Thursday, September 9, 2010

Not Cool, Man

Yet another threat to old film: mold. A venerable British film archive, the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University  is being infected with the mold, which eats the gelatin that coats that film, rendering it permanently useless. The full article can be found here.

Its a real shame. Time and time again we are reminded of the frailty of this medium that we use to immortalize ourselves. Film of course, isn't completely immortal. Think of the incredibly flammable nitrate film bases (for a cinematic moment, recall Cinema Paradiso, when the projector catches fire - not an uncommon occurrence in those days). Luckily we've moved beyond that to mediums that are much more stable, and we have vast digital storage facilities. So we don't have to worry about our  contemporary movies disappearing completely (although maybe some should...{cough..Juwanna Man}), just older film stocks. People are, however, going to great lengths to preserve them, as well they should.

Notably, to me at least, many of the films in the British archives are recordings of daily life - newsreels, home videos, etc., not features. Admittedly, the loss of feature films is a great loss indeed. But these unplanned shots offer us a true look into what life was really like back then - unscripted and messy, aka real. These shots are truly priceless.

Two bits of good news from the article, or at least tepid news  - the mold has so far only affected about 100  out of 20,000 films, and the archives are constructing deep freeze with low humidity to prevent the mold from spreading.

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