The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

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tlanza

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The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostThu Oct 22, 2015 1:04 pm

Hello.

I wanted to share an email sent by Gian Luca Farinelli, the director of Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna, to the Senior Administrator of the International Federation of Film Archives in response to the announcement by Lobster of their crowd funding plan and in the hopes of clearing up the confusion it has caused.

I had been in conversations with the Cineteca Bologna in early 2013 and we came to an agreement on a complete Keaton restoration project in June of that year at the festival. I should note that Cineteca Bologna used the name the "Keaton Project" for this program well in advance of the premiere of the first restorations at the festival this past July.

http://www.cinetecadibologna.it/news/n_161

This may seem like a small matter, but I'm sure you can see how the use by Lobster of the same name to describe their initiative has lead to some confusion.

As you can read in Gian Luca's email, archives and collectors from around the globe have been contacted and are supplying material. Hundreds of elements are being compared and assessed, the best of which are being scanned in 4K at L'Immagine Ritrovata, the award-winning lab in Bologna. As a result, this project has always been envisioned as a multi-year effort that will take at least 5-8 years, but we all felt that Buster is worth the extra effort to do this right. The slate of films currently being worked on is OUR HOSPITALITY, SEVEN CHANCES, COPS, PALEFACE and HIGH SIGN. In fact, you will be happy to read that the original camera negative for THE HIGH SIGN is now in Bologna and is being assessed.

Obviously it was very disappointing to us all to find out about this competing project, but, after all of the hard work and the great success we had with our initial launch of the Keaton Project in July with the screenings of SHERLOCK JR and ONE WEEK, we look forward to the work ahead.

Best,
Tim Lanza
Cohen Film Collection

http://us5.campaign-archive1.com/?u=80f54ee5142891e5d3085c876&id=f26cdfa403&e=113a42cde7
Dear colleagues,

Please find below a message from Gian Luca Farinelli, Director of Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna.

Best regards,

Christophe Dupin
FIAF Senior Administrator

******************************************

Dear FIAF colleagues,

On 2 July 2015, in front of a crowd of thousands attending Il Cinema Ritrovato festival, Cineteca di Bologna and Cohen Film Collection - holder of the Rohauer Collection - jointly launched "The Keaton Project", aiming at restoring all the shorts and long features made by Buster Keaton between 1920 and 1928.

As you can imagine, we were extremely surprised, to say the least, to recently find out that a crowdfunding campaign had recently been initiated by Lobster Films under the same "Keaton Project" label. This is naturally creating confusion and several of you have already reached out asking for clarification.

We began discussing The Keaton Project over two years ago after realizing that Buster Keaton's films – being mostly in public domain – had been historically edited, released and commercialized, but that no systematic and serious study of the available elements on all 30 titles had been ventured yet. Our decision was immediately welcomed and supported by some of the most authoritative film historians who, decades ago, paved the way for restoration and criticism on Keaton.
The Keaton Project is a real restoration project which we don't envision completing before 5 to 8 years. We hope are working to combine the most accurate philological study and in depth-analysis of all the existing sources with a top-of the-class technology and experience. Our team at L'Immagine Ritrovata is currently inspecting and comparing hundred of elements. All selected materials will be scanned in 4K.

I would like to seize this opportunity to thank you all for the extraordinary feed-back and cooperation that has followed our last FIAF call (on 16 July) concerning our next five Keaton titles. To strengthen the significance of our collaboration we have decided that all lending archives will be acknowledged in the final credits for sharing their collections, regardless whether we'll use their elements or not.

Thank in advance for your attention on this matter,

Best regards,

Gian Luca Farinelli
Director - Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostThu Oct 22, 2015 2:05 pm

I was one who brought this up in the other thread on the Lobster Kickstarter project. I don't find this particularly clarifying, though. It seems like both parties are going ahead with restorations, and they have both talked about comparing all the available sources, restoring to the top quality, etc, so it seems like there will be a lot of duplication between the two projects, even though CdB is doing some features too. Despite what they have both stated about comparing everything available, do the two parties have access to different source materials? And as stated above, the Bologna project was announced in 2013, so why did Lobster start a similar project with the same name? They can't have been unaware of the Bologna project. Unless the timeline was the other way around, or it was a coincidental thing? This is all quite confusing.

