Where Ricardo Aronovich, AFC, ADF, discusses his work restoring “Providence”, a film by Alain Resnais

par Ricardo Aronovich La Lettre AFC n°234

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For the occasion of the selection of Providence, a film directed by Alain Resnais, in the “Venezia Classici” secion at the 70th Mostra of Venice, Ricardo Aronovich, AFC, ADF, discusses the restoration work he participated in, in order to prepare the film to be screened at Venice, published on DVD, and the re-release of the film in DCP.
Ellen Burstyn, John Gielgud et Dirk Bogarde dans "Providence", d'Alain Resnais
Ellen Burstyn, John Gielgud et Dirk Bogarde dans "Providence", d’Alain Resnais

Providence is a legendary film within the canon of French cinema and a landmark of the world’s cultural heritage. I was lucky to have been responsible for the cinematography on that film, which was a job of a rarely equaled complexity.
Although the film had enjoyed a very generous budget, the least good of the Parisian laboratories at that time had been chosen to carry out the development and printing of the film stock, which meant that the finishing was extremely unequal and rough. In order to give you an idea of the task we had to accomplish : Alain Resnais and I had to refuse (which meant we threw into the trash) no less than eighteen copies !

At the time, my advice to the producers was to use Technicolor London if only for the finishing and printing because of their excellent 3 master black-and-white process. This method would have ensured perfect and uniform 35mm prints that would have survived to this day.
More than thirty years after its release, VDM Laboratories was asked firstly to make a HD digital copy from the original negative and to remaster it under my direction. I will never forget the disappointment of the young technician, who was so proud of his pre-grading work (despite the fact that he had never seen the film in proper conditions) when I showed him the VHS that we used as our model from that point on. He admitted that he had just seen two totally different films that nonetheless bore the same title ! Of course, I used digital’s advantages and software in order to accomplish subtle and discreet modifications that were nonetheless impossible to achieve using silver-process film at the time we shot the movie.

The other notable event was more tragic : during the telecine process of the negative, I realized that the entire end of the movie, including the famous panoramic shot of the ellipsis of the meal scene in the park, had been replaced by an internegative ! The negative had disappeared and was probably damaged ! Such a masterpiece deserved to be treated better than that !
This is why I was so pleased when the new owner of the film called on me to accomplish the cleanup job and the little modifications that are customary whenever a film is released on DVD and re-released in DCP.

Let us remind our readers that Providence was screened, at the AFC’s initiative, a few months ago during the Caméflex Amiens event in November 2012 and as an introduction to a Master Class held at Le Grand Action movie theatre in February 2013.

(The screen shot accompanying this article shows Ellen Burstyn and John Gielgud in Providence)