It should come as no surprise to his fans that Canadian auteur Guy Maddin is a champion of film restoration and preservation, nor that he is keenly interested in lost films. After all, his own kinky, surreal motion pictures, like Careful, often look as if they were made at the very dawn of cinema itself. New York’s Museum Of Modern Art has invited Maddin to be one of the presenters at its current exhibition “To Save And Project: The 13th MOMA International Festival Of Film Preservation.” The eccentric Canadian filmmaker will introduce two rarely seen silent productions: 1922’s Pan, an adaptation of a novel by Norwegian author Knut Hamsun, and 1924’s Monsieur Don’t Care, a short comedy featuring Stan Laurel in his days before joining forces with Oliver Hardy.
Indiewire‘s Paula Bernstein recently spoke to Maddin about these films in particular and the director’s fixation on lost movies in general. Pan, it turns out, has special significance for Maddin, as he unsuccessfully tried to adapt the novel himself back in the 1990s. The resulting movie, called Twilight Of The Ice Nymphs for copyright reasons, was both a financial and artistic disaster for Maddin, but he seems to bear no grudge against the novel nor its extremely long-lived author. As for Maddin’s devotion to extremely old films, that corresponds to another common motif in his work: ghosts. As he explains to Bernstein:
Whether the original subject is dead or not, it’s just someone that’s not really there. And then when that thing that represents something that’s no longer there is also lost, it’s kind of a double haunting. It’s just a ghost raised to the power of two. It’s a ghost of a ghost you’re haunted by when you think of a lost movie.
What compels Maddin most about the Stan Laurel movie, meanwhile, is that it’s “the fragment of a lost film.” Lost films are the basis for Maddin’s most recent motion picture, The Forbidden Room, which he co-directed with Evan Johnson. Maddin had not even seen the 1924 film when he signed on to appear at the MOMA festival, but he says, “I’m keen to experience it.”