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The search for the lost colours of Albatros film


Lameris, Bregt (2017). The search for the lost colours of Albatros film. Journal of Film Preservation, 97(10):11-16.

Abstract

Article excerpt (source: https://www.questia.com/magazine/1P4-1972152354/the-search-for-the-lost-colours-of-albatros-films ):
In December 1926, the London distribution company Wardour Films wrote to Alexandre Kamenka, head of Albatros Films in Paris. His letter concerned the film Carmen, which the company wanted to distribute in Great Britain the following year. The English company was unhappy with the colours of the print: they were regarded as too bright and too "present" for British taste:
One of the chief faults of the copy is due to the mixing of toning with tinting - indeed, in our opinion this is so noticeable that it almost becomes confusing, and certainly detracts considerably from the quality of the photography [...]. This matter as a whole appears to us to be very serious, and it is therefore not only important, but absolutely necessary, that you have prepared for us at once another copy [...], and please note that we require no toned sections - the copy should be printed on light amber stock, with the night scenes light blue-green, not heavily tinted or toned. 1
Although we have no trace of how Kamenka responded to this letter, it demonstrates something important: that colour was a matter of (cultural) taste. Even though we cannot be certain that Carmen was ever sent to Britain in more muted colours, there are several examples of other films that were released in differently coloured versions. What we can be sure of, however, is that, in France, Carmen (Feyder, 1926) was released in a brightly tinted and toned version.
The fact that Carmen was released in colour might not surprise us now: a colour restoration was made in 2001. However, until then, the film was always shown in a black & white version, a restoration print that had been made in the 1980s. Carmen was not the only tinted and toned Albatros film to be shown in black & white for such a long period, and there were several reasons for not restoring the colours of these films. First, restoration techniques for duplicating tinted and toned films were still experimental by the 1980s. Though Noēl Desmet was developing a stable procedure for copying tinted and toned films at the Cinématheque royale de Belgique (which later became known as the Desmet method), 2 he was still very secretive about it.3 For most archives, it was difficult to make a restored print of a tinted or toned film that would preserve its colours well for a long time.4 Even if an organisation was interested in tinted and toned films, it usually did not have the technical means to duplicate them properly. One such example is the British Film Institute, as Joshua Yumibe shows in his article "From Switzerland to Italy and All around the World: The Josef Joye and Davide Turconi Collections".5 Secondly, in the 1980s, colour film stock was still much more expensive than black & white material. Preserving one film in colour could cost the same as three films in black & white. Thirdly, the Cinématheque française's Albatros collection - which had been directly donated by Kamenka - consisted mainly of camera negatives. These are wonderful starting materials for black & white restoration, but are less suited to colour: since the dyes used for tinting and the chemicals used for toning would be applied to projection prints, the negatives are always black & white.

Abstract

Article excerpt (source: https://www.questia.com/magazine/1P4-1972152354/the-search-for-the-lost-colours-of-albatros-films ):
In December 1926, the London distribution company Wardour Films wrote to Alexandre Kamenka, head of Albatros Films in Paris. His letter concerned the film Carmen, which the company wanted to distribute in Great Britain the following year. The English company was unhappy with the colours of the print: they were regarded as too bright and too "present" for British taste:
One of the chief faults of the copy is due to the mixing of toning with tinting - indeed, in our opinion this is so noticeable that it almost becomes confusing, and certainly detracts considerably from the quality of the photography [...]. This matter as a whole appears to us to be very serious, and it is therefore not only important, but absolutely necessary, that you have prepared for us at once another copy [...], and please note that we require no toned sections - the copy should be printed on light amber stock, with the night scenes light blue-green, not heavily tinted or toned. 1
Although we have no trace of how Kamenka responded to this letter, it demonstrates something important: that colour was a matter of (cultural) taste. Even though we cannot be certain that Carmen was ever sent to Britain in more muted colours, there are several examples of other films that were released in differently coloured versions. What we can be sure of, however, is that, in France, Carmen (Feyder, 1926) was released in a brightly tinted and toned version.
The fact that Carmen was released in colour might not surprise us now: a colour restoration was made in 2001. However, until then, the film was always shown in a black & white version, a restoration print that had been made in the 1980s. Carmen was not the only tinted and toned Albatros film to be shown in black & white for such a long period, and there were several reasons for not restoring the colours of these films. First, restoration techniques for duplicating tinted and toned films were still experimental by the 1980s. Though Noēl Desmet was developing a stable procedure for copying tinted and toned films at the Cinématheque royale de Belgique (which later became known as the Desmet method), 2 he was still very secretive about it.3 For most archives, it was difficult to make a restored print of a tinted or toned film that would preserve its colours well for a long time.4 Even if an organisation was interested in tinted and toned films, it usually did not have the technical means to duplicate them properly. One such example is the British Film Institute, as Joshua Yumibe shows in his article "From Switzerland to Italy and All around the World: The Josef Joye and Davide Turconi Collections".5 Secondly, in the 1980s, colour film stock was still much more expensive than black & white material. Preserving one film in colour could cost the same as three films in black & white. Thirdly, the Cinématheque française's Albatros collection - which had been directly donated by Kamenka - consisted mainly of camera negatives. These are wonderful starting materials for black & white restoration, but are less suited to colour: since the dyes used for tinting and the chemicals used for toning would be applied to projection prints, the negatives are always black & white.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Cinema Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:700 Arts
900 History
Language:English
Date:October 2017
Deposited On:08 Mar 2018 14:49
Last Modified:24 May 2018 14:47
Publisher:Federation Internationale des Archives du Film (F I A F)
ISSN:1609-2694
OA Status:Closed
Related URLs:http://www.fiafnet.org/pages/Publications/JFP-Archive.html (Organisation)

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