“That’s why you should never throw anything away,” adds Dixon.
Restorations such as “The Hitchcock 9” use digital technology, which Dixon says has changed the process “utterly.” Image quality can be improved, titles restored and tints and tones reproduced. But the BFI still makes film prints for institutions such as the AFI and the National Gallery, which are showing the silents in 35mm.“This will become more important,” Dixon says. “It will become more of an occasion to see film on film. There will be specialist institutions that will probably be the only places to screen film on film.”
Horne has finished his D.C. run, but the local screenings of all the Hitchcock silents will feature live musical accompaniment. In London, new scores were commissioned for the films, composed by such contemporary British musicians as Nitin Sawhney and Soweto Kinch. But only four of the nine BFI restorations will be released with synchronized scores.
“We spent all the money on the films,” Dixon says. “We commissioned scores for the live events, but getting stuff recorded with multiple musicians is incredibly expensive.”
For the BFI, there’s one more piece of unfinished business: the director’s one other silent film, shot in Germany and Austria in 1926.
“It’s gone,” the film restorer says. “We’ve searched high and low, for decades and decades. Still no sign of ‘The Mountain Eagle.’ We keep looking.”
Hitchcock described the movie in interviews he did with fellow directors and admirers Francois Truffaut and Peter Bogdanovich. “He didn’t like it very much,” Dixon says.
“I almost wish that we don’t find it, in a funny kind of way,” she muses. “It’s more interesting as a mystery than as discovery.”
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
“The Hitchcock 9” series
continues this weekend with “Champagne” (4 p.m. Saturday at the AFI) and “Downhill” (4 p.m. Sunday at the National Gallery of Art).