By Joshua Jones, Contributing Writer
In the relatively short history of cinema, many films have already been thought to have been lost forever. There are countless pictures that the audiences of today will never be able to experience. Unfortunately for both the modern fan of cinema and those trying to study film, these potentially brilliant artistic statements have been swept away by the sands of time. However, one college in America is actively trying to restore such films.
The UCLA Film and Television Archive has dedicated itself to restoring and preserving films of all kinds, especially those which have been thought to have disappeared. From works created by early female directors to the works of Laurel and Hardy, UCLA has restored numerous films that were, until recently, unavailable to the viewing public.
The Metrograph, a theater in downtown Manhattan known for its revivals of classic cinema, often in 35mm print, is now giving New Yorkers a chance to experience these hidden gems. The UCLA Festival of Preservation comes to The Metrograph in its biannual tour to showcase brand new prints and restorations, some of which date back to as far as 1911.
Juleen Compton’s “Stranded” is one of the films being showcased. “Stranded” is Compton’s directorial debut, who also wrote and starred in the film. The film revolves around Raina (Compton), a former Broadway actress exploring the Greek islands with her lover and their French friend. The trio make several stops along the way for affairs, dancing and a drug sequence that has a David Lynch-esque surrealism, 12 years before Lynch made his debut.
Like the characters drifting along the Mediterranean sea, the plot moves aimlessly, journeying from one Greek island to the next with little sense of purpose. While this may have been an intentional stylistic choice, as Raina herself seems to be missing a tangible goal, it still does not make for an enjoyable plot. The characters have very little, if any, development over the course of the film and the majority of the film goes by without any stakes to the actions of the characters.
However, what the film lacks in narrative, it makes up for in technical skill. “Stranded” features beautiful cinematography, often capturing amazing views of Greek landscapes. Even shots without anything grand being shown are handled so gracefully that they come out looking incredible. These images are further enhanced by being presented on glorious 35mm film and accompanied by a dynamic score from John Sakellarides.
While the movie is far from perfect, it nevertheless manages to be a prime example of the rise of experimental filmmaking in the 1960s. It also displays a promising start for a director with potential that had not yet been fully realized. Juleen Compton would go on to direct such films as “The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean,” which offers viewers the same dreamlike and carefree atmosphere as her debut, “Stranded.”
The UCLA Festival of Preservation opens at the Metrograph at 7 Ludlow St. on Friday, Sep. 15.