About the Film
Italian Straw Hat has been heralded since its release as a gem. Edmond Epardaud wrote that “René Clair founded a new genre” and, in 1929, Charles de St. Cyr called it a “comic masterpiece of French cinema.” The Museum of Modern Art’s Iris Barry observed in 1940 about the film’s rich saturation in nostalgia, “scene after scene painstakingly and brilliantly captures the very atmosphere and flavor of pictures taken 30 years earlier, as when the Lumière employees walked out of their factory at lunch-time and were eternally caught and recorded by the motion picture in a sunlit moment of time.” It stood up thirty years later when Pauline Kael called it “very simply one of the funniest films ever made.”
About the Restoration
For years it has been difficult, if not impossible, to see the original version of René Clair’s masterful The Italian Straw Hat. Instead, American viewers have had to be satisfied with either the alternate version that was released in the United States in 1931, or hybrids that supplement the American version with additional footage. This brand new restoration brings Clair’s original French version to modern audiences using the finest original material possible: the film’s original camera negative and original French title negative, both of which are preserved at the Cinémathèque Française. As sparkling as these original materials are, there were a small number of instances where chemical decomposition rendered a shot or title unusable. In these instances material from a diacetate positive print replaced the damaged shots. Two insert cards, a wedding invitation and the front cover of sheet music, were also incorporated from the camera negative of an export release. A collaboration between the Cinémathèque française and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the complete French version of The Italian Straw Hat can be seen for the first time since 1928, at the correct projection speed of 19 fps and with the original color tinting scheme. A new 35mm preservation negative was created to ensure long-term survival of René Clair’s most celebrated film.