I’ve written about Kickstarter before on this here blog-thing. Most recently it was regarding the (Justifiably ill fated) Uwe Boll Kickstarter to help him make Postal 2. Thanks for not backing that by the way. This week the lovely folks at Arrow Films, who have been doing a stellar job of keeping cult cinema alive in the form of excellent DVD and Blu-ray releases here in the UK, launched a Kickstarter to restore the prints of Walerian Borowczyk’s Goto, Island of Love. This is a film based Kickstarter done right that also could open the door for something magical to happen. Click the link for magic.
Goto is the first live action film made by Borowczyk after years of producing some ground breaking animated work. The film follows a man named Grozo (Guy Saint-Jean) living on an island cut off from the mainland by an earthquake. He intends to work his way through the island of Goto’s social structures by completing a number of menial tasks in the hopes of winning the heart of Glossia (Ligia Branice-Borowczyk), the wife of the Island’s dictator. Goto is a very well regarded film, especially amongst other film makers. Terry Gilliam cites the film and it’s director as being one of his strongest influences. If you look at Borowczyk’s animation, such as Les Astronautes, work you’ll see why. You can back the project on it’s Kickstarter page right here.
I’ll admit to not being as familiar with Borowczyk’s work as I am, say, Svankmejer or Bunuel, but that is not entirely what this article is about. Yes, I’m here asking for you to consider contributing to the Goto Kickstarter as this is a project worth supporting. It’s certainly a hell of a lot more deserving of attention than that bloody Uwe Boll one. Seriously, can’t stand that guy. What I’d like to discuss, though, are the reasons a Kickstarter like this has to exist.
You may have seen over the years the phrase digitally remastered or restored on the front of a film purchase. Earliest I remember owning were the digital restorations of the original Star Wars Trilogy, prior to the special editions. At that point I had only seen Star Wars in 4:3 ration on TV in all it’s grainy glory. These restorations looked amazing to me, even on the VHS format. I still own them by the way, what with it still being the best way to watch Star Wars. That’s me pretending to be elitist of course. I prefer to just shut my eyes during the special edition parts of my Star Wars blu-rays. The restoration of older films is an important venture but initially it was only really practical for the biggest blockbusters to receive. Eventually the procedure got cheaper and smaller films were able to receive restorations too, which was becoming an important step in presenting the image as best was possible back in the early days of DVD.
The process has undoubtedly gotten cheaper but for a company such as Arrow to be able to fund the restoration process they need to be sure they won’t be left out of pocket. It would be amazing if any film could just be restored to a 4K quality and chucked out on blu-ray but if the film is as much of a cult work at Goto is they’d have to question if it’s possible to make this money back. Arrow are not a charity, and even organisations such as the BFI (which is a charity) would have to take similar concerns into account. This is where the Kickstarter comes in as a great way of helping films such as Goto get the restoration they need. Not just so people can buy them on blu-ray now, but to ensure that their image and audio quality is preserved for suture generations of film fans to view.
By running this Kickstarter not only is Arrow figuring exactly what demand there can be for this film and they’re getting the help of the fans themselves to preserve them. You can help save a film from degrading to the point of being unwatchable. It also allows them to open their business up to a worldwide audience, which will, of course, allow a higher chance of getting the film’s restoration complete. A couple of years ago the BFI did a similar campaign to restore the surviving 9 Hitchcock silent films, which I ran a short piece about on this site back then. I’ll link a video showing the excellent results of that restoration after this paragraph. I’ve bugged Arrow for some time to grab the rights to Sholay to give it a similar restoration. That’s a film that deserves to be kept in the best quality possible and the current DVD release from Eros isn’t cutting it. But there are many more works dating back to the earliest days of film that could also benefit from being restored. If this Kickstarter is a success, which it really looks like it will be, hopefully this will be the path to take.
It’s believed that up to 90% of American made silent films have been lost due to lack of care and the highly flammable nature of early film stock. Just think about how many possible gems of inspiration could have been gleaned from those lost films. Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan Of Arc’s original presentation was thought to be a lost film for decades. Complete reels of the film were discovered in 1981 and thanks to a restoration under Eureka’s Masters of Cinema that incredible film is now available for you to watch looking better than it ever has. It’s a film that would never have a huge mainstream demand for it’s release, it’s a film that film historians, makers and lovers will see as required viewing though. And here comes a real problem, at what point can we decide that one particular work is worth the monetary expense of saving?
Truth is that we can’t. Film should be preserved for future generations. Just because a great work isn’t widely known doesn’t mean it deserves to be restored any less than, let’s say, Casablanca. I should note that Casablanca’s restoration is one of the best I have ever seen. It looks like a brand new film that was made to look retro. It would be near impossible to restore every film ever made, the nature of film stock itself means that eventually all film will decay. But any chance to keep these films from vanishing, such as Arrow’s Kickstarter project, should be embraced by us, the fans of film. Most people rarely stray outside of films made in their lifetime, but those of us that do discover a world of cinema that can show us things no amount of digital photography, shaky cam and computer generated imagery today can give us. The fact you can walk into a store and buy a fully restored version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin is a wonderful thing.
So, I’ll close with this. Supporting Goto, Island of Love’s Kickstarter for it’s restoration is a project that is exceptionally worthy of your attention. Even if you’re unable to back it yourself you could share it with others and maybe someone else who has a love for film can. If this Kickstarter works maybe it’ll encourage companies such as Eureka, BFI and Eros, who all specialise in classical and cult cinema will follow suit with their more obscure works. Maybe even Sholay… cos it really needs it. Well, I need it.