March 11, 2016

Extreme acetate decay!

Sometimes some really horribly decomposed film turns up at the conservation center.

These pictures are of some extreme cases of vinegar syndrome.  The films are from the 1920s, and are a diacetate safety base.

crystalizing on the reel extreme diacetate decay 2 decomposing diacetate film

 

These white crystals are a result of the plasticizer pulling away from the base. We will see if a lab is able to work on them for us – they are also very shrunken.  These films are, of course, unique, so we hope to be able to get something off them.

MA safety film logo one frame

This is the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety seal, OK-ing the film for non-theatrical projection, although these were made to be shown at the local cinema.

Posted in Uncategorized on 11 March 2016 at 4:02 pm by conservator1
March 8, 2016

Second Tuesday poster: Happy International Women’s Day!

Today is International Women’s Day!  This Tuesday’s poster celebrates Feminist Filmmaker Anne Charlotte Robertson with a beautiful vintage screening flier, handmade by Anne.

Cardboard poster with taped papers announcing time and place for film screening.

Handmade Mass Art screening flier from the Anne Charlotte Robertson Collection

Posted in Anne Robertson, poster on 8 March 2016 at 12:41 pm by conservator3
February 22, 2016

The Soviet Film Collection catalog is searchable online!

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It’s been a minute since we’ve revisited the Soviet Film Collection in the blogosphere, but work on the collection has been continuing here at the archive. We are happy to announce that the catalog of films is now searchable online in HOLLIS+, the Harvard Library online catalog.

A staff screening of a few short films from the collection introduced a new favorite for our conservation team: Lõputu Päev or Endless Day (1971/1990), directed by Jaan Tooming & Virve Aruoja.

This experimental film was banned under the Soviets and ordered for destruction at the time of its initial production in 1970. Fortunately, Director Virve Aruoja saved the prints and brought them safely out of the country. The film was completed in 1991 after decades of hidden storage but not released until 2006. This delayed premiere did not do much to dampen the powerful effect of Endless Day; the film unfolds like a visceral absurdist dream with jarring movement and a cutting soundtrack. The National Gallery of Art has a wonderful article on the film’s history and production, which can be found here.

You can also view the film in its entirety online through the Estonian Public Broadcasting website.

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We will continue posting about screenings and new finds from the Soviet Film Collection as they occur. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy searching the catalog and finding your own favorites!

Posted in Soviet Film Collection on 22 February 2016 at 12:38 pm by conservator3
January 8, 2016

Animation films from the HFA collections

Unid scratch film_KAqua

There are some amazing animated films that have been gracing our film benches over the past few months. Some favorites we’ve inspected include Sleeping Beauty (1934) by Russian filmmaker Alexander Alexeieff, inventor of pinscreen animation, Perpetual Motion (1992) and a beautiful scratch film (pictured above) both from the Karen Aqua Collection.

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Perpetual Motion (1992)

We especially enjoyed inspecting a print of Adventures of an * (1957), a moving short that depicts the life cycle of a man from childhood to adulthood, and utilizes a brilliant jazz score to offset the images.

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The Adventures of an * (1957)

You can explore the holdings in our Animation Collection on the HFA website and through the Harvard Library Catalog, HOLLIS+.

[note: since this posting we have learned that the unidentified scratch film pictured at the top of this page was likely produced by one of Karen Aqua’s students as part of Aqua’s animation workshop course. Many thanks to Ken Field for his insight about this collection!]

Posted in animation, Archives, children's films, Karen Aqua on 8 January 2016 at 6:05 pm by conservator3
December 17, 2015

Star Wars

As the world waits impatiently for the new Star Wars film, we take a look at the old one.

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This is a Super 8 condensed version of Episode IV, made for the home market in the dark days before everyone had a VCR.  Instead of the entire film, you could watch the highlights at home.

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The condensed version is around 20 minutes long, and the storyline is sort of carried, but all we see are the action sequences.

We ran this for an elementary school group that visited a few years ago, and one kid was very excited by this movie – “Now I understand why everyone loves Star Wars!  I’m going to go home and watch them all right now!”

It really warms our hearts when our jobs as archivists make a difference.

Posted in Archivists' pick, super 8 on 17 December 2015 at 5:26 pm by conservator1
December 7, 2015

A very merry weekend of holiday films at the HFA

It’s that time of year again!

