Overview of the 2017-2018 Season of the Conservatoire des techniques de la Cinémathèque Française

By Jean-Noël Ferragut, AFC

par Jean-Noël Ferragut La Lettre AFC n°289

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For the second year in a row, Laurent Mannoni invited the AFC to attend the last meeting of the 2017-2018 season of the Scientific Council of the Conservatoire des techniques de la Cinémathèque française. The meeting took place in the storage rooms at Bercy, and there, the eleven “extra-mural” members in attendance were told about the current season’s conferences, recent acquisitions and gifts to the collection, and the schedule of upcoming conferences.

Conferences organized by the Conservatoire des techniques during the 2017-2018 season
Nine conferences were organized between October 2017 and June 2018. The average attendance at each conference was around 100, but Jean-Pierre Verscheure’s conference on Cinérama attracted 240 audience members. The second most-attended conference of the season (149 attendees) was that of Danys Bruyère on “the digital camera”.
The Conservatoire’s conferences were an opportunity to collaborate closely with a number of the Cinémathèque française’s departments : the Film Collections Department, the Audiovisual Department, and the Sound and Lighting Department. The CNC Film Archives are always able to fulfill even the most abstruse requests. This season was also the opportunity to work with a foreign archive, the Bundesarchiv, in order to illustrate the Triergon process.
As every year, the Conservatoire des techniques organized a conference as part of the Cinémathèque’s Festival entitled “Toute la mémoire du monde” in March 2018. As part of the screening he organized of five Cinérama films, Jean-Pierre Verscheure, in addition to his conference on the process, made extensive use of his own collection of copies. The original Cinérama cameras, which were recently acquired by the Cinémathèque française, were publicly displayed for the first time on stage.

The conferences are filmed, and three are already posted online :
- “Archéologie d’un tournage : la cabine de Peau d’Âne”
- “Cinémascope, Dyaliscope, FranScope : l’aventure du Scope français dans les années 1950 et 1960”
- "André Coutant, le bon genie technique de la Nouvelle Vague et du Cinéma Vérité”.

The rest of the videos should be available online before the start of this school year.

Acquisitions and Loans during the period from June 2017 to June 2018
- Gifts : during the year beginning June 2017, there have been about twenty gifts of a total of 90 devices.
The first gift, following the last scientific council meeting, was made by Jean-Marie Dreujou (who owns an impressive personal collection), and was of a Caméblimp Éclair. Bernard Tichit, one of the most regular donors to the Conservatoire, made two gifts of a number of devices, amongst which : a Perfectone recorder, a Siemens double-band projector, a Thomson colour video camera, and more recently, several projectors (an Ericsson, an OGCF, and a particularly rare Ernemann VII 35 mm projector).

Projecteur Ericsson 16 mm - Photo Stéphane Dabrowski - Collection Cinémathèque française
Projecteur Ericsson 16 mm
Photo Stéphane Dabrowski - Collection Cinémathèque française

Collector François Binétruy continued to make a sizeable donation at the end of the year. The Conservatory received two 19th-century American magic lanterns, an Emile Reynaud theatre praxinoscope and praxinoscope bands that the Cinémathèque was missing from its collections, a Cox “Fantasmagoria” magic lantern (c. 1850), a “Le Figaro” zootrope (France, c. 1860), and a Lapierre de Salon cinematograph. Roman Polanski donated a 35mm Chinese projector to the Cinémathèque, which it did not already possess. Directors Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou also donated a number of cinema camera lenses that were being sought after for the collection, including an Angénieux 25-250 mm zoom lense that was used on their film Microcosmos. Catherine Mauchain, who has worked as an editor and sound editor for Jacques Perrin, donated technical documentation. Monique Koudrine donated a Pathé-Baby projector and an Agfa Super 8 camera. Antoine Tchernia donated a number of devices that belonged to his father : cameras and projectors, visualizers, and photo cameras, etc. Jean-Pierre Darrousin donated a director’s viewfinder.

Caméra Panavision Millenium XL - Photo Stéphane Dabrowski - Collection Cinémathèque française
Caméra Panavision Millenium XL
Photo Stéphane Dabrowski - Collection Cinémathèque française

Once again, Panavision Los Angeles made a very generous donation to the Cinémathèque by sending two superb cameras in March : a Millenium XL dating from 2004 in perfect condition and an Arriflex 35-IIC TechniScope that was transformed by Panavision and was used to film the underwater scenes on James Cameron’s film Titanic. Panavision’s expert Dave Kenig is now a member of our Scientific Council.

Lastly, following the conference organized for the 100th-year anniversary of Arriflex and the visit of the Conservatory’s team to Arri’s factories in Munich in July 2017, the German firm donated four brand-new cameras, directly from the factory, and which were never used : a 2008 416, a 2004 235 and 435, and the very-luxurious Arricam ST from 2000.

