Apr 16 2012

Behind the Scenes at the Cinémathèque de la Ville de Luxembourg

Published by at 08:25 under English

SOURCE: http://www.wort.lu

“I am driven by the belief that cinema is an experience”

claude bertemes

by Cordula Schnuer

With the classics of cinema long available on DVD, the traditional cinémathèque as a place of cinematic worship has had to adapt. In Luxembourg, Claude Bertemes has been leading the film archive and cinema for 15 years, right into the digital age.

Like many other cinephile love stories, the story of Luxembourg’s Cinémathèque began in Paris in the 1960s. The capital of film lovers and cine clubs gave one Fred Junck, a student hailing from Luxembourg, the idea to establish a cinémathèque in the Grand Duchy. In 1977 the deal was sealed.

Since then, the Cinémathèque has amassed a collection of roughly 18,000 prints, making it one of the most well-stocked film archives in Europe, in a bid to “preserve and to show,” as Bertemes sums up.

Following the guiding principal of Cinémathèque Française founder Henri Langlois “Il faut tout garder,” the archive houses an eclectic collection of films from Fritz Lang to Orson Welles, from lauded classics to obscure B-Movies and rare prints.

Giving the Cinémathèque a new image

While Bertemes shows nothing but admiration for his predecessor’s “life’s work,” there was still an “imbalance, a certain problem of the Cinémathèque’s visibility” when he took over. Junck had managed to assemble a stunning collection of masterworks and cinematic gems, but there was a need to open up to a wider public.

“A cinémathèque should not just be a place of introverted hard-core cinephilia,” says Bertemes. In the past 15 years a change of programme and outlook has led to a consistent rise in visitor numbers, making 2011 a record-breaking year, with around 30,000 tickets sold for screenings at the Cinémathèque and events run and supported by Bertemes’ team outside of the City centre cinema.

But it’s not just the film lovers of old who flock to the Cinémathèque. The audience has shifted to include a new generation of cinephiles drawn to the 16 weekly screenings, tying in with the institution’s educational mission to foster a “film literacy” among audiences, says Bertemes.

Making sense of the film flood

The Cinémathèque director concedes that there is a certain fear of the home cinema market, but Bertemes likens the struggle to “tilting at windmills,” fighting a seemingly overpowering enemy, which will nonetheless never be able to rival the “cinema as a place of experience.”

Serving as a kind of lighthouse among a sea of possibilities, “we have taken a position in this confusion of digital formats, because people get lost and don’t really know how any of it is connected.”

A closer look at the venue’s programming then reveals series of films, strung together by genre, director or even just a guiding idea. In April, bloodthirsty cinemagoers can enjoy screenings of Dracula films from the classic Nosferatu to Coppola’s infamous Bram Stoker’s Dracula and beyond.

At the same time, the Cinémathèque shows a Martin Scorsese retrospective and highlights from Gus Van Sant’s illustrious career. Throw in some art house and comedy classics, the Sense and Sensibility series of romantic drama, as well as a special Sunday showing for kids and the B-Movie Filmreakter specials, and there really is something for everybody.

archive

Rethinking the film archive in the digital age

But not only are there new audiences who want to learn about film; the generational shift continues in the industry itself with the consolidation of digital cinema keeping commercial cinemas and film archives on their toes.

“There are manifold questions and complex answers,” says Bertemes of digital formats gaining a foothold among the traditional celluloid prints. For the film archives in particular there are “questions of conservation, restoration, acquisition and projection,” he says, that require a differentiated discussion.

“The digital revolution forces film archives to position and redefine themselves,” he says. But don’t think that the end of the archive is nigh. “I’m not a culture pessimist,” Bertemes says, adding “it can be very fruitful to have to rethink what you’re doing.”

So, the small but dedicated team of ten running everything from box office to projection and archiving, is weathering the storm. But, among the hard work the love for film prevails.

“My favourite film changes every day,” laughs Bertemes. “Everytime I get asked that question I answer something else. But today I would say it’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. That film still gets me every time.”

