A Nitrate Noctourne from the Turconi Collection


I had no idea what the hell the Turconi Collection even was, I had to research it!

This database is a record of the 35mm nitrate film frame clippings collected by Italian film historian Davide Turconi (1911-2005) from the Josef Joye Collection in Switzerland and from other unidentified sources. The collection consists of 23,491 clippings in total (usually two to three frames each). The vast majority of the frames cover the early years of cinema (from ca. 1897 to 1915); however, some items in the collection represent films produced as late as 1944.

Upon inspection, Turconi found many of the prints to be in advanced stages of decomposition. He arranged for some of the Italian films to be duplicated on safety film stock in Italy, and approached a number of other archives to preserve the rest of the collection. However, given the expenses involved with a large number of prints, no institution could undertake such a project at the time. Finding no means of saving the collection as a whole, Turconi resorted to a desperate step: he cut frames from the films and carefully organized them in envelopes by title and date (when identifiable) in order to preserve in fragments what he feared would soon disappear. Fortunately, many of the remaining prints did survive, and in 1976 — at the instigation of British filmmaker David Mingay — the remainder of the Joye Collection was rescued by David Francis, then Curator of the National Film Archive at the British Film Institute in London.

The gist of this is the images below — strips from the Turconi library’s nitrate film selection in various stages of decay:

I never really new of nitrate film to be so beautiful.

Thanks, 50 Watts!

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