When was the last time you watched a classic film at the cinema?
Inspired by a long-running Italian film festival, Bristol’s Cinema Rediscovered arrives at Watershed this month – and promises to bring many classics back to the big screen where they belong; including an iconic David Bowie turn.
As co-organiser James Harrison explains, this is a rare chance to see some old favourites restored to their former glory.
Summer at the cinema is usually reserved for blockbusters – why bring so many older films back to the big screen?
“Don’t forget that the original summer blockbusters like Jaws are all old films themselves now. There’s certainly an audience out there that wants to see them in an actual cinema from a decent print. We’re incredibly lucky to have a venue like Watershed in Bristol because we can still screen actual film there, while many other cinemas in the region have been throwing their film projectors out.
“Another key reason for the summer was the fact that we get some of the best restorations straight after Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, which is the most important film festival in the world when it comes to film restoration and preservation.
“Finally, it’s also seeing these classic films in a new light, and when it comes to our 3D screening of The Wizard of Oz it will most certainly bring new dimensions to this very classic of classics.”
How did you decide which films would be shown?
“With great difficultly to be honest. We all started by writing down a whole load of filmmakers’ names and thinking up possible themed strands, while we already knew we wanted to screen Pietra Brettkelly’s wonderful documentary The Flickering Truth.
“Then in early 2016 we lost David Bowie and cinematographer Douglas Slocombe. Two great icons in their own fields, and it was obvious that we had to do something to celebrate their contributions to cinema. So Bowie in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence is the key film in a strand of three films celebrating British music icons.
“We then have a late screening of a 35mm print of Nicolas Roeg’s Performance starring Mick Jagger, and then the UK Premiere of the new restoration of Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy, which I’m very excited about.
“There were other films shot by Dougie that we really wanted to screen, so Rollerball starring James Caan was a must, just because it’s another one of those films which have hardly been screened over the last few decades, and it’s a great film.
“The big one for the Slocombe strand is the World Premiere of the new 4K restoration of The Lion in Winter starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. I don’t think I have seen it in better shape.
“On top of that, you’ve got John Barry’s Oscar winning score as well, so it should be a superb cinematic experience and that particular screening is a must for anyone who loves cinema.”
Film restoration is a big part of the festival. How important is restoration for the classics?
“Incredibly important. It’s why Cinema Rediscovered is happening really. The one thing we do want to do is to open everyone’s eyes to how important restoration is – not only for classic films, but film in general.
“There’s this assumption that film restoration only involves films which were made pre 50s or 60s. That’s simply not the case. Who would’ve thought that a recent film like Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas would have needed a clean-up? But it did and the restoration was screened last summer in Bologna.
“‘Film is Fragile’the BFI have stated, and it most certainly is. Hence the reason why you look at their BFI Most Wanted, and there are films which they have listed over the years which are from the ’70s and ’80s. Some have been found, but a good number are still missing. And of course, the further you go back into the history of film the more films are lost.”