May 15, 2009 / 4:31 PM / 8 years ago

Scorsese touts film preservation at Cannes

<p>Director Martin Scorsese attends a news conference for the World Cinema Foundation at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival May 15, 2009. Twenty films are competing for the prestigious Palme d'Or which will be awarded on May 24. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler</p>

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese on Friday unveiled a pact to release and promote restored, classic films at festivals, schools and online to broaden the audience for old masterpieces.

The World Cinema Foundation, which “The Departed” director founded and chairs, will now work with B-Side Entertainment and The Auteurs to release and promote films the WCF has restored.

“Restoration is meaningful only if people can see the work,” Scorsese told reporters at the Cannes film festival where a new version of 1948’s “The Red Shoes” will screen.

The WCF expects to premiere its titles at Cannes, the world’s largest film festival, and afterward B-Side will tour them at festivals, museums, universities and movie clubs, as well as get them on websites like Apple’s iTunes and Netflix.

The Auteurs will help promote the films to wider audiences online through its social networking website that it labels an “online movie theater.”

Finally, the titles will be made available on DVD and in special editions through an established partnership with home entertainment company The Criterion Collection.

Restoration is a huge issue in the film industry because master copies of classic titles have either deteriorated to the point where they are no longer usable or they don’t exist at all, anymore.

Scorsese said almost 90 percent of U.S. silent movies are gone, and originals of classic titles such as Orson Welles’ “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942) no longer exist.

It is important for generations of young filmgoers raised on a diet of Hollywood action flicks like “The Terminator” to see classic titles, Scorsese said, because it may inspire them to greater heights where making cinematic art is concerned.

“The more audiences see these films, the more they want to see other films like them, and then what happens is the audience changes which means the movies that are being made change,” Scorsese said. “There is an audience for special movies, and good movies, for a different way of looking at the world -- and not just blockbusters.”

“The Red Shoes” is one of those titles. Made in 1948 by co-directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, it tells of a young ballerina who longs to dance at the highest level of her art. The movie has long been considered a masterpiece that has inspired other filmmakers. Scorsese said he saw it for the first time when he was 8 years-old.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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