Digital Struggles for Film Restoration: La battaglia dall’Astico al Piave
Keywords:Italian WWI Film Heritage, Film Restoration, Film Reconstruction, Film Philology, Critical Editions of Film
Our contribution is focused on the ongoing reconstruction and restoration of La battaglia dall'Astico al Piave (Regio Esercito - Sezione Cinematografica, 1918, 35mm, tinted and toned, film certificate no. 13649 of 11 July 1918, mt 1255), by the University of Udine in collaboration with La Cineteca del Friuli, Istituto LUCE and Cineteca Italiana, and supported by MIBACT.
La battaglia dall'Astico al Piave was made by the Italian Royal Army Film Department. To date, three versions are documented: the 1918 Italian and French versions, both realized by the military film department, and a further version, named Ta Pum, released in 1927 and still in circulation around 1930, which was probably re-edited by Istituto LUCE. The project aims to reconstruct the first Italian edition of 1918 and at the same time give an historical and visual account of the other versions, in particular the 1927 re-release.
The restoration and reconstruction have been based on film materials collected after a first survey of the film archives and on several non-film materials such as journal articles, archival documents, etc. Archival prints have been used to reconstruct the text on proxies, with the help of “edge-to-edge” and “repro-set” documentation and the other non-film materials. The restoration is being carried out through the digital intermediate route, using witness “K” as the main reference to reconstruct the order of the scenes and the colour palette for the digital Desmet procedure. In the next phase, the edited film data will be re-recorded back onto a new complete negative so that the tinting and toning can also be reproduced through the Desmet photochemical process. Finally, the 35mm colour print will be scanned again so that there is conformity between the photochemical and digital theatrical copies at least, which could not be achieved otherwise.
The aim of our contribution is twofold: on one hand, we highlight specific restoration and reconstruction issues (film material description, documentation and analysis; versions, editions and re-releases; tinting and toning reconstruction; performative aspects concerning the specific status of film, involving both commemorative aspects and trauma relived during the screenings); on the other hand, we focus on the reloading and reframing of the long-standing and sensitive field of digital research and the educational-oriented critical edition of films, in order to document the restoration and reconstruction process and give a wider account of the material, visual and cultural history of film as a set of apparatus, discourses and practices, proposed here through an innovative digital design and environment and following new interdisciplinary approaches.
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