""To Save and Project: The 13th MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation" runs from November 4-25, 2015 and features 74 newly restored masterworks and rediscovers including films by Chantal Ackerman, Dario Argento, Samuel Fuller, Orson Welles and many more.
Special guests for the series include Oja Kodar, Stefan Droessler, Guy Maddin, Chris Langdon, Academy Award–nominated filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako ("Timbuktu") and noted film historians John Canemaker, Tom Gunning and Eddie Muller.
Guy Maddin will introduce two films on the silent program including “Pan,” the 1922 film by Harald Schwenzen based on the novel by Knut Hamsun; and “Monsieur Don’t Care,” a 1924 comedy short starring Stan Laurel in his pre-Oliver Hardy days.
Indiewire recently spoke to Maddin over the phone about why these two films matter to him and about the state of film preservation.
Why these two films in particular?
Although, I haven't seen "Monsier Don't Care," it's mostly because I want to. I'm kind of obsessed with lost film and this other film I have playing that I co-directed, "The Forbidden Room" is made up out of lost matter. I'm just finishing up a massive lost film project where I reimagine the way movies were and "Monsieur Don't Care" is the fragment of a lost film. So I'm keen to experience it.
As for "Pan" I have a long history with it. I was a huge fan of Knut Hamsun in my twenties and thirties when "Pan" and his other novels "Hunger" and "Mysteries" really struck a chord with me. The protagonists are young Dostoevskian types. Always in an altered state of mind, altered by unrequited love most frequently or starvation or some sort of delirium inducing deprivation and that seem to define my state of mind as a twenty-something, and I couldn't believe that someone had written books, this Knut Hamsun guy, this Nobel Prize-winning author had written books that really described my troubled but highly romanticized state of mind, my elevated state of romance and a menacing romanticism that I found myself intoxicated by during those long ago years — thank God they're in the past, but it's really amazing to read Hamsun and his romantic naturalism.
I guess he was described as a prototype of Hemingway. The translations I read of him were very cluttered with Victoriana. But later translations I read were more punchy, Hemingway-esque. But I loved him enough that in 1997 I adapted "Pan" myself into a movie. The movie has been adapted I think six times and the one that MOMA is showing is the first, I believe. And I adapted the last, but there was no way I could direct in those days or even to this day, naturalistic performances. I'm more of a melodramatist and maybe with heavy ladling of surrealism on top of my melodrama. When I adapted "Pan" in the mid '90s, I tried to make what was set in the forest in the northern regions of Norway into something decadent and strange. It was a really bad recipe. And I think the movie is a disaster but I needed to do it evidently to find out. [laughs]
Not only that. On top of the artistic disaster, it's called "Twilight of the Ice Nymphs." It's not even called "Pan." My producer at the time forgot to license the rights to the novel from Knut Hamsun family. Knut Hampsun lived forever. And you know just because the novel was written in the 1890s, he lived— he buried practically everyone in Norway. And his grandson demanded $25,000 after we made the movie. It came out of my salary so I ended up earning negative $14,000 for making this movie that was no good and to add insult to injury they insisted as the condition of this settlement that we not credit Knut Hamsun or the movie "Pan" in our credit roll and they just wanted nothing to do with us except our money. But I remain obsessed with the story, which is beautiful, and when I finally got around to watching this version, the Harald Schwenzen one, which is the only film the guy made i believe.
Everything looked exactly as it did in my mind's eye while reading the book and I couldn't believe that I went to all this trouble 20 years ago to adapt a book that had already been shot perfectly. That would be like shooting my own version of "Days of Heaven" or "Badlands" or "The Godfather" or something like that. Not going to happen.
That's the definition of hubris.
Yeah. Exactly. In my case, it was just stupidity."