On the edge of the artwork and its indispensable documentation

By Alexandre Ramos Vasques

My masters dissertation, “Nos rastros de Limite: um estudo de caso na história da preservação das imagens em movimento no Brasil” [1], intended to approach some aspects of movies preservation in Brazil, focusing on the history of Limite’s (Mário Peixoto, 1931) preservation.

Aiming to present a study of part of filmic materials of Limite, seeking to outline a chronological map of the interventions and manipulations suffered by the artwork, using the marks, which means, the tracks left in printable negative and positive materials of Limite that we had access, and was deposited at Cinemateca Brasileira and at Cinemateca do MAM.

Facing the number of bibliography about Limite in which highlights the books and articles written by Saulo Pereira de Mello [2], we seek to approach the movie of Mário Peixoto under a different perspective. We seek to combine the knowledge based on silent cinema history in Brazil and its technological development to the concepts and technical terms of the preservation field of the moving images.

The research is academically divided in four chapters, presented in its seconds ans thirds parts a wide and diverse documental repertoire about the movie. In this short text, we will focus in some points of the second chapter of our work- “Limite: Da produção às primeiras exibições” – which seeks, firstly, recover the Brazilian cinematographic context in the years 1920/30 which served as background for the production of Limite, in 1930. The panchromatic emulsion chosen by Mário Peixoto, the use of four different cameras by the photographer Edgar Brasil, the assemblage and the rhythm of the images are precious pieces of information to comprehend the artwork creation.

We extended this second chapter to the first exhibitions of the nitrate copy of Limite. In this part we seek to demonstrate in which way the special nature – non commercial – of these sections contributed in one way, to the movie’s preservation and in the other, to the artwork mythification. To comprehend the impact of the rare exhibitions of Limite in the Brazilian cultural circle, we consulted a wide number of journals between the years of 1930 and 1960.

With respect to the production and the exhibition of Limite, there is two published texts in a CD-ROM Estudos sobre Limite, produced by a Audiovisual Investigation Lab of Universidade Federal Fluminense, in 1998, which are of great importance to the research development, notably of its second chapter. Saulo Pereira de Mello, in his text “Sobre a produção de Limite”, and Lécio Augusto Ramos, with his work “Limite e sua trilha musical”, provides technical aspects about the production and the movies’ projection.

In his text, Saulo informed us, for example, that the camera