The Harvard Film Archive invites one and all to warm up with Christmassy film and video offerings from our collections the weekend before Xmas. Join us Friday, December 18 for Dear Video Diary: Christmas with Anne Robertson and George Kuchar and Sunday, December 20 for the free Annual Vintage Holiday Show!

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ANNE ROBERTSON AND GEORGE KUCHAR – Friday December 18 at 7PM

Navigate the holidays with film and video diaries from Anne Charlotte Robertson and George Kuchar as they direct their cameras at visions of family, friends, food, and felines. The two filmmakers eloquently document the chaos and melancholy that many often feel, but few confront, during this festive season.

 

*FREE* VINTAGE HOLIDAY SHOW – Sunday

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FREE AND FAMILY FRIENDLY! The Vintage Holiday Show is a 90-minute program of short films for both kids and adults curated by Harvard’s Film Conservator, Liz Coffey!

Wrap up your weekend and join in the merriment with the HFA’s annual event of holiday-themed gems from our archives. Experience the jolly spirit of viewing 16mm and 35mm films projected in all their glory. This year’s lineup includes CHARLIE’S CHRISTMAS PROJECT (1988), featuring a young Seth Green in the follow-up to last year’s audience favorite, CHARLIE’S CHRISTMAS SECRET (1984) and a TV adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES (1987).

VINTAGE HOLIDAY SHOW-  Sunday December 20 at 5PM

All screenings held at the Harvard Film Archive Cinematheque at 24 Quincy Street in Cambridge, MA.

A good time will be had by all!

 

Posted in Anne Robertson, George Kuchar, HFA events, super 8 on 7 December 2015 at 11:28 am by conservator3
November 25, 2015

Report on Anne Charlotte Robertson screenings in Portland, OR

ACR programs

Last week we attended the annual Association of Moving Image Archivists Conference in lovely Portland, Oregon and had the pleasure of presenting two screenings of digitized films from the Anne Charlotte Robertson Collection.

The first screening was hosted by Portland, Oregon’s Cinema Project. This is a great organization, co-founded by the HFA’s very own Jeremy Rossen! The Cinema Project crew graciously coordinated the event and even held a bake sale in honor of Anne, who often brought baked goods to her own screenings.

Later in the week the 2001 Anne Robertson short, My Cat, My Garden and 9/11 was presented to great reception as part of AMIA’s Archival Screening Night at the Northwest Film Center in Downtown Portland.

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My Cat My Garden and 9/11 top images, Archival Screening Night Highlights! Instagram image courtesy of @amiarchivists

It was very rewarding to share Anne’s incredible work with these communities. Thanks to all of our friends, old and new, who helped make these unique events possible!

These were some of the last screenings of Anne’s work until 2017.  We will screen Reel 3 of the Five Year Diary at the Harvard Film Archive on December 18th at 7pm, and then the work will be out of circulation until we have completed preservation and digitization of the collection, which we expect to have finished by early 2017.

Posted in Anne Robertson on 25 November 2015 at 2:10 pm by conservator3
November 10, 2015

Second Tuesday vintage poster

From the HFA vintage poster collection: Billy Wilder’s 1961 comedy of politics and manners, One, Two, Three – with censorship blocks!

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one two three poster cu

Posted in poster on 10 November 2015 at 12:44 pm by conservator3
October 23, 2015

Photo album: Home Movie Day 2015

Thanks to everyone who made it out for a successful Home Movie Day last weekend! This year the event was co-hosted by the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston’s historic Back Bay neighborhood. HMD15 Boston was an enjoyable evening of unique films under a crystal chandelier in the elegant NEHGS Reading Room. We topped past participant numbers and had a treasure trove of great material shared among attendees, including beautiful Kodachrome films of Maine, Gloucester and 1960’s downtown Boston with an amazingly small amount of traffic. Below are some highlights from the evening. Be sure to check out more event photos on our Flickr page.

A special thank you to our host at NEHGS, Ginevra Morse, and our staff of HMD volunteers: Sara Meyers, Derek Murphy and Adam Schutzman.

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We hope to see you next year!

Posted in HFA events, home movies, New England on 23 October 2015 at 4:52 pm by conservator3
October 13, 2015

Newly digitized Anne Charlotte Robertson titles

Here is an update on the Anne Robertson films that have been digitized and are available for loan.  We are working on making more available soon!

