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27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Restoration is not the best and music is outrageous, 14 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Fairy Tales: Early Colour Stencil films from Pathé [DVD] (DVD)
I'm an asiduous silent movie fan and an usual buyer of this kind of products. Thus, I think I'm in a fair right to say this is not what it should have been. Films, of course, are interesting in themselves, and some of them are amazing, and DVDs of these materials are always welcome. I'm also aware that they are meant for a very specific group of buyers, and thus they should meet with certain expectations. Especially if they are produced by institutions like BFI.

That's why two of the decisions taken with this collection of hand-colored early films are hard to understand and to accept:

1) Films are not restored. Even the DVD producers state that other copies of these particular films exist in other places but that they didn't care to look for them in order to improve their prints of make them more complete. They argue proudly that they present all films as they were found on their archives, untouched, as if this was good in any way. The result is you get films with jumps here and there, no beginnings or no endings, some (if not all) of which could have been avoided by checking other prints in other film institutes in Europe. I'm sure BFI has their telephone numbers. Why to make the decision of presenting incomplete materials if that could have been prevented in a DVD meant to preserve those materials is something that escapes my mind. Obviously the original film producers didn't mean their films to be shown incomplete. So, to begin with, this is in my opinion a stupid and snob decision. On many cases, not even titles are put at the beginning of the films. If the original prints had no titles, then you get no titles on your DVD, which forces you to check on the menu or on the DVD box to understand what you at watching at, for in those cases films start abruptly. In those cases when the films did have titles (which in many cases are not even the original ones, because some are Spanish prints, some English prints, some German prints), you don't get the original French title of the film and you never get the year of production. I'm OK with letting the original print titles, but, please, put before them an explanation of what we are about to see!! As an example of another choice they could have made, you should watch the DVD restoration of the Roscoe Arbuckle/Buster Keaton recently discovered short "The Cook". Two prints from different archives were used to produce the most complete version of that film possible. And as a bonus, the DVD includes both incomplete raw original prints as a way to put in evidence the complexities of the restoration work.

2) Secondly, the DVD producers chose for the soundtrack "music" by some contemporary composers. I say "music" because you'll hardly find something like that. Instead, soundtrack usually consists of just annoying noises (but in most cases not even noises synchronized in any way with the action on the actual films), like the sound of a movie projector, and in many cases little more than that. To the point that I took the DVD out and checked with another disc to see if there was some problem with the sound system of my TV. It didn't. The soundtrack of this DVD is pure crap. It's the kind of sound effect you may find in those snob (yes, I know I already employed that word) modern art exhibitions consistent of abstract objects. It may be OK to create an ambiance in a museum, and even I wouldn't have been so harsh criticizing it, would it have been in just one of the films, or maybe in two. But ALL OF THE FILMS on this DVD are subject to such a treatment, and you do not even have the chance (something very easy to obtain) to choose a secondary more traditional sountrack. So, after checking all soundtracks, I was forced to put the TV volume down and put some piano music CD just to be able to watch the complete DVD. So distracting and disturbing are the soundtracks (or in many cases the absence of any sound). I don't say there is just one way to accompany these movies. Nor that you can only do so by employing period music. I've heard lots of different accompaniments to silent movies in other DVDs, some modern, some traditional. Some of them I like, some of them I like not. But the soundtracks on this DVD are really outrageous and seem to have been created more in order of being fancy than to favor the actual films.

Unless you have all other silent film DVDs from the period and feel complied to buy this in spite of what I say, you should better choose another collection.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Jan 2013 20:17:00 GMT
I'm sorry to hear what you've said about the music tracks. It's not terribly hard to suitably score films of this vintage, but it's also easy to ruin them too. Just listen to the AIR soundtrack for A TRIP TO THE MOON if really want something to loathe. Maybe this is a page from that book?

I'm not nearly as put off by the restoration issues you rose though. I think fans of one-reel "trick films" know that most of these exist in fragmented form if they exist at all. I presume these come from the Lobster Films and Blackhawk Films collections. Restoration is an ideal, but I'll accept mere preservation in it's place if the former isn't possible. BFI will probably be lucky to sell over 500-1000 of something an audience this small, so I doubt that there is the financial incentive in spending thousands on such a project.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Feb 2013 12:44:07 GMT
barbaresc says:
absolutely right about the dreadful soundtrack.it spoiled the films for me.anything goes for these "musicians" to get their "works" publicised.why do they use the silent movies to do that?pure "cronyism" between the producers of the dvds and their "musician" mates.anything tomake an easy buck!
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