Also: "The Keaton Project is a real restoration project which we don't envision completing before 5 to 8 years." - that seems like a pointed comment ...
Last edited by kaleidoscopeworld on Fri Oct 23, 2015 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostThu Oct 22, 2015 5:51 pm

Actually, the Lobster project began years before there was any announcement of the Cohen Collection collaboration with Bologna. However, Lobster will not use the term "Keaton Project" after the end of October in order to avoid continuing the confusion.

As the Cohen Collection purchased the Rohauer collection, it is exclusively entitled to exploit the Keaton features that are still claimed under copyright, although by the end of the projected timeline for the Bologna project, these copyrights will have expired unless Congress again extends copyright durations.

Of course Cohen will thereafter be able to claim new copyrights on the restored versions although perhaps the pure in heart will maintain this has nothing to do with the commencement of this project.

No one will dispute that Buster Keaton's beautiful work deserves the best that anyone/everyone can invest in it.

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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostThu Oct 22, 2015 10:57 pm

Thank you for the information, David.

I didn't know that the Lobster project began years ago, I guess I missed the announcement of that. Thanks for telling us! It still seems strange, though - I don't really understand why CdB would launch their project on Keaton if one was already in progress.

I know Rohauer was infamous for re-editing films to claim copyright on them, but I didn't think that restorations were generally copyrightable under US law. The more you know!
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostFri Oct 23, 2015 8:52 am

Is that really true? I have yet to see of a court case where it's been held one way or another, and the US Copyright statute isn't clear on the topic, but I don't read everything that comes out.

My understanding has always been that the copyright law gives a perverse incentive to mutilate older films, creating a copyrightable monstrosity like Rohauer, but is a disincentive to actual film preservation since that work can't be protected. Maybe something has changed that I'm not aware of.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostFri Oct 23, 2015 9:47 am

I think we can agree that someone who goes to the work and expense to fix something like the Keaton films should be applauded and helped out some; if that help extends to paying for a copy instead of torrenting it, that seems reasonable to me.

That said, given the scarce resources for restoration, it's a bit distressing to see the duplication of effort and more so to witness the wrangling and ill will between two admirable groups.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Fri Oct 23, 2015 6:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostFri Oct 23, 2015 10:08 am

Too bad the Cohen group isn't (apparently) putting money into restoring the several Talmadge films they have....
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostFri Oct 23, 2015 10:15 am

I know Rohauer was infamous for re-editing films to claim copyright on them, but I didn't think that restorations were generally copyrightable under US law. The more you know!


Rohauer rewrote titles so that if you duped his work, he would have new intellectual property in your version which he could sue over, is how I understand it.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostFri Oct 23, 2015 10:21 am

I'm probably wrong, but wasn't it Rohauer who re-edited Pickford's Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall whit the last few sequences out of order?
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostFri Oct 23, 2015 10:39 am

But the Lobster restoration is also restoring the Arbuckle Keaton shorts. Which are as important as the Keaton solo shorts.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostFri Oct 23, 2015 11:18 am

Restoration -- the exact reassembly of a public domain work -- cannot be copyrighted, as that monopoly is reserved for new creative effort. Mere mechanical alterations, such as speed changes, also cannot be copyrighted. However, real digital restoration, which is a frame by frame process involving many creative decisions, can be the basis of a new copyright claim along with such other elements as translations from a foreign language, tints, editorial revisions, music scores, and such other new matter as Raymond Rohauer's rewritten title cards.

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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostFri Oct 23, 2015 12:48 pm

Of course the people who claim copyright on their restorations are the same people who are exploiting the public domain for the right to release the film in the first place! That's the irony of it.

The main thing that is copyrightable on silent films is the music score. That is dead to rights a "creative work". I really don't think digital dirt removal would stand up. Even claiming the layout and type face used on title cards is stretching it. Everyone should have the same goal- to get good looking copies of these old films to the market. They can all come from the same source, that doesn't bother me. The person with the best musical score and the nicest restoration will get my dollar. That is healthy competition.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostFri Oct 23, 2015 9:17 pm

bigshot wrote:Of course the people who claim copyright on their restorations are the same people who are exploiting the public domain for the right to release the film in the first place! That's the irony of it.

