Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

Disorderly Order: Colours in Silent Films

Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

Disorderly Order: Colours in Silent Films

Article excerpt

Disorderly Order: Colours in Silent Films

This book is a direct result of the second Amsterdam Workshop. This workshop, an initiative of NFM's Research Department, is a festival-cumconference in which, on the basis of screenings of a selection of films from the NFM collection, film historical themes are addressed that have been neglected or overlooked. The first Amsterdam Workshop, in July 1994, was devoted to non-fiction films from the teens; the second Amsterdam Workshop took place in July 1995.

Colour, particularly its use during the silent era, is an example of a theme that has for a long time remained outside film history. The resurfacing of this theme in thinking about film history and film presentation was in no small part a result of NFM's decision to preserve its largely coloured silent film collection in colour. Until quite recently, actually, film archives routinely preserved their silent films in black-and-white. Lack of funds will undoubtedly have been the deciding factor. What is a mystery, though, is why archives and researchers have omitted to even state that the inflammable nitrate positives were in the main coloured.

The aim of the 1995 Amsterdam Workshop was to stimulate reflection on the use of colours in silent film. To this end a select party of some fifty film historians, filmmakers and representatives of film archives gathered for four days in Amsterdam. During six informal sessions they viewed film programmes and exchanged thoughts and ideas. The discussions were cranked up by six moderators, each of whom addressed a specific subject or aspect: the variation of colour systems (Giovanna Fossati, Nederlands Filmmuseum), colour experiments, then and now (Canadian filmmaker Don McWilliams), the variety of functions and meanings of colour (Tom Gunning, University of Chicago), colour as event (Jacques Aumont, Université de Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris), monochrome colour systems (Peter Delpeut, Nederlands Filmmuseum / filmmaker) and preservation methods (in collaboration with representatives from, among others, the archives of Amsterdam, Brussels, Bologna and Rome). …

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