Raiding The Lost Archives
Call me a swot, but the most exciting film news so far this week has been the announcement that Richard Lester – the Anglophile American director who brought the Beatles to the screen, before adding his pop-art humour to Musketeers and Kryptonian superheroes – has donated his archive to the BFI.
I love archives. I love the wodge of random stuff (letters, photos, designs, scribbled notes, maybe the occasional prop) they contain. They’re a treasure trove of things, and things are worth treasuring. I once spent a happy afternoon at the Stanley Kubrick Archive rifling through boxes full of draft screenplays for what became Eyes Wide Shut, seeing the story chop and change until it began to crystallise into his finished form.
But it got me thinking. Are today’s directors hoarding this bric-a-brac in the same way? When everything’s emailed, we have to rely on people backing important messages up on disc, or killing a few trees in order to print it all out. And, arguably, a lot of the material such archives cover end up scanned and summarised on DVD extras. Back in the Sixties, when Lester and Kubrick were in their prime, there simply wasn’t the outlet, which is why it all got bunged into boxes to be rediscovered decades later by eager geeks and scholars.
Fortunately, I’ve purloined a time machine and fast-forwarded fifty years into the future, to see whether today’s talents have remembered to look after their legacy. The results are illuminating…
Box consists entirely of a single extended scroll of 1980s computer paper, listing Quentin Tarantino’s favourite films, with certain titles (The Taking of Pelham 123, Bande A Part) scribbled out.
A collector’s paradise: A signed photo of Bruce Campbell. Original, unopened Star Wars figures. A vintage Sega Megadrive. Independent experts value the haul at around $1 million.
Hundreds of photos of autopsies, indexed by age, gender and injury.
A map, marked with an X. [On investigation, that location turns up a buried suitcase containing tickets to Bolivia and directions to a bar in La Paz. We took the trip, but the bar was boarded up, with only a hieroglyphic spray-painted onto the wall. At which point we got bored and went home.]
Under a sheaf of boxing match posters, we find a stack of sealed video games with a post-it note stuck to the top: “meine folgenden fünf Filme!”
M. Night Shyamalan
99% is meticulously arranged storyboards, scripts and production files. However, lurking at the bottom of the box is a scrawled drawing of Bruce Willis crying, marked with the caption, “I made this!”
An unusual looking memory stick, which isn’t compatible with any modern computers. Underneath, a letter, on which Cameron has written, “The technology to access this should be ready by 2100, 2090 if you’re lucky.”
The branch of a sycamore tree and a postcard of a cow in a field. The back reads, “My darling D, the seasons adjust. Yours, Aunt Maeve.”
An impeccably researched thesis entitled, “Meaning and Madness in the Films of Michael Haneke.” The author: one Herr M. Haneke.
Nothing but unused explosives.