon’s docu “Close Encounters With Vilmos Zsigmond” and Robert Wise’s classic “The Sound of Music.”

— Théâtre du Temple will reissue Tod Browning’s 1932 classic “Freaks,” Fritz Lang’s “House by the River”; Mauro Bolognini’s “Il Bell’Antonio”; and Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point,” among other films.

— Les Acacias’s lineup includes Douglas Sirk’s 1946 “A Scandal in Paris”; Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran”; and Vittorio De Sica’s “Il Boom.”

— Ciné-Sorbonne will re-release, among others, “Fargo” by the Cohen brothers; Vincente Minelli’s “An American in Paris”; and Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line.”

— Splendor’s lineup includes “Missing” by Costa-Gavras; William Friedkin’s “To Live and Die in L.A.”; and Abbas Kiarostami’s “Close Up.”

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