Surfing to Europe: Europa Film Treasures (Film Review)

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The laptop screen still can’t compete with the silver screen for cinematic grandeur, but what the computer lacks in scale, it compensates for in breadth and immediacy. Visitors to the Europa Film Treasures website will find themselves just a few mouse clicks away from a 1919 Hungarian Revolution parable from the director of Casablanca, a 1928 Russian mini-epic of animated marionettes, and an elegantly astute 1955 Macedonian documentary on a fraternal order of dervishes observing Ramadan.

This welcome trove of the motion picture medium’s formative juvenilia aggregates dozens (so far) of short-form relics–many with new original scores, most in pristine restorations, and all searchable by title, date, nationality, genre, director, cast, and more. Each is appended with a concise scholarly history, synopsis, and production specs; subtitles, where necessary, come in your choice of five languages. It’s the brainchild of compulsive film archivist and restorer Serge Bromberg, whose company Lobster Films houses more than 100,000 reels in its labyrinthine Paris offices and is one of the 28 European film archives from which Europa Film Treasures gathers its remarkable content.

The site isn’t all serious and scholarly. There are also pure entertainments–and impure ones–running a gamut from the 1917 John Ford western Bucking Broadway, in which a cowboy loses himself in New York City, to the understandably popular 1948 erotic short aptly known as The Apple-Knockers and the Coke. Best, and most web-appropriate, is that it’s a work in progress, adding content and interactive features regularly.

This review was originally published inthe January-February 2009 issue of Utne Reader.

Image from Bucking Broadway by John Ford.

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