“Lo and behold, there was actually an image in there.” Criterion’s techinical director talks restoration

Restoration is an important component of any film preservation and re-release process, especially the high-quality efforts from the Criterion Collection. Those of us without professional archival training never get a good idea of what happens during this mysterious process. Do they scan the original film? What sort of tools do they use to clean dirt off? What if a film reel is too damaged to use? Surely they don’t just color black-and-white movies with crayons!

Thanks to The A.V. Club, we now have a glimpse into the processing room. In commemoration of the Criterion remastering of the The Apu Trilogy, a masterwork of Indian cinema, The A.V. Club interviewed Criterion’s technical director Lee Kline about how a company restores a sixty-year-old film. The details are shocking; apparently the original copy was damaged in a fire and almost too brittle to play. Kline then goes into the chemistry of film preservation, as well as the tedious process of cleaning up scratches.

Just reading about the work that went into The Apu Trilogy‘s restoration stresses us out, so we’re it was handled by someone with skill. Maybe you won’t be grossed out reading about the nasty vinegar smell of rotting film – and maybe this line of work seems like something you’d want to do! We at least hope Kline’s interview helps you appreciate the enormous effort spent on saving global cultural heritage.

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