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SOURCE: http://www.wort.lu

“I am driven by the belief that cinema is an experience”

claude bertemes

by Cordula Schnuer

With the classics of cinema long available on DVD, the traditional cinémathèque as a place of cinematic worship has had to adapt. In Luxembourg, Claude Bertemes has been leading the film archive and cinema for 15 years, right into the digital age.

Like many other cinephile love stories, the story of Luxembourg’s Cinémathèque began in Paris in the 1960s. The capital of film lovers and cine clubs gave one Fred Junck, a student hailing from Luxembourg, the idea to establish a cinémathèque in the Grand Duchy. In 1977 the deal was sealed.

Since then, the Cinémathèque has amassed a collection of roughly 18,000 prints, making it one of the most well-stocked film archives in Europe, in a bid to “preserve and to show,” as Bertemes sums up.

Following the guiding principal of Cinémathèque Française founder Henri Langlois “Il faut tout garder,” the archive houses an eclectic collection of films from Fritz Lang to Orson Welles, from lauded classics to obscure B-Movies and rare prints.

Giving the Cinémathèque a new image

While Bertemes shows nothing but admiration for his predecessor’s “life’s work,” there was still an “imbalance, a certain problem of the Cinémathèque’s visibility” when he took over. Junck had managed to assemble a stunning collection of masterworks and cinematic gems, but there was a need to open up to a wider public.

“A cinémathèque should not just be a place of introverted hard-core cinephilia,” says Bertemes. In the past 15 years a change of programme and outlook has led to a consistent rise in visitor numbers, making 2011 a record-breaking year, with around 30,000 tickets sold for screenings at the Cinémathèque and events run and supported by Bertemes’ team outside of the City centre cinema.

But it’s not just the film lovers of old who flock to the Cinémathèque. The audience has shifted to include a new generation of cinephiles drawn to the 16 weekly screenings, tying in with the institution’s educational mission to foster a “film literacy” among audiences, says Bertemes.

Making sense of the film flood

The Cinémathèque director concedes that there is a certain fear of the home cinema market, but Bertemes likens the struggle to “tilting at windmills,” fighting a seemingly overpowering enemy, which will nonetheless never be able to rival the “cinema as a place of experience.”

Serving as a kind of lighthouse among a sea of possibilities, “we have taken a position in this confusion of digital formats, because people get lost and don’t really know how any of it is connected.”

A closer look at the venue’s programming then reveals series of films, strung together by genre, director or even just a guiding idea. In April, bloodthirsty cinemagoers can enjoy screenings of Dracula films from the classic Nosferatu to Coppola’s infamous Bram Stoker’s Dracula and beyond.

At the same time, the Cinémathèque shows a Martin Scorsese retrospective and highlights from Gus Van Sant’s illustrious career. Throw in some art house and comedy classics, the Sense and Sensibility series of romantic drama, as well as a special Sunday showing for kids and the B-Movie Filmreakter specials, and there really is something for everybody.

archive

Rethinking the film archive in the digital age

But not only are there new audiences who want to learn about film; the generational shift continues in the industry itself with the consolidation of digital cinema keeping commercial cinemas and film archives on their toes.

“There are manifold questions and complex answers,” says Bertemes of digital formats gaining a foothold among the traditional celluloid prints. For the film archives in particular there are “questions of conservation, restoration, acquisition and projection,” he says, that require a differentiated discussion.

“The digital revolution forces film archives to position and redefine themselves,” he says. But don’t think that the end of the archive is nigh. “I’m not a culture pessimist,” Bertemes says, adding “it can be very fruitful to have to rethink what you’re doing.”

So, the small but dedicated team of ten running everything from box office to projection and archiving, is weathering the storm. But, among the hard work the love for film prevails.

“My favourite film changes every day,” laughs Bertemes. “Everytime I get asked that question I answer something else. But today I would say it’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. That film still gets me every time.”

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