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  • Will the Real Joan of Arc Please Stand Up?Problems of Preservation and Restoration
  • Jennifer Grek Martin

Then, in 1981, an original Danish copy, complete and in very good condition, was miraculously discovered in a closet of a Norwegian mental institution. Thanks to the aid of Ib Monty, Director of the Danish Film Museum, and of Maurice Drouzy, who reestablished the French text, the Cinémathèque Française has been able to reconstitute this French version, probably very close to the original.1

According to the text that opens Criterion's 1999 DVD release of The Passion of Joan of Arc, an original Danish copy of the film was discovered in 1981—yet what, in this case, is "the original"? Lisbeth Richter Larsen describes several versions of Joan of Arc created (and destroyed) over the years, with this copy from Dikemark Sygehus mental institution perhaps the most well-known.2 But considering the nature of film production and changing film technologies, how do we and, more importantly, film archivists understand and determine an "original" work? Is it even important to do so? As the following bibliography will show, whether this version of Joan of Arc is "original" will depend on several matters: how well the original 1928 production of the film (i.e., the context) was understood in 1981, how the print from the 1981 discovery3 was restored and what the concept of "original" was that informed that restoration and preservation processes, and how all of this was documented.

The goal of this annotated bibliography is to highlight some of the problems of archiving film, specifically problems in preservation, restoration, and authenticity. With changing film technology, particularly in terms of film formats4 but also in terms of film viewing practices, the question of originality becomes more complex. Archives' mandates to acquire, preserve, and provide access to artefacts of cultural heritage mean knowing and preserving the cultural, historical, and technological context of a work. However, budget cuts to these archives threaten the ability to preserve or restore films, and documentation standards for recording how preservation and restoration processes were handled are still in flux. Meanwhile, studios re-release works on the latest carriers and demand increases for access to various works in digital formats and online streaming, which Enticknap discusses. In this light, the aesthetics of the work—and how it [End Page 104] would have been viewed at the time of production—seem to be downplayed in relation to its content. In fact, as sources like Watkins (below) show, changing aesthetics due to technologically-motivated migration to different information carriers can have an effect on how the content of a film is interpreted. Thorough documentation of any changes made to preservation and access copies is thus needed to preserve the cultural value of archived moving images.

Another goal of this bibliography is to provide a broad array of sources that build on established works such as Paolo Cherchi Usai's Burning Passions and Giovanna Fossati's From Grain to Pixel.5 The sources below, though largely taken from academic journals, also include documents outlining cataloguing standards (IFLA), a podcast (Paolo Cherchi Usai), and an example of an archived feature film (imX Communications). The bibliography does not include sources on archiving or documenting born-digital sources or any source that solely deals with digital-cinematic works. Rather, the focus is set on problems issuing from the transition between the photochemical and the digital processes.

A few sources refer to archiving non-mainstream film, particularly early film and experimental film, and others refer to the repatriation of films to national archives. Both should be considered special topics in archiving film. Early and experimental film pose difficult problems for the film archivist in that the specific mode of production might not be known, "original" copies may not be extant, or preservation copies held by the archive are deteriorating. As such, they also pose problems for access, i.e., how to make early and/or experimental films accessible to an audience without compromising the quality of the film-based aesthetic. Furthermore, these problems highlight questions of whether preservation (or other) copies of a work can be considered "original" if they are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2561-424X
Print ISSN
0847-5911
Pages
pp. 104-117
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-01
Open Access
No
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