Europa Film Treasures Digitally Preserves 194 Films From 1890s to 1970s

At the heart of Mar­tin Scorsese’s visu­al­ly stun­ning Hugo lies the painful loss of so many Georges Melies mas­ter­pieces. Not long before Hugo’s release, Fritz Lang’s 1927 futur­ist-Chris­t­ian-social­ist para­ble Metrop­o­lis saw re-release as “The Com­plete Metrop­o­lis,” with 25 addi­tion­al min­utes restored from a film can­is­ter found rot­ting in a Buenos Aires clos­et. Both these fic­tion­al­ized and real restora­tions pro­vide high-pro­file exam­ples of the frag­ile state of so much clas­sic cin­e­ma pri­or to dig­i­tal projects like Europa Film Trea­sures.

An online film muse­um, Europa is open to all, thanks to sev­er­al pub­lic and pri­vate donors and a net­work of over 30 Euro­pean film archives (laid out in this nifty inter­ac­tive map). It “hous­es” 194 films from the late 19th cen­tu­ry to the 70s, each accom­pa­nied by an “explana­to­ry book­let.” Con­tem­po­rary musi­cians have com­posed orig­i­nal scores for many of the silent films, and there is even an inter­ac­tive work­shop where users can cre­ate sound­tracks of their own or test their knowl­edge of film­mak­ing tech­niques.

As the dra­mat­ic pro­mo­tion­al teas­er above says, Europa is a “con­stel­la­tion,” a huge­ly diverse range of films, some famous, most total­ly obscure and from “rel­a­tive­ly unknown film indus­tries.” Vis­it­ing Trea­sures for the first time can be a lit­tle daunt­ing because of the sheer num­ber of gen­res, peri­ods, and coun­tries of ori­gin. So to give you an entry­way, here are a few ran­dom nodes in the archival con­stel­la­tion of Europa:

  1. From Deutsche Kine­math­ek comes “Super­tramp Por­trait 1970,” fea­tur­ing a small quar­tet called Dad­dy (lat­er Super­tramp) in their first filmed per­for­mance at hip Munich spot the PN Club. The band does a seri­ous­ly jazzy ten-minute ren­di­tion of “All Along the Watch­tow­er.”
  2. From Fil­mote­ca Espanola comes “Barcelona en tran­via” (Barcelona by Tram), from 1908. The title says it all; in this short film, a cam­era mount­ed on a city tram records a bustling, turn-of-the cen­tu­ry scene where bicy­cles are over­tak­ing hors­es. Titles announce the street names as the tram twists and turns through the metrop­o­lis while pedes­tri­ans and run­ning chil­dren gawk and wave at the cam­era. The arpeg­gio-rich piano score by Anto­nia Cop­po­la lends pathos and a wist­ful air.
  3.  1967’s exper­i­men­tal film “A Kind of See­ing”—from the Scot­tish Screen Archive—juxtaposes a gloomy church-organ score against slow-mov­ing shots of Tech­ni­col­or Scot­tish flo­ra and oth­er “rur­al tableau,” offer­ing a med­i­ta­tion on “the dynam­ic between the visu­al and the aur­al.”
  4. Open­ing with a title card that promis­es “ten min­utes of medieval hocus pocus,” the 1933 silent “L’Apprenti sor­ci­er” (The Sorcerer’s Appren­tice), gives us dancer Jean Weidt’s  ago­nized inter­pre­ta­tion of the Goethe tale, per­formed, we are told, as an expres­sion­ist act of protest against the rise of the Third Reich. This one comes via the Archives Fran­cais­es du Film.
  5. Final­ly, an Amer­i­can classic—also redis­cov­ered by the Archives Fran­cais­es du Film—1917’s “Buck­ing Broad­way,” by John Ford. A fea­ture-length adven­ture, the film fol­lows the jour­ney of Wyoming cow­boy Cheyenne Har­ry to the Big Apple to res­cue his fiancé, who’s been kid­napped by horse­traders. The sepia-toned adven­ture stars one of silent film’s first super­stars, dash­ing Har­ry Carey.

That should get you start­ed.  Have fun, and don’t blame us if you end up on a long, mean­der­ing tour of obscure and redis­cov­ered cin­e­mat­ic trea­sures that takes up the rest of your day.

via @ubuweb

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

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