World War I remains one of the bloodiest conflicts in history. The war, which started a century ago in Europe and spread to different fronts across the globe, caused massive loss of life among soldiers and civilians as well as tremendous social turmoil. Filmmakers around the world later made films to capture and expose the harsh reality of the war. To commemorate the centenary of World War I, the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) "Restored Treasures" series will screen six restored films on the war from August to January 2015 for audiences to view the tensions and sufferings of the time on screen.
"Restored Treasures – First World War Centenary" will show Jean Renoir's masterpiece "The Grand Illusion" (1937) on August 3; the first Academy Award for Best Picture, "Wings" (1927) on September 7; Raymond Bernard's "Wooden Crosses" (1932) on October 5; Powell and Pressburger's dazzling epic "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943) on November 2; one of Stanley Kubrick's finest films "Paths of Glory" (1957) on December 7; and a winner of Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director "All Quiet On The Western Front" (1930) on January 4 next year.
To complement the screenings, a seminar entitled "From Retrospection to Introspection: War Cinema" will be held at 4.30pm on August 3 after the screening of "The Grand Illusion" with film scholar Dr Stephen Sze Man-hung and film critic Ka Ming sharing their views on war and moving images. The other five screenings will have post-screening talks. Film critics Ka Ming, Lau Yam, Geoffrey Wong and Long Tin will talk about "Wings", "Wooden Crosses", "Paths of Glory" and "All Quiet On The Western Front" in Cantonese while the post-screening talk on "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" by James Marsh will be conducted in English.
"The Grand Illusion" was praised as one of the cinema's most profound anti-war statements. The film features a group of French officers and their attempts to escape from the German prisoner-of-war camps. Renoir strips away the social divides between the characters, exposing all men as equal in the face of war. Officers and soldiers from different social classes and even opposite camps can also converse and share on common grounds of dignity and humanity.
Adapted from a French autobiographical novel, director Raymond Bernard's "Wooden Crosses" features a vivid and grueling 10-day siege of a small town after opening the film with a montage of soldiers dissolving into a field of graves. One of the most unnerving scenes is the impending terror as French soldiers listen to the Germans tunnelling beneath their trench and laying explosives that can explode at any time. Both films were scanned and restored in 4K by the L'Immagine Ritrovata Film Restoration Laboratory.
William A. Wellman's "Wings", the first ever Best Picture of Oscar, was produced in collaboration with the US Air Force. This aviation epic shows realistic air combat sequences including incredible scenes of aerial gunfire, crashed landing and plane crashes. Paramount Pictures restored the film with a complete overhaul of the soundtrack and the footage; scenes that used the stencil color technique known as the Handschiegl process were also recreated for the restored version.
Powell and Pressburger's "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" is a war film, a love story and a cross-cultural romance. It depicts a British colonel, who has participated in both world wars, insisting on his unflappable belief that "right is might". The full 163-minute version was reassembled in 1983, and has since undergone a painstaking restoration by the Academy Film Archive in association with the British Film Institute (BFI), Independent Television (ITV) Studios Global Entertainment Ltd. and The Film Foundation.
Stanley Kubrick's "Paths of Glory" is perhaps the cinema's most scathing indictment of military absurdity. UCLA Film and Television Archive re-recorded and cleaned up the film's soundtrack, as well as produced a new magnetic track master and a new optical track negative. The final restored version is produced from two prints that formerly belonged to the director to ensure the contrast and density of the new prints is correct.
Widely considered as the greatest anti-war film of all time, Lewis Milestone's "All Quiet On The Western Front" features a German schoolboy and his impressionable classmates being coerced into enlisting by rhetoric-spewing teachers and sacrificing their lives for the Fatherland. In the trenches, they face inhuman conditions, disease and imminent death, learning that there is no glory in war but only wasteful slaughter. The film is restored by Universal Studios with 4K scanning. Colour-correction, scratch removal and mono sound editing applied.
Tickets priced at $50 are now available at URBTIX with half-price concessionary tickets for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities and their minders, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Credit card telephone bookings can be made on 2111 5999, or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk .
Programme details can be found in "ProFolio 73" available at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900, or browse the webpage: www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2011rt3/2011rt3_film.html .
Ends/Monday, July 28, 2014
Issued at HKT 22:16
A film still of "The Grand Illusion" (1937).
A film still of "Wings" (1927).
A film still of "Wooden Crosses" (1932).
A film still of "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943).
A film still of "Paths of Glory" (1957).
A film still of "All Quiet On The Western Front" (1930).