History becoming liquid

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Clip #15726: Red Eagle (di. Lawrence Trimble, Vitagraph, 1911)

David Turconi (1911-2005) was a film historian. In the late 60s, he came across the Josef Joye Collection in Switzerland of old films and found many of the nitrate films decomposing. He tried to get them reprinted on safety film but this became extremely expensive. In an effort to save what he could, he cut frames from these films to at least preserve parts of this extensive collection. He carefully organized these cut frames and archived them with as much information as he could gather about them. Presently there are 23, 491 clippings from this collection, two to three frames each, which cover the earliest years of the cinema (1897-1915).

Joye himself was an abbe and taught in a school in Basle in the first decades of the twentieth century. He came up with the idea that in order to hold and keep the attention of his students (and eventually their parents) he could show them films which was, of course, a new technology at the time. He ordered his films through Germany collecting over a thousand films before his death in 1919. These films were later moved to Zurich into better storage facilities by Jesuit Father Bamberger, which was where Turconi discovered them.

Not all the pieces in this archive were deteriorating, but it is these decomposing pieces which are the most provocative to me. History washing away. History becoming liquid, vanishing before our eyes. Mysterious. Out of reach. Fragmented. Lost. Archived.

George Eastman House holds the majority of this collection and the images can be accessed on their database.

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Clip #12251: St. Francis of Assisi (di. Enrico Guazzoni, Cines, 1911)

Clip #21908: La Mort de Mozart (di. Louis Feuillade, Gaumont, 1909)

Clip #21908: La Mort de Mozart (di. Louis Feuillade, Gaumont, 1909)

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Clip #23053: Moderne Dresseur (Pathé, 1910)

Clip #18088: Barbe bleu (Pathé, 1907)

Clip #18088: Barbe bleu (Pathé, 1907)

Clip #08386: Le Chien du volontaire (Lux, 1909)

Clip #08386: Le Chien du volontaire (Lux, 1909)

Clip #21894: La Mort de Mozart (di. Louis Feuillade, Gaumont, 1909)

Clip #21894: La Mort de Mozart (di. Louis Feuillade, Gaumont, 1909)

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4 Responses to History becoming liquid

  1. nouvellesdechicago says:

    Wonderful! I’m going to read this tonight. Didn’t know about Feuillade’s connection – I’m a big fan of his. Thanks.

  2. nouvellesdechicago says:

    P.S. Can’t wait to see you in your miniskirt!

  3. Jerome Bloom says:

    WHAT YOU CHOSE

    SO YOU

    JY

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