Sunday 22 April 2018

Travolta and Vader staying alive in celluloid history

Classic touch: Exorcist has been added to America's National Film Registry
Classic touch: Exorcist has been added to America's National Film Registry
Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in 'All the President's Men'

Guy Adams

When the historians of tomorrow delve into the archive for the crown jewels of 20th Century cinema, they will encounter Darth Vader announcing that he's Luke Skywalker's father.

They will also watch John Travolta throwing shapes in a white suit and a deadpan Leslie Nielsen answering the question: "Surely you can't be serious?" with the words: "I am serious... and don't call me Shirley."

'The Empire Strikes Back', 'Saturday Night Fever' and 'Airplane!' are among 25 new additions to America's National Film Registry announced yesterday by the Library of Congress in Washington.

Original copies of each will be kept safe for viewing by future generations in an archive of titles deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

As ever, the annual list of inductees includes an eclectic mixture of movies from different genres and eras of Hollywood. The oldest title, dating back to 1891, is 'Newark Athlete', a silent clip of a teenager swinging Indian clubs, a contemporary exercise aid. The most recent is 1996's 'Study of a River', an artistic portrayal of the Hudson River by experimental film-maker Peter Hutton. Horror films are represented by 'The Exorcist', comedy by 'The Pink Panther' and historical dramas by Spike Lee's biopic 'Malcolm X' and Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman's Oscar-winning take on Watergate, 'All the President's Men'.

In its annual announcement, the Library of Congress stressed inclusion in the National Film Registry does not mean a work is being heralded as one of the best movies ever made.

Instead, the archive is intended to preserve films deemed to have "artistic, historical, or cultural significance". A committee which includes director Martin Scorsese, film critic Leonard Maltin and actress Alfre Woodard, along with leading film industry figures and the Librarian of Congress James Billington, met in November to select 25 titles from more than 2,100 nominated by the public.

To merit consideration, a film must have been made more than a decade ago and given a theatrical release. "Somebody has to be the institutional memory of the country," Mr Billington said. "And that's pretty much what Congress has empowered its library to do and to be."

The Film Registry, established in 1989 contains 550 titles. Some of each year's crop of inductees tends to reflect news developments during the previous 12 months. For example, Leslie Neilsen, the star of 'Airplane!' and Blake Edwards, the writer and director of 'The Pink Panther', both died recently.

Fans of 'The Empire Strikes Back' are celebrating the film's 30th birthday and have long lobbied for the film to join 'Star Wars' in the archive. 'The Exorcist' benefited from a PR push this year when an extended version was released on Blu Ray.

Irish Independent

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