Five Year Diary reel 26 making Magazine Mouth FYD47thrift_two_frame FYD83mother_and_sister

These are generally available as DCP or files.  Some are available on DigiBeta for you oldschoolers.  As always, please contact the HFA’s Loan Officer for more information.

shorts:
Subways (1976) – 13 min.
Going to Work (1981) – 7 min.
Locomotion (1981) – 7 min.
Magazine Mouth (1983) – 7 min.
Depression Focus Please (1984) – 4 min.
Talking to Myself (1985) – 3 min.
Kafka Kamera (1985) – 3 min.
Apologies (1986/1990) – 17 min.
My Cat, My Garden, 9/11 (2001) – 6 min.

Five Year Diary newly digitized reels: Reel 3, Reel 26, Reel 40, Reel 47, Reel 83

FIVE YEAR DIARY (approx. 27 min per reel):
The Five Year Diary explores many aspects of soundtrack. Many reels have synch sound – mag stripe Super 8. Sometimes the soundtrack is spotty, other times it continues for the entire reel. Audio cassettes were used as well, either on their own or in conjunction with SOF (sound on film). Some tapes were used multiple times for many reels. A narration was usually performed live, and several reels have Anne’s audio narration, which she recorded in the 1990s for posterity and so her narrated film could travel without her.

Reel 1: The Beginning – Thanksgiving, November 3 – December 13, 1981
Vegetarianism, bingeing, Thanksgiving with parents. (ACR)
In the first reel of the Five Year Diary, we watch Anne grow up, consider food and fat, and don her yellow leotard in front of the camera for the first time. (LC)
SOF and audio cassette

Reel 2: Definitions of Fat and Thin, December 13 – 22, 1981
Anne consults the dictionary in this one – what is “fat?” what is “thin?” Inanimate objects are animated, and Anne experiences problems with her camera. (LC)
SOF and audio cassette

Reel 3: Christmas and New Year ’82, December 20-January 9, 1982
The first of many year-end holiday reels. Cooking, cleaning, pixilation. (LC)
SOF and audio cassette

Reel 9: April Fool / Happy Birthday 33, March 17 – March 27, 1982
Pixilation. Sleeping, cooking, resolving to quit smoking. (LC)
Audio cassette

Reel 22: A Short Affair (and) Going Crazy, August 23 – September 1, 1982
Anne finds a lover, loses him, mourns him, and has a nervous breakdown. (LC)
Audio cassette and narration

Reel 23: A Breakdown and After the Mental Hospital, September 1 – December 13, 1982
Anne’s nervous breakdown continues until she is hospitalized. One track was recorded during the mania; in the second track, Anne reflects, years later, on this troubled time. (LC)
Audio cassette and narration

Reel 26: First Semester Grad School, February 28 – May 20, 1983
Two years into the Diary, Anne began graduate school at Massachusetts College of Art. Reel 26 was shot silently; the soundtrack is an audio recording she made during a graduate review. She discusses her work with Super 8 auteur and professor Saul Levine and a second faculty member. Ideas brought up in the discussion were later implemented in Reel 22 and 23 and in the presentation of the work in general. (LC)
audio cassette

Reel 31: Niagara Falls, August 19 – 28, 1983
Anne takes a road trip to Niagara Falls trip with her family in this exceptionally beautiful Diary reel. (LC)
audio cassette and narration

Reel 40: Visiting Grandmother, My Insanity, & Wyoming, July 17 – August 26, 1984
Anne travels west with her camera to visit family. (LC)
SOF

Reel 47: I Thought the Film Would End, October 21 – November 2, 1986
The would-be penultimate Diary reel. Anne ruminates about the upcoming end of the Diary – and mourns it, of course. Familiar themes of Dr Who, drinking, comedy, and a nice trick-or-treat Halloween sequence. (LC)
“There is a tendency to film your life like it is scenes.” (ACR)
Sound on film.

Reel 80: Emily Died, May 14 – September 26, 1994
Anne’s niece Emily dies. Anne goes into a deep depression. (LC)
audio cassette and narration

Reel 81: Mourning Emily, September 27, 1994 – January 29, 1995
Anne mourns the death of her young niece, Emily. (LC)
audio cassette and narration

Reel 83: [Untitled, final finished reel] December 24, 1995 – March 19, 1997
It’s been 16 years, and finally the Diary ends, an unintended ending that visits familiar territory.
SOF

(ACR) = text by Anne Charlotte Robertson

(LC) = text by Liz Coffey

 

Posted in Anne Robertson, Archivists' pick, Local interest, New England, super 8, women filmmakers on 13 October 2015 at 6:42 pm by conservator1