Every year the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress selects 25 American films deemed important enough, for a variety of reasons, to preserve. It tends to be a mix of heavy-hitters, modern classics and obscure (read: silent era or alternative). This year is no different. Along with the “The Quiet Man,” “Forbidden Planet,” “Mary Poppins,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, “Roger & Me” and “Pulp Fiction,” this year’s lot also includes a batch of Martha Graham dance shorts, Adam Davidson’s student film “The Lunch Date” and the 1962 Dizzy Gillespie-scored animated short “The Hole.”
The most appropriate addition is “Decasia,” a 2002 found footage feature by Bill Morrison comprised entirely of film that has decayed in frightening yet oddly beautiful ways. This is the very effect the National Film Registry hopes to stop — and yet the saving of “only” 25 films serves to remind how much of our film history today remains utterly lost. Only two weeks ago the Registry revealed that a mere 14% of Hollywood’s silent era films exist in their original, full-length forms today, with only another 11% in altered or incomplete forms. It’s also worth remembering that this protects only American movies; foreign films are at the mercy of their respective countries, some of whom don’t have a system to save and preserve them.
Also on the list are some underknown classics, among them William Wellman’s Depression-era “Wild Boys of the Road” (1933), a sprightly but grim look at runaway kids riding the rails; and “Midnight,” an ace 1939 semi-screwball comedy co-written by Billy Wilder with Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche.
The full list can be read here.
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