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Monday, 12 July, 1999, 07:40 GMT 08:40 UK
Chaplin archive in the limelight
The Kid was re-released by Chaplin in 1971
By David Willey in Rome

The entire film archive of Charles Chaplin - some 90 silent and sound movies he directed and starred in over 60 years - is to be restored by the film institute in Bologna, northern Italy.

The first restored Chaplin film, The Kid, made in 1921, was shown to a packed house at a film festival in the city on Friday. It was accompanied by a live musical score for orchestra also written by Chaplin - a self taught musician.

Charlie Chaplin made his home in Switzerland
The Bologna film festival, called Cinema Rediscovered, specialises in finding lost films from the days of silent movies, restoring them and showing them to enthusiastic film buffs.

This year's highlight was directed by Chaplin in the US in 1921. The Kid, in which Chaplin plays his classic role of a tramp, Jackie Cogan a street waif, and Edna Purvance the child's mother, turned out to be one of his most popular films.

The Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein once said The Kid was a unique film because of the way Chaplin had shown his capacity to depict the most terrible, tragic and pathetic events through the eyes of a child.

Meticulous records

Chaplin reissued the film in 1971, after taking out three sequences that he said he considered "too sentimental" for modern audiences. His cuts were restored and shown again for the first time in recent years in the version shown in Bologna.

Chaplin's back catalogue of 90 works is to be restored
Chaplin was conscious of the need to maintain an archive of his films during his own lifetime. When he returned to live in Europe he purchased copies of many of his early one and two reeler films and was meticulous in keeping records.

One of the aims of film historians and archivists is to create critical editions of historic films of the past century, which they treat like literary texts, showing subsequent variations. This is very costly and time consuming, and involves searches in film archives in many countries.


The festival organisers said they had signed an agreement with the Chaplin family to restore all 90 films Chaplin made - including one and two reelers dating back to before World War I.

Chaplin maintained an archive at his family home
The Chaplin archive, kept at his family home in Switzerland, consists of thousands of reels, and also a big collection of still photographs.

The curators of national film archives from 80 countries have gathered in Bologna for the festival.

Bologna's chief film restorer, Nicola Mazzanti, said it may take up to 10 years to restore them all and transfer them to a type of celluloid film stock that does not deteriorate.

Techniques for duplicating old film negatives have improved greatly since the 1970s. For the moment film archivists prefer to conserve old films on celluloid rather than transfer them digitally to tape.

The BBC's David Willey reports from Bologna
See also:

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