The main thing that is copyrightable on silent films is the music score. That is dead to rights a "creative work". I really don't think digital dirt removal would stand up.


It's a lot more than digital dirt cleanup. It's looking through many archives, comparing prints, scanning, resizing, choosing which source to use for each sequence, matching exposures, translating, making tens of thousands of small decisions. It's not hard to imagine that the restorers of some of these films have more person-hours invested than the film companies that first produced them.

I congratulate both Lobster Films and Cohen/Bologna for their dedication to these projects. With Lobster doing the Arbuckle/Keatons, and Cohen doing the feature films, there's actually quite a lot that doesn't overlap.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostFri Oct 23, 2015 11:46 pm

drednm wrote:Too bad the Cohen group isn't (apparently) putting money into restoring the several Talmadge films they have....

Indeed. Much as I love Buster, I'd much rather buy something I've never seen than things that I've already had in multiple versions. I'll certainly get the new versions if they're substantially improved, but given one vs the other, I'd pick Connie and Norma.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostSat Oct 24, 2015 9:40 am

The obvious example of what's being done here is evaluation between the two versions of The Blacksmith that have now been found. It seems likely to me that the new version Serge Bromberg has is a later and probably the actual release version (or closer to it)-- because you can see remnants of gags from the old version in the new version, in such a way that suggests they were replaced. So I think the evidence makes a fairly strong case that The Blacksmith we've known is not Keaton's final version. But I can imagine counterarguments to that. So evaluating all material on these titles is a worthy effort.

I also don't think working on a more salable star like Keaton necessarily precludes other work later-- it may well help fund it. Eventually.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostSun Oct 25, 2015 2:36 pm

Rodney wrote:It's a lot more than digital dirt cleanup. It's looking through many archives, comparing prints, scanning, resizing, choosing which source to use for each sequence, matching exposures, translating, making tens of thousands of small decisions. It's not hard to imagine that the restorers of some of these films have more person-hours invested than the film companies that first produced them.


But that's the point... Long hours and a lot of effort don't necessarily mean that one is making a new creative work... which is the definition of what copyright is meant to protect. It's great that people do a lot of work restoring films. I applaud that. Release the best version of the film on the market, and I will buy their blu-ray and they can make money off of it. But down the road, someone else can come along and build on top of their work and release their own version too. Just like they used a film print that was carefully struck to produce the highest fidelity image.

Music is what is copyrighted on silent films in the public domain. That is definitely a creative work. And when I go to buy blu-rays, music is one of the primary things I look at. Too many silent films have been shortchanged by dreadful Rosa Rita and needle drop over the years. I think the music is just as important as the picture in silent films. It should enhance the picture, not just fill the space. It should be in sync and be idiomatic and be well recorded, composed and performed. That is more creative work than preparing a film print for video release.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostSun Oct 25, 2015 2:39 pm

Danny Burk wrote: Much as I love Buster, I'd much rather buy something I've never seen than things that I've already had in multiple versions. I'll certainly get the new versions if they're substantially improved, but given one vs the other, I'd pick Connie and Norma.


Chaplin, Keaton and Chaney are probably the only three from the silent era that I would consider double or triple dipping to get significantly better image quality. Aside from that, the only thing that would make me consider re-purchasing the same title would be a lousy musical score (Varite cough! cough!)
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostSun Oct 25, 2015 2:59 pm

>Long hours and a lot of effort don't necessarily mean that one is making a new creative work... which is the definition of what copyright is meant to protect.<

I have to agree. I have enormous appreciation for the efforts of folks in this area (I've done a little in the classic radio field, for myself). But just replacing what might have been lost from a proper original, is not truly making a new thing. By definition, "restoring" is not "creating." (Or the artists who cleaned up the Sistine Chapel years ago, could bump Da Vinci!)

>Rosa Rita<

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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostSun Oct 25, 2015 5:36 pm

" By definition, "restoring" is not "creating." (Or the artists who cleaned up the Sistine Chapel years ago, could bump Da Vinci!) "

What did Da Vinci have to do with the Sistine Chapel ... ?