Caméra Arricam ST - Photo Stéphane Dabrowski - Collection Cinémathèque française
Caméra Arricam ST
Photo Stéphane Dabrowski - Collection Cinémathèque française

- The Cinémathèque française’s purchases : the Cinémathèque’s acquisitions budget was drastically reducded this year, but nonetheless, the Cinémathèque was able to purchase eight cameras, including a Mitchell Technovision camera manufactured by the Henri Chroscicki corporation, and a number of amateur 16 mm cameras. Another major acquisition by the Cinémathèque Française was the “Faust Bible”, including hundreds of original photographs from the former personal collection of F. W. Murnau.

- Purchases by the Centre national de la cinématographie et de l’image animée : during the last Acquisition Committee meeting in October 2017 the CNC was able to acquire an extremely rare Emile Reynaud praxinoscope in a luxury version with a music box that was activated during the Conservatoire’s conference dedicated to Reynaud last December ; the first 35 mm reversible Gaumont camera (dated 1897) ; and an English camera from the late 19th century designed by William Friese-Greene and John Prestwich.

Praxinoscope à musique - Photo Stéphane Dabrowski - Collection Cinémathèque française
Praxinoscope à musique
Photo Stéphane Dabrowski - Collection Cinémathèque française
Première caméra Gaumont 35 mm - Photo Stéphane Dabrowski - Collection Cinémathèque française
Première caméra Gaumont 35 mm
Photo Stéphane Dabrowski - Collection Cinémathèque française

Over the past year, the Conservatoire des Techniques was asked to loan materials from its collections to a number of expositions.
In July-August 2017, the Cannes exposition on Georges Méliès (also presented in Spain from 2013-2016) was shown to the public in the Palais des Festivals. This show attracted over 37,000 visitors in six weeks. The Cinémathèque’s collections were featured again this year on the Croisette in the exposition entitled “Silence, on tourne !”, which was a revival of the Cinémathèque’s 2010 “Tournages, Paris-Berlin-Hollywood” exposition.
A large number of devices (about forty cameras and projectors) were featured in the exposition entitled “1920 à Saint Quentin : cinéma et music-hall des années folles,” which took place in a former art-deco style department store whose original design has not been changed. Other projects with the Mayor’s Office of Saint-Quentin are to follow, including an exposition on the early days of aviation in December 2018.
It would be too long to list all of the other loans made to dozens of shows in France and abroad. The most recent of these dates from early June : an Agfa camera from the 1920s for the show “De l’Asie à la France libre, Joseph et Marie Hackin, archéologues et compagnons de la Libération” in the Musée de l’ordre national de la Libération.

The upcoming schedule of conferences for the October 2018 — June 2019 season

  • Friday, 5 October 2018, 2:30 p.m.
    Perception du mouvement et nouvelles technologies - Talk with Alain Berthoz, Honorary Professor at the Collège de France, with Thierry Lefebvre and Laurent Mannoni
  • Friday, 9 November 2018, 2:30 p.m.
    Cinecittà, histoire d’un studio mythique - Conference by Donata Pesenti Campagnoni
  • Friday, 7 December 2018
    • 2:30 p.m. Univers virtuels et cinéma - Conference by Martin Barnier
    • 7 p.m. Conference followed by the screening of the film Trumbull Land, by Grégory Wallet
  • Friday, 25 January 2019
    • 2:30 p.m. : Le système soviétique panoramique Kinopanorama — Conference by Nikolaï Maïorov, with the participation of Caroline Damiens
    • 7 p.m. : Conference followed by the screening of the film Tournants dangereux, first fiction film shot in Kinopanorama (USSR, 1961), presented by Nikolaï Maïorov
  • Friday, 15 February 2019
    Le début des projections numériques en France - Conference by Philippe Loranchet, followed by a round-table discussion
  • Friday, 15 March 2019
    2:30 p.m. : as part of the "Toute la mémoire du monde" festival, Le Steadicam - Conference by Garrett Brown, with the participation of Aaton-Transvideo
  • Friday, 5 April 2019
    The Vistavision process - Conference by Jean-Pierre Verscheure
  • Friday, 3 May 2019, 2:30 p.m.
    À la recherche de la couleur perdue : le procédé Keller-Dorian-Berthon sur film lenticulaire - Conference by François Ede, with a screening of recently-found unreleased films.
  • Friday, 14 June 2019, Study Day, 9:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.
    Cinéma des premiers temps : autour de l’Exposition universelle de 1900, with screening of recently restored films.

(Based on minutes taken by Laure Parchomenko)