by Chris MaGee
Here's a story that I know my fellow Toronto film blogger Shannon The Movie Moxie will love. She and I recently discussed our mutual love for Akira Kurosawa's 1950 masterpiece "Rashomon" and now it looks like "the film that introduced Japanese cinema to the world" at the 1951 Venice International Film Festival has gotten a well deserved digital restoration.
The man behind what has been dubbed "The Rashomon Restoration Project", Michael Pogorzelski, the director of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science Film Archive was joined by representatives from the Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation and Japan's National Film Centre at a special screening of the newly restored film in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Like so many classic films "Rashomon" was in rough shape prior to this restoration. The original nitrate negative of the film had been destroyed in the 1970s due to a law passed in Japan forbiding the storage of high flammable nitrates, so Pogorzelski and his crew had no choice but to work from what was believed to be a near pristine 1962 print in the archives of Japan's National Film Centre. Once they had their hands on the print they realized that "pristine" wasn't the best way to describe it. Nearly every frame suffered from scratches, dirt and other imperfections. Technicians at Lowry Digital and YCM Laboratories in California remedied this by digitally scanning the entire print at 4K and then restoring "Rashomon" frame by painstaking frame, thus creating a new negative.
This was only the second screening of this newly restored print. It was premiered in September in Los Angeles as part of a retrospective of Kurosawa films put on by The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science to mark the 10th anniversary of the directors death.
Interestingly enough this is only the fourth film in Japanese cinema history to be digitally restored (!) The three others were Kenji Mizoguchi's "Shin heike monogatari (The Taira Clan)", Keisuke Kinoshita's "Twenty-four Eyes" and Yoshitaro Nomura's "Castle of Sand".
No official announcement has been made as of yet as to when this newly created print of "Rashomon" may tour throughout North America or when we can expect a DVD release. Hopefully soon.
Thanks to Variety Japan, Worldfilmfest.net and Oscars.org for details on this.