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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Is Michael Jackson the new Virgin Mary? (and other mysteries of art restoration)

Horror looks you right between the eyes Youre paralyzed
  • Montage by GW
  • Horror looks you right between the eyes You're paralyzed

The recent story of a well-intentioned parishioner's ill-fated attempt to restore a damaged 120-year-old fresco of Jesus in a Spanish Church tore through the internet, and traded up the news scale becoming a Web-sation and the target of ridicule from art historical neophytes and experts alike.

The final painting, though abstract and decidedly incomplete, bears a striking resemblance to late period Michael Jackson. (Is this what Jesus would look like after plastic surgery?)

Rather than cop to the bungled touch-up, amateur restorer Cecilia Giménez should have claimed that the visage of MJ just appeared—like a Festivus Miracle!

The Vatican has issued rules to evaluate authenticity of Mary Sightings, so how long can it be until the Recording Academy follows suit for MJ Sightings?

While far from doing irreparable to a one-of-a-kind site specific painting like a fresco, digital restoration of classic films have the ability to threaten the artistic vision of the creator

A few weeks back, NPR ran a terrific piece about film restoration which includes the following:

Take Blue Velvet. Lynch's film, which explores the dark underbelly of a small town, opens with Bobby Vinton's sweet song "Blue Velvet" and bright shots of blue sky, manicured lawns and picket fences. Then its colors darken and actually get murky as the hero discovers the town's seedy underbelly.

"If they brightened up the scenes and the colors seemed sort of cheerier," Sweeney argues, the changes would affect the whole film.

"These are ways in which spectators just aren't conscious of how they are influenced by sound or color. But a filmmaker of David's caliber is very aware of that, very intentional in the way he uses it."

Blue Velvet has been re-released in high definition, but Lynch and members of the film crew were involved in the process. What worries Sweeney is that after Lynch is gone, and the technology keeps changing, the studio is likely to look for new ways to re-release his films using the latest technology

"Someone sitting in an office in a studio thinking, 'How can I exploit our library' — those people are interested in the financial well-being of the studio," Sweeney says. They won't necessarily be interested in David Lynch's artistic vision.

On the Arthouse Convergence chat boards, an inside baseball forum for theatre managers and the like, scholar David Bordwell conveyed the following anecdote regarding restoration:

There's a story, I hope not apocryphal, about Jack Clayton called in to supervise digital restoration on one of the films he shot. He stopped the playback and pointed: "That yellow is wrong." So the colorist fiddled with it. Every day Clayton would come in, look at the new results, and say, "Still not right." Finally, after several days, the colorist confessed, "I'm sorry, Mr. Clayton, I just can't get it."
"Yeah," Clayton says. "Neither could I."

Finally, because it's just too good to be true, here's Mr. Bean's prescient version of how such a restoration happens, with a (hat tip to CNN):

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