Somebody call Kirk Douglas ...!!!!
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostSun Oct 25, 2015 10:22 pm

Scoundrel, you caught me in "brain fried putting a show together" mode!

Feel free to swap Da Vinci for Michelangelo, or Last Supper for Sistine Chapel - both work.

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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostMon Oct 26, 2015 8:10 am

No apologies necessary.

In my haste I called for Kirk Douglas when I should be asking for Charlton Heston ...

So I guess this cancels both entries out.

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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostMon Oct 26, 2015 11:08 am

(By George, you DID!)

And besides... didn't you mean Charles Laughton? :wink:
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostTue Oct 27, 2015 8:14 am

It’s nice to read that Lobster will no longer use the term "Keaton Project" after October, though of course this timing coincides with the end of their fund raising campaign anyway, so is a little academic and doesn’t really address the issue of the questionable use of the term in the first place nor the confusion created and damage already done, although perhaps the pure in heart will maintain the use of this term was simply coincidental.

Regarding the claim of copyright, I’ve always been of the understanding that you can only register "new matter" such as new tints, music or Rohauer’s horrendous new titles and not any digital restoration. I’d love to be proven wrong about that but, having operated under this assumption, it should be noted that the Keaton restorations that Cohen Film Collection has undertaken already on its own have been THE GENERAL (pd), STEAMBOAT BILL JR (pd) and THE PLAY HOUSE (pd), so perhaps we are not as mercenary as some would have you believe.

Those restorations were all done with 4K scans, as have/will all of the restorations with Bologna. While some of the Cohen restorations have been done in 2K, we all strongly felt that the Keaton films had to be done with 4K scans in order to capture more information at a higher resolution. This is an important point distinguishing these two projects, as Lobster is working from 2K scans. As a point of comparison, the image size of HD is 1920x1080 pixels, while the image size of 2K is 2048x1080 pixels. This means that the 2K image size is only .066666 times larger than HD. The image size of 4K is 4096x2160 pixels, which is 4 times the size of 2K, allowing us to capture at a much higher resolution. We feel that you will see the extra effort was well worth it once this painstaking restoration project has been completed.

Finally, regarding the availability of other films in the Collection, all I can ask is that you please be patient. As the Collection has changed hands, I’ve been doing whatever I can to show the value of restoring films from the silent era – especially pd titles – and am happy to say that the new owner has been fully supportive. It has been my hope that the success of our Keaton Project with Bologna would make it much easier to reach further into the catalogue and that would certainly include the Talmadges.

Best,
Tim Lanza
Cohen Film Collection
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostTue Oct 27, 2015 8:51 pm

tlanza wrote:Finally, regarding the availability of other films in the Collection, all I can ask is that you please be patient. As the Collection has changed hands, I’ve been doing whatever I can to show the value of restoring films from the silent era – especially pd titles – and am happy to say that the new owner has been fully supportive. It has been my hope that the success of our Keaton Project with Bologna would make it much easier to reach further into the catalogue and that would certainly include the Talmadges.

Best,
Tim Lanza
Cohen Film Collection

Very good to hear, Tim; thanks for getting back to us.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostTue Oct 27, 2015 8:52 pm

Judgment of the meal is in the tasting. We shall see.

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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostWed Oct 28, 2015 5:49 am

Hello,

I haven't visited this site in a while and since the name of the institution I work for is mentioned in a discussion thread I thought I'd like to add my thoughts (in my broken English: mother tongue readers please be patient!)

Cineteca di Bologna is an Italian film archive born in the 1960s, funder of the restoration laboratory L'Immagine Ritrovata and of "Il Cinema Ritrovato", which will celebrate its 30th birthday in 2016, a festival about film restoration and preservation and the history of cinema at large. At the beginning of the 1990s we have embarked, in close collaboration with the Chaplin Estate, in the Chaplin Project, which has consisted in restoring ALL of Chaplin long and medium features (Photoplay had already restored City Lights and The Gold Rush when we began): from 1918 A Dog's Life onward, as well as all Keystones, Essanay and Mutual Comedies, for a total of 80 titles or so.

