Thursday, April 03, 2014

"These Amazing Shadows: The Movies that Made America" presents the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress

These Amazing Shadows: The Movies that Made America” (2011, directed by Paul Mariano and Kut Norton) relates the work of the National Film Registry, as maintained by the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress.
Every year the Board choses 25 films, which must be at least ten years old, for the Registry.
The documentary points out that film stock was mostly nitrate until the 1950s, until it was changed to acetate, which is less flammable.  But the studios did not see their library of films as a cultural history worthy of storage; the saw them as consumer goods.  About 50% of films made before the 1950s are totally nonrecoverable, incuding 80% of silent films.

The film showed the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va., including a typical example of an old film that had turned into a “hockey pick”, link here.

The film was distributed by Sundance Selects and IFC, and is available from Netflix Instant Play.  

The film offers snapshots from many familiar classics, but also a few short films, like "The House in the Middle", from about 1951, which makes the odd argument that a clean and well-painted house is more likely to survive a nuclear blast in that old "duck and cover" world.  Yes, there is a shot from "Dr. Strangelove", but also from "2001: A Space Odyssey", that wonder light show of the Jupiter atmosphere. 
Related films are “Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography”, 1992, from CBS, of which I have a DVD and which was shown to high school students (in an elective senior film class, offered by the English, art and journalism departments together) when I was substitute teaching, and “The Cutting Edge: The Art of Film Editing” (2004). 

Pictures: Tribeca (NYC, in Chelsea, 2012);  In and near Culpeper VA (2012), will try to get photo of LOC facility when I am there again soon.

Update: April 5, 2014

Here are a couple of shots of the Packard Facility, built into the side of a hill in the Piedmont near Culpeper, Va.  I wonder if it was affected by the 5.8 magnitude earthquake in Mineral, Va, just 30 miles away, in August 2011.

The entrance is on a side road and the facility keeps a low profile.

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