LYON, France — Director Nicolas Winding Refn on Monday announced an ambitious new online project at the Lumière Film Festival in Lyon that will showcase restored films and other content with the aim of inspiring a new generation of cinephiles.
Dubbed byNWR.com, the site, set to launch in February, will offer rare and forgotten films that have been restored as part of an ever expanding free content platform.
“I thought it was interesting coming to the place where cinema was born because now we can celebrate the death of cinema,” Refn said at a press conference. “So for the next 10 seconds, we should wait in silence and experience whatever we go through in our minds,” he added, remaining silent for 10 seconds before exclaiming, “And now, cinema is reborn.”
Refn is developing the project with London-based agency Bureau, the Harvard Film Archive, streaming service MUBI and music production and promotion firm Milan Records. MUBI members will have exclusive early access to restored films.
The platform will be set up like a publication, with quarterly volumes of content divided into three monthly chapters, each featuring a fully restored film. The movies will in turn serve as “a jumping-off point” for “guest editors,” who will add content inspired by the film, anything from “essays, music, video and photography to cultural ephemera” that reflects themes expressed in the selected films.
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“What’s important to understand is that everything we have known about the past no longer applies and byNRW is a platform for the evolution of cinema, where there is going to be unadulterated opportunities to experience culture in many different ways. There will be films that will be the jumping-off point for all other kinds of art experiences.”
The content and films will be entirely free. Refn said he was financing the 4K restorations – “a very expensive process” – through his earnings from advertising work. “All these ads we don’t want to see are paying for everything.”
Volume 1, entitled “Regional Renegades: Exploitation Gems from the Southern USA,” will be guest-edited by author and journalist Jimmy McDonough and highlights Bert Williams’ 1965 film “The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds,” a previously lost low-budget gothic horror pic shot in the Florida Everglades. Newly-restored, the film will premiere for the first time in more than 50 years. Also showcased will be a restored version of the 1967 backwoods potboiler “Shanty Tramp” and Dale Berry’s 1967 romp “Hot Thrills and Warm Chills.”
Volume 2 will offer “Missing Links: Restored and Rediscovered Classics of American Independent Cinema,” guest-edited by British film magazine Little White Lies. It includes Curtis Harrington’s 1963 debut avant-garde title “Night Tide” – showcasing Dennis Hopper’s first starring role – in a new restoration from its original 35 mm camera negative. Also featured in Volume 2 will be 1967’s “Spring Night, Summer Night,” which Refn described as “a gorgeous piece of Appalachian neorealism never given wide release until now,” and the long-hidden 1970s evangelical Christian “scare” films of Rev. Estus W. Pirkle, including “If Footmen Tire You, What Would Horses Do?” and “The Burning Hell.”
Highlights from Volumes 3 and 4 will be announced later this year.
Presentations of the restored films will also screen in selected theaters and other venues around the world. The platform will also work with key partners to curate and produce new original music projects as well as merchandise to complement the volumes.
Asked about the role of theaters as the main venue of cinema, Refn replied, “I love the theater, I love cinemas, but the cinema is no longer the only place, and certainly not the dominating place. We must remember that seeing a movie is many different things.”
Lifting up his smart phone, Refn pointed out, “Seeing a movie on this, which is 99% of all entertainment, is equally as interesting as seeing it on [the big screen].
“It’s like sex. All sex is great sex. … All cinemas are great cinemas, but it’s also different. You can f*** in many ways and we have to tell the teenagers that they can f*** in many ways.”