Film is a fragile medium prone to decay, dissolution, and inflammation, with an unattended shelf life not much longer than a nicotine-addicted biped's, and until quite recently some of the form's greatest accomplishments were difficult to track down and appreciate. Fortunately, a number of examples of the great 20th-century art form are enjoying new life, thanks to the tireless efforts of film distributors and restoration experts across the country. Two of the film restoration field's most prominent members, Donald Krim and David Shepard, are receiving this year's Mel Novikoff Award for "enhancing the filmgoing public's knowledge and appreciation of world cinema."
Krim purchased the Kino International film and distribution company in 1977 and quickly established it as the industry's benchmark, promoting widespread distribution of documentaries and American indies as well as contemporary cinema from every corner of the globe. Besides bestowing Japanese, Russian, Swedish, Indian, and African films upon the public at large, Krim champions early works by promising young directors ranging from Percy Adlon to Ray Mueller to Shohei Imamura. Krim's initial work in the movie distribution field was back in the mid-'70s, when he started United Artists' Classics division, the United States' largest distributor of classic films; his desire to bring the most invigorating and thought-provoking movies to American audiences continues to this day.
Shepard restores works from cinema's earliest days for home (DVD, video, and laserdisc) consumption: rarities like Griffith's Battle of the Sexes, DeMille's Affairs of Anatol, and Joe May's epic 1921 adventure The Indian Tomb, as well as Chaplin's 16 Essanay comedies, Flaherty's Nanook of the North, and Eisenstein's Strike (complete with new score by the mesmerizing Alloy Orchestra); his restoration of Louis Feuillade's seven-hour Les Vampires (1915) was chosen by the New York Times as the best video release of 1998. Shepard's extensive video packages include the 45-film compendium Chaplin: A Legacy of Laughter, Red Silents (17 Russian films from 1924-34), Treasures From the Weimar Republic (13 German films from 1919-32), the 12-volume Douglas Fairbanks: King of Hollywood, and The Movies Begin, a treasure trove of 122 films from the pre-1913 era.
The award ceremony takes place at the Castro Saturday, April 22, at 12:30 p.m., accompanied by a screening of the beautifully restored 1925 Cyrano de Bergerac, Augusto Genina's silent Italian version of the Rostand comedy, which employs tinting, toning, stencil coloring, and frame-by-frame hand-painting to great effect, and features a newly recorded musical score by Kurt Kuenne.
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