Craft for Craft: Fashion Houses Supporting the World Cinema

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948) restoration demo

(the film was restored with the efforts of The Film Foundation)

I have previously written about and praised the efforts of Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation of restoring and preserving the worldwide cinema heritage. Part of The Film Foundation is The World Cinema Project, which supports and encourages preservation efforts to save the worldwide patrimony of films, especially  those countries lacking the financial and technical ability to do so, ensuring that they are preserved, seen and shared. It is a global cause, one that should call for the attention of many of those who could help carry it out.

There are people who tell me that they can’t watch classic films, because they have a problem with the poor quality of the print. To be blunt, I doubt the films they have tried to watch are in that bad a state, but I don’t exactly blame their being so reticent either, with all the high resolution images we are daily exposed to, from smart phones, to high definition TVs and digital movies in cinemas. Now, without wanting to sound more knowledgeable than I am, I can truly say that I myself have watched many movies (Jean Renoir’s La chienne, 1931, would be one of them) in desperate need of reconditioning. And the truth is that a good image helps get the message of the film through. And that’s why I think the work of all those involved in film preservation is so crucial not only in saving these cultural treasures from around the world, but also in showing them and making them available to a wider audience, especially young people.

Among the partners of The Film Foundation, it gives me great pleasure to say that there are also a few fashion houses which have been actively involved in the preservation of motion pictures. And one of the most engaged players is Gucci, whose support Scorsese said it has been critical in embarking on some very difficult restoration projects (they have helped restore classics like Nicholas Ray’s Rebel without a Cause, Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, Antonioni’s Le amiche, Visconti’s Il gattopardo, as well as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time in America and John Cassavetes’ A Woman under the Influence).

Margaret Bodde, The Film Foundation’s executive director says that “Gucci brings an incredibly authentic interest in cinema, and they have a very committed aesthetic to the whole concept of film restoration. It’s not about creating superficial events where someone shows up at a party to celebrate the release. They’re truly interested in the nuts-and-bolts process behind it all, and what’s needed in the field, and that’s a pretty rare thing. It’s not just a matter of simply restoring these films – Gucci’s really committed to getting them out to festivals and making sure that new audiences get to see these classics again.” This kind of concerted effort is what the world cinema needs.

Giorgio Armani and Cartier are two other fashion houses which have brought their contribution to the movie preservation, as sponsors for Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project (The Criterion Collection has recently released a six films collection of the director’s restored classics of world cinema, including such diverse films from Senegal, Mexico, Bangladesh, Turkey, Morocco and South Korea). One of these movies, Redes (1936), directed by Fred Zinnemann and Emilio Gómez Muriel, is one not even Martin Scorsese had watched until recently. So just imagine how hard it would be for this kind of films, which can enrich our vision and perspective on life, to become available for viewing to the rest of us.

Giorgio Armani often speaks about the film industry and of the close relationship between fashion and cinema, and that if he hadn’t been in fashion, film would have been his line of work. I think what primarily connects all the fashion houses committed to save these cinematic and cultural treasures is their dedication to their craft, thus fully understanding the imperative need to support restoring, preserving and promoting the craft of other artists, in this case, the film-makers.

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