French distributor Carlotta is re-releasing Max Ophuls’ ‘La Ronde’ (1950) both digitally and as a brand new 35mm print. Quoting the press release: “Many French films are currently being preserved using the highest digital standards. But did you know that this preservation process also includes making a 35mm internegative and a print for long term storage? The reason for this is that it is generally recognized that photochemical film is the most appropriate preservation medium. But then, we thought: isn’t it paradoxical that after this intensive preservation work, only a digital version would be accessible to the public, when a 35mm print actually exists? Why is it that France has lost the habit of re-releasing culturally-significant films on 35mm, when there are still places in other cinephilic countries like the USA and Great Britain that keep showing classic films on film? As music lovers currently reconnect with LPs, and photographers with analog photos, let the movie aficionados reconnect with film, and see a work as it’s creator saw it.”
As advertised in this Cinematheque Française website’s post, the new print, labeled as “prestige”, was just shown for the opening of the Ophuls retrospective and started touring cinemas. Carlotta explains that this is the first film for which they are beginning this new policy of re-releasing classics both in digital form and in 35mm for theaters that want to show it. France has a lot of theaters willing to show repertory films – Paris even has many cinemas dedicated to them – some of them still equipped with 35mm projectors, and support for preservation that includes going back to analog film elements. However, as in many places around the world, in the recent years distributors and right-holders have been reluctant to offer theaters the possibility of showing newly preserved films on film, pushing for the digital versions they were producing, and theaters have been unsure if continuing to show film on film would deter the public from coming. So let’s hope Carlotta’s initiative will mean some change and that public acclaim will help to make producing and circulating preserved 35mm prints of classic movies a ‘good practice’ among rights holders and distributors.