For the short comedies we worked in HAPPY association with the BFI (Keystones only) and Lobster Films. I think that very few, among those who have purchased the Flicker Alley edition to the Mutual Comedies, for instance, are aware that they were restored in Bologna. Italy is not exactly on the map and film archives are easily forgotten: it occurred to me several times in the last 4/5 years that some acquaintance in the US reach out to me to let me know that the Mutuals or the Essanay have been "restored" by Flicker Alley (apparently no commercial label wants to keep restoration cards at the beginning of their film, so all that is left from years and years of painstaking work is sometime a little credit note on a DVD/Blu Ray sleeve....)
Nevertheless, this is not why we restore. I'd like to stress this again, we are not a commercial entity, we are a public, cultural organization and our commercial activities are tiny fractions of our overall mission.

So the reason why, in 2013, we thought of launching the Keaton Project (the name was a rather banal choice but it stemmed out of continuity with the Chaplin Project, launched in 1998 with the restoration of The Kid), is that we felt that, Keaton's films needed a similar work of what we had carried out for Chaplin's short: mapping all existing material - so as Tim Lanza explained we are not relying exclusively on the Rohauer collection held by our partners Cohen Film - reaching out to both private collectors and FIAF archives, receiving, inspecting and comparing all the elements and finally scanning and restoring all 30 of them. [The - Cineteca-Cohen - Keaton Project is a full 4K workflow restoration project].
And this is precisely what we are doing. We have been working for an entire year so far, because this is a VERY TIME CONSUMING venture, and you can take short cuts but unfortunately it shows! So fare we have completed the restoration of SHERLOCK JR and ONE WEEK, which Tim Lanza and I introduced last June, in front of the Piazza Maggiore huge crowd, during Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival.

Now, of course, this is public domain material and anybody can launch projects, the more the better. Two issues: first: several FIAF archives have expressed confusion about the name being the same (that's why we had to clarify with a letter to FIAF); second: film restoration is not about releasing DVD/Blu Rays editions. The commercial side is a consequence, a very legitimate consequence of course, which allows everybody around the world to enjoy the outcome of restoration. But it's not our mission, and has a matter of fact, these projects are commercially disastrous for us, we have to heavily rely on raising funds and sponsorship, another reason why we wished the recent crow-funding campaign had not happened with the same name.
As David Shepard brilliantly wrote at the end of his last post "judgment about a meal is in the tasting", well, last summer our most estimable restoration chef, Kevin Brownlow, told us he never so SHERLOCK and ONE WEEK the way he had just saw them, and that repaid us of all the efforts and hard work.

I apologize for this long post, I'm sure many of you must have fallen asleep by now,
I just wanted to contribute to the discussion and be open to questions if there are any.

all the best,
Cecilia

***********************************************
Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna
Head of Research & Special Projects

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(c) +39 349 394 3402

http://www.cinetecadibologna.it" target="_blank
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostWed Oct 28, 2015 7:34 am

Cecilia,

The Cineteca di Bologna is well-known (and very highly respected) by the people who post on this group. Thanks for all of the work you do! There are often reports here of Il Cinema Ritrovato festival, and I'm always jealous of those who get to go.

Also, I am pleased to tell you that whoever told you that the Flicker Alley releases do not have restoration credits was mistaken. I just double-checked my copy of Chaplin at Keystone, picking "The Rounders" at random, and it opens with a title card giving credit to:

Cineteca del Comune di Bologna
British Film Institute
Lobster Films

This is followed by a card giving special thanks to the Association Chaplin.

We are all looking forward to the upcoming restoration of Buster Keaton films!
Last edited by Rodney on Wed Oct 28, 2015 8:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostWed Oct 28, 2015 8:40 am

Dear Rodney,
very happy to hear that!!
thank you,
cecilia
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostWed Oct 28, 2015 2:14 pm

Cecelia,

The current restoration work done by Cineteca Bologna and L'Immagine Ritrovata,
as well as the work you've done in the past has my greatest respect and admiration.

I look forward to your upcoming work on the Keaton films.
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Re: The Keaton Project: Cineteca Bologna vs Lobster

PostWed Oct 28, 2015 7:33 pm

Benvenuto Nitrateville Cecilia :)

Grazie for all explanations.


Do you mind if I ask some few questions about Chaplin's preservation másters, surviving elements ?
Keep thinking...

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