Volume 8, Issue 11 / November 2004

Film Preservation

In this issue

For this month’s issue Offscreen is casting a multi-layered gaze on the fascinating subject of film preservation. One of the primary functions of film preservation is, of course, to safeguard the historical legacy of cinema. This function brings with it many interrelated issues, such as archiving, restoration, history, origins, etc. At the forefront of the preservationist concern is the highly flammable nitrate film stock, which was the industry standard for approximately the first fifty years of cinema. This latter subject is treated in a review of the impressive book, This Film is Dangerous: A Celebration of Nitrate Film. The balance of the issue takes a look at film preservation from the other side around. The image we have of the film preservationist is someone rushing to save a film before it is destroyed forever by the ravages of time. Hence to think preservation brings with it deterioration, just as the beginning of cinema evokes its end. What use then, if any, is there for the many films which have died a “natural” death? An aesthetic response to this question is provided in the fascinating work of experimental filmmaker/artist Bill Morrison. The subject of film preservation provides a springboard for this special spotlight on Bill Morrison, which includes an in-depth interview and three complementary essays. With so much talk in recent years on the imminent “death” of cinema, Morrison’s work is relevant and vital because it demonstrates that death can carry its own rebirth. Cinema may be dying, but it is still very alive and kicking, thank you. (ed. Donato Totaro)

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