Cinema Regained as re-conceived since IFFR’s 2020 edition is dedicated to an idea of film history as a process of continuous reinvention, rediscovery, reconsideration. Film history is not a static past, but a reservoir through whose treasures we can discuss cinema’s present as well as future in a more sensible fashion. Film history has nothing to do with nostalgia – with sentimental recollections of a fabulous past never to return. Film history is daily work, with a monumental heritage safeguarded all around the world.
One strand of Cinema Regained seeks to highlight this daily work by presenting a broad selection of recent restorations and reconstructions. These range from resurrected titles by major auteurs − like George A. Romero’s long considered lost educational horror film The Amusement Park, Yamanaka Sadao’s paragon of humanist sword-fighting cinema Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth a Million Ryu or 2020’s biggest film-historical revelation, Mohammad Reza Aslani’s heritage thrillercum-political allegory Chess of the Wind − via treats that seem at first glance only of particular cultural importance, but which might inside the programme reveal unexpected layers of interest − like Mat Sentol & John Calvert’s genre-defying mix of silly comedy, magic show and accidental meta-movie Mat Magic, or Jacques Ertaud & Raymond Zumstein’s paean to the beauty of track and field, Les rendez-vous de l’été − to seemingly small items of surprising beauty and importance − like the uncensored original version of Ebrahim Golestan’s The Crown Jewels of Iran, Hal Clay & Florenz Fuchs von Nordhoff’s ‘filmographically unremembered’ avantgarde animation comedy Vincent van Go-Go, or the IFFR-supported restoration of the longest existing fragment of Walt Disney’s lost Neck ‘n’ Neck. As suggested by the examples, all forms and genres are welcome: from fiction via documentaries of all modes to animation and the avantgarde.
The complementary strain of Cinema Regained looks at recent films that offer new perspectives on film history. A corpus all its own here is formed by biographically inspired works. Veikko Aaltonen’s The Dinosaur and Stephen Broomer’s Fat Chance mark the two aesthetic extremes. The former favours a classical documentary approach to a director’s life via interviews and excerpts, while the latter is best described as an evocation of one actor’s suffering expressed in decayed images and abstract sounds. In between these poles, other essays trying to describe lives in cinema find their place − like Alejandro Maci’s María Luisa Bemberg: El eco de mi voz, Laurent Roth’s Amos Gitaï, la violence et l’histoire or Bill Morrison’s The Village Detective: a song cycle. Most of these are accompanied by the screening of one significant film by the given director, actor et cetera – to quench the audience’s hopefully immediate thirst to see something complete, which so far could only be glimpsed thanks to excerpts.
While the programme strives for a wide diversity of formal strategies as well as countries of origin, certain thematic clusters hold the programme as a whole together – in fact, almost every film in the selection is part of a cluster.
The size-wise biggest one is a corpus of films that feel enchantingly inter-connected by a vision of cinema as a sphere of magic and illusion – fairytales and nightmares. The selection includes the above-mentioned Fat Chance, The Amusement Park, Mat Magic and Chess of the Wind. Further, there’s Péter Lichter & Bori Máté’s adaptation of a film theory classic The Philosophy of Horror – A Symphony of Film Theory, world famous artist Tanaami Keiichi’s restored animation short Black Cat, as well as two unusual fiction features with curious documentary undertones: Iwai Shunji’s Covid-19-lockdown monster movie adagio The 12 Day Tale of the Monster That Died in 8 and Satō Amane’s astonishing piece of meta-movie horror erotica about v-blogging culture Ayako Tachibana Wants to Go Viral. We should also mention a section cross-over here. While Kier-La Janisse’s Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror screens in Bright Future, Brunello Rondi’s accompanying ethnographic possession piece of gothic Il demonio found its home here.
Of special importance for us is Sasaki Yusuke’s Cinephilia Now: Part I – Secrets Within Walls, as this shows cinema, putting film presentations and programmes together as an activity of communal importance. Here, it’s ordinary citizens who arrange screenings in community centres, gallery rooms or a museum’s auditorium for their fellow citizens. In times and circumstances like ours, we need this reminder from the Japanese seaside city of Tottori what cinema really means.
Written by Olaf Möller
A sphere of collective remembrance and imagination offering restored classics, documentaries on film culture, and explorations of cinema's heritage.