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10 Rare Gems MoMA Just Saved From Obscurity

10 Rare Gems MoMA Just Saved From Obscurity

READ MORE: 5 Key Takeaways from the Documentary Film Preservation Summit

Starting tomorrow, November 4, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City will revive some of cinema’s long-buried treasures for To Save and Project: The 13th MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation. The three-week program is a landmark event for cinephiles, as numerous films will be receiving their first American screenings since their original release decades ago, while others, in new restored versions, will be shown for the first time in New York.

Films selected include everything from silent film comedies to European feminist films, Iranian New Wave classics and Cuban documentaries, many of which have been impossible to screen in any capacity here in the United States. Guest speakers include Guy Maddin, Babette Mangolte, and noted film historians John Canemaker, Tom Gunning and Eddie Muller, among others.

To Save and Project runs November 4-25 at MoMA. Visit the event website for more details, including ticketing and scheduling information, and continue reading for a selection of 10 of the festival’s can’t-miss entries. Synopses provided by MoMA.

“Woman on the Run” (Norman Foster, 1950)

Known to cinephiles primarily for his association with Orson Welles, Norman Foster enjoyed a long career as a director himself. Long available only in substandard public domain prints, “Woman on the Run” is an inventive noir that combines vertiginous San Francisco location shooting with an emotionally complex story about an unhappily married woman (Ann Sheridan) whose feckless husband goes on the run after witnessing a mob killing. The MoMA print has been restored from 35mm nitrate and acetate materials by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, with funding provided by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Charitable Trust (The HFPA Trust) and the Film Noir Foundation. Screenings: November 7 at 6:45pm and November 10, 4:00pm.

“Verieté” (Ewald André Dupont, 1925)

Often cited but seldom seen, this Weimar classic has been digitally restored by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung Foundation and the Filmarchiv Austria using material from around the world (including The Library of Congress and MoMA). Emil Jannings (“The Blue Angel”) stars in one of his most spectacularly masochistic roles as a small-time trapeze artist who hits the big time in Berlin thanks to a new partner: His sultry mistress, Lya de Putti. Unknown to Jannings, she’s having an affair with the third member of the act (Warwick Ward), and grips have been known to slip — a possibility made vivid by Karl Freund’s stunning camera work. Screenings: November 4 at 4:00pm and November 15 at 6:15pm.

“Les Ordres” (Michel Brault, 1974)

Restored 40 years after its explosive debut at Cannes, “Les Ordres” is a gripping reenactment of the roundup and imprisonment of ordinary Québécois citizens during the October Crisis of 1970, when Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act and regional authorities imposed virtual martial law in the panicked aftermath of kidnappings by the secessionist Front de libération du Québec (FLQ). Events unfold with startling immediacy in this early example of pseudo-documentary filmmaking — reminiscent of the work of Peter Watkins — as director Michel Brault borrows the handheld camerawork and wild sound of the cinema vérité school to film actors speaking the words of actual participants in the events, culled from extensive interviews. Screenings: November 14 at 1:15pm and November 23 at 4:00pm.

“Germany, Pale Mother” (Helma Sanders-Brahm, 1980)

After taking on exploited workers and disillusioned artists as the subjects of her previous films, often by mixing documentary realism, melodrama and Brechtian alienation effects, Helma Sanders-Brahms turned her attention in “Germany, Pale Mother” to dramatic conflict of a more familial and autobiographical sort. Narrated by the director herself and presented, in mesmerizingly kaleidoscopic fashion, across different time periods and perspectives — with jarring juxtapositions of newsreel footage and macabre fantasy — the film is a portrait of three generations of women within a family born of wartime horror and postwar guilt. Screenings: November 14 at 3:35pm and November 16 at 1:00pm

“Limite” (Mário Peixoto, 1931)

This long-unseen 1931 masterpiece by Brazilian Mário Peixoto was admired by Orson Welles for its formal experimentation and shunned by Cinema Novo leader Glauber Rocha for its purported bourgeois decadence and hermetic intellectualism. Peixoto’s cinematic tone poem, set to musical themes by Igor Stravinsky, Erik Satie and other European composers, was inspired by the Soviet montage theorists, the visual impressionism of the French avant-garde, the plastic arts of Brazilian modernism and, most specifically, by an André Kertesz photograph of a woman embraced by a man in handcuffs. For nearly a half century, “Limite” was only known through badly worn prints, but a painstaking restoration by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project at Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory in collaboration with Cinemateca Brasileira, Arquivo Mário Peixoto and the contemporary Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles has returned Peixoto’s lone film to its proper glory. Screenings: November 11 at 4:00pm and November 12 at 6:45pm.

“The Trial of Vivienne Ware” (William K. Howard, 1932)

Machine-gun dialogue, an innovative, insistent use of whip pans and an intricate flashback structure contribute to the high-speed, headlong rush of William K. Howard’s highly experimental treatment of a popular radio play about a socialite (Joan Bennett) on trial for the murder of her faithless fiancé. Flying knives, chorus girls and courtroom histrionics (from Donald Cook, Bennett’s defense attorney and jilted lover) keep this one roaring along. Restored on 35mm by The Museum of Modern Art; courtesy Twentieth Century Fox. Screenings: November 8 at 3:15pm and November 9 at 1:30pm.

“I, You, He, She” (Chantal Akerman, 1976)

A film about hunger — sexual and otherwise — and the anguish of loss, the late Chantal Akerman’s breakthrough feature is a brilliant subversion of the feminine mystique and of the narrative conventions of porn and road movies. A chamber piece starring Claire Wauthion, a young Niels Arestrup (“A Prophet,” “The Beat that My Heart Skipped”) and Akerman herself, the film is divided into three acts that chart a solitary young woman’s compulsive habits and chance encounters with a truck driver and an ex-girlfriend. Restored digitally by the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique. Screenings: November 15 at 3:30pm and November 16 at 4:15pm.

“The Brick and the Mirror” (Ebrahim Golestan, 1965)

The influence of the Iranian New Wave of the 1960s on contemporary filmmakers like Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi and Ana Lily Amirpour is profound, yet these pioneering works have been largely inaccessible in the West. Newly restored, Ebrahim Golestan’s 1965 classic offers an ideal entry point into this exciting period of film history, when an independent Iranian cinema movement emerged from a fusion of storytelling, poetic images and documentary. Pre-revolutionary Tehran pulsates with life in Soleyman Minassian’s expressionistic black-and-white widescreen photography, as a taxi driver discovers an abandoned baby in the back seat of his car and spends a long, desperate night trying to get rid of it. Screenings: November 21 at 8:30pm and November 24 at 1:00pm. 

“The Deep” (Orson Welles, 1967)

One of the holy grails in the Orson Welles canon, “The Deep” was based on Charles Williams’s thriller “Dead Reckoning” and filmed on Yugoslavia’s Dalmatian coast. Despite a stellar cast — Jeanne Moreau, Laurence Harvey, Oja Kodar, Michael Bryant and Welles himself — the film was never finished, owing to a series of financial and technical calamities. The film’s original negatives have been lost, and only different versions of a rough-cut work print survive: A mixture of black-and-white and color material that repeats certain sequences and lacks post-production color grading, dubbing and a sound mix. Screening: November 22 at 6:00pm.

“Oh the Days!” (Ahmed El Maanouni, 1978)

Much honored but long impossible to see, this classic of Arab cinema has been restored under the supervision of its director, Ahmed El Maanouni, who observes, “I did not look for spectacular beauty, but made an effort to let the imagery of the rural world speak through abstraction and silence…Almost 40 years later, when I watch Alyam Alyam again, I am still comfortable with my aesthetic choices and my intuitions, but I cannot avoid noticing how, from beginning to end — from the opening shots with the blood shed by the camels to the crowd of peasants appearing from behind the hills — it all seemed to presage the current tragedy experienced by the thousands whose broken dreams lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean…” Screenings: November 11 at 7:00pm and November 12 at 4:30pm.

READ MORE: Martin Scorsese on Fighting For Film Preservation and Not Believing in ‘Old Movies’

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