May 19, 2024

The coveted Lumière Classics label is today as sought-after in the heritage film industry as any prestigious film festival label for contemporary film fare.

Launched back at the 2019 edition of the Lumière Film Festival, Europe’s leading classic film event, the label was created to showcase a carefully curated selection of restorations of 20th century films with the aim of highlighting the work carried out by archives, cinematheques, rights holders and foundations around the world.

“’Lune Froide’ [‘Cold Moon’] was selected among many other films, so it’s extremely gratifying for us. Lumière is the heritage film festival that fights to restore these films to their former glory and develop the public’s appetite for classic cinema,” explains Anne-Laure Brénéol, co-founder and co-director of Malavida.

The Paris-based niche vintage arthouse movies outfit is bringing two titles to Lumiere this year: 1991 cult movie “Cold Moon” by French actor-director Patrick Bouchitey, and rediscovered gem “Bushman,” by American musician, film director and actor David Shickele, which was originally released in 1971.

Based on the Charles Bukowski short stories “The Copulating Mermaid of Venice” and “Trouble With the Battery,” “Cold Moon” was co-produced by Luc Besson and competed for the Palme d’Or at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.

Beautifully shot in black and white and starring Bouchitey and Jean-François Stévenin, it tells the story of the wanderings and tribulations of best friends Simon and Dédé, two misfits who refuse to fit into an ordinary life.

The film was greeted with enthusiasm by critics in Cannes but caused a scandal when it was released due to a controversial scene dealing with the taboo subject of necrophilia.

This newly restored 4K version carried out by rights holder Gaumont and Bouchitey’s Studio Lavabo will roll out in French cinema theaters from Nov. 15. In line with the festival’s tradition of having guests – including directors, actors, film historians or critics – present the films to the public, Bouchitey himself will be at Lumière to introduce the newly restored version, before embarking on a nationwide tour to bring it to the French public.

“Bushman,” the other restoration which will have its French premiere under the Lumière Classics label at the fest thanks to Malavida, is a completely different kind of film, bearing testimony to Lumière’s commitment to shine the light on both cult classics as well as lesser-known films.

“Lumière is the perfect place for the birth of ‘Bushman,’” says Brénéol, “because here, we’re starting from scratch, it’s not like ‘Cold Moon,’ which many people have already heard of. Even film critics and hardcore cinephiles have never heard of ‘Bushman.’ That’s what’s so crazy: to chance upon such an amazing film that’s totally unknown.”

Brénéol and her partner at Malavida, Lionel Ithurralde, came across “Bushman” at this year’s edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato Festival in Bologna, which celebrates cinematic treasures of the past.

A docudrama set in 1968, against the background of the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, it tells the story of Gabriel, a young Nigerian who comes to America for the first time, settles in the Bay Area and attends San Francisco State College. The film provides a unique African reflection on Black West Coast life amid the racial frictions at the end of the tumultuous Sixties, seen through the twin prisms of American racism and exoticism.

“We fell head over heels in love with this film. It’s very close to cinéma verité and the European New Wave,” enthuses Brénéol, adding that they just managed to finish the French subtitles in time for the Lumière premiere.

“It truly is a Lumière baby. It’s our job to get it out there,” she says, adding that Malavida is aiming for a theatrical release next spring.

“Bushman” is a Kino Lorber/Milestone release in North America. Kino Lorber originated the restoration and handles international sales for the film, which was sold in France to Malavida and in several other territories including Spain and Germany for 2024 releases. The film will be released in theaters early 2024 in North America and will also be at the upcoming IDFA and Viennale.

“Bushman” was restored in 4K from the original negatives by the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive and The Film Foundation.

“Bushman” and “Cold Moon” are among 42 films chosen out of around 150 new restorations from around the world, says Lumiere’s chief programmer Maelle Arnaud. “Having a film at Lumière means you will sell it in other territories. That’s why everyone wants this label, it is very precious,” she tells Variety.

Selected films are screened in the Lumière Classics, Treasures and Curiosities or any other section of the festival. This year’s vintage includes cult classics like Michael Powell’s 1960 thriller “Peeping Tom,” Luchino Visconti’s “Bellissima” (1951) and Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy, as well as lesser-known gems from Estonia, Hungary, Albania and Madagascar.

The Lumière Film Festival runs in Lyon, France from Oct. 14 through to Oct. 22.

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