Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Restored Santi-Veena to screen in Cannes Classics

Turns out there will be a Thai film at this year's Cannes Film Festival after all.

It will be the newly restored Thai romantic drama Santi-Veena (สันติ -วีณา) from 1954. It's part of the just announced Cannes Classics line-up.

Historically, Santi-Veena was the first Thai film to screen in an overseas festival. Directed by Tawee "Kru Marut" na Bangchang with a screenplay by Vichit Kounavudhi and cinematography by Ratt Pestonji, it won three prizes at the 1954 Asia Pacific Film Festival in Tokyo.

Ratt, the pioneering auteur of Thai cinema, won best cinematography and was awarded a Mitchell film camera at the festival. As the story goes, upon his return to Thailand, Ratt was charged $5,000 for the camera by customs officials, and filmmakers were fined 1,000 baht for failing the clear the film with censors. The camera is now the centerpiece of an exhibit with a figure of Pestonji at the Thai Film Museum in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom.

A remake was made in the 1970s. And for decades, it was assumed the original Santi-Veena was lost. But Archive officials always kept their eyes out. Here's more from the Cannes festival website:

The original material of this film was considered lost. In 2014 the original material was found in the British Film Institute as well as the release print in the China Film Archive and at the Gosfilmofond in Russia. A 4K scan and restoration was carried out from the original camera and sound negatives found at the BFI. The restoration work was carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory.

The original Santi-Veena was added to the National Film Heritage Registry in 2014.

It will screen at Cannes in a program that also includes the world premiere of the documentary Voyage à travers le cinéma français by Bertrand Tavernier, a masterclass by William Friedkin, "a cross tribute to Raymond Depardon and Frederic Wiseman" and "Nine documentaries about cinema", including the HBO Documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

Other restored classics will include Howards End, Marlon Brando's One Eyed Jacks, Tarkovski's Solyaris and Roger Corman's Pit and the Pendulum.

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