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Early Films in the Age of Content; or, "Cinema of Attractions" Pursued by Digital Means

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Abstract

early cinema recollections;early films and age of content, by digital means;paradigm shift, language of moving image preservation;technology, reshaping the understanding of early cinema;film preservation, following Brighton retrospective;moving image preservation;early cinema, ideal laboratory digital media study;DVD, and tinting to a black-and-white image

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[ESPAÑOL] En el año 2016 un grupo de compositores andaluces creó un proyecto para dotar de música a una gran parte de la obra fílmica de Segundo de Chomón. En este artículo trataremos de afrontar el complejo marco estético que define este tipo de iniciativas desde una perspectiva teórica y analizaremos las primeras propuestas de este grupo de compositores, las cuales fueron presentadas en concierto en Jerez de la Frontera en abril del año 2017. [ENGLISH] In 2016, a group of Andalusian composers started a new artistic project. Their aim was to compose new soundtracks for most of Segundo de Chomón’s silent films. In this article, we will suggest some of the aesthetical complexities of this kind of initiatives from a theorical standpoint, and, taking those propositions into account, we will analyse the first soundtracks produced by this group, which were premiered in Jerez de la Frontera in April 2017.
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Generally speaking, moving image preservation has developed in relative isolation from other disciplines related to the conservation of the cultural heritage. This is mainly due to the short history of the medium and to the fact that film preservation has become the object of scientific study only in the past few decades. However, there are other reasons for this phenomenon, ranging from the popular perception of cinema and video as expressions of the entertainment industry, to the belief that moving image carriers represent an ‘art of reproduction’ and therefore do not possess the ‘uniqueness’ required to warrant the conservation treatment given to other artifacts. The transition from analog photographic motion picture film to digital media has both exacerbated and contradicted this perception: while digital moving images can apparently be duplicated indefinitely, the physical elements produced before the digital era are now acquiring the status of unique objects previously denied to them. This paper presents a case for the inclusion of film preservation in the overall context of the preservation of cultural heritage through an enhanced collaboration between moving image conservators and specialists in other areas.
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This article explores, from historiographical and archival perspectives, the tumultuous trajectory of Attack on a China Mission (1900) by James Williamson. Seen by traditional historians as a precursor to cross‐cutting, for several years the film existed only in the form of a sales catalogue description. No copies of it seemed to exist in the archives. The discovery of two copies in 1950 and 1985 raised many questions among historians, since neither copy matched the alternating editing structure described in the catalogue. This article will examine the historical relevance of these two copies, as well as the ‘reconstructed’ version now available at the National Film and Television Archive in London. The obvious differences between each of these versions, as well as the changes that were made to them, affirm the importance historians and archivists should grant to the integrity of film artefacts. The modifications also display a relatively classical conception of film that is out of place in the context of early cinema.