“Over eighty percent of silent films are lost. I’ve always considered a lost film as a narrative with no known final resting place — doomed to wander the landscape of film history, sad, miserable and unable to project itself to the people who might love it.” Only Canadian director Guy Maddin can make a filmmaker’s frustrating, unrealized dream project sound like a beautiful, but haunting, reverie. His Spiritismes project at the Centre Pompidou in Paris runs until March 12 and invites visitors to behold the creation of a new film. During séances (yes, communion with the dead) Maddin and a group of actors (including greats like Udo Kier, Charlotte Rampling, and many more) will become “possessed by the wandering spirits … to bring their movies back to life.” Maddin will be composing one film a day based on the supernatural experiences. If you’re crying, because Paris is far away and no one loves you enough to send you there, take heed of this live streaming website — broadcasting from 11 AM to 9 PM (6 AM to 3 PM ET).
We wanted to examine a few famous films that have been lost to the studio fires, oceans, and mismanaged hands of the past. Click through to see what gems we’ve uncovered. We promise the ectoplasm will be minimal.
Freaks director Tod Browning cast “the man of a thousand faces” Lon Chaney in the role of an inspector and a strange, vampiric man in London after Midnight. The last known print of the 1927 film was destroyed in a fire in an MGM vault in 1967. Turner Classic Movies commissioned a restoration in 2002, which produced a “sketch” of the film using still photos and the original script, running under an hour long. Browning loosely remade the movie years later as Mark of the Vampire starring Bela Lugosi in Chaney’s role — which does fill in some of the gaps of the 2002 reconstruction. Still, Chaney’s grotesque transformation — thanks to his skilled use of makeup (the actor usually created his own looks for his films) — is unforgettable in pictures, making us wonder just how amazing he’d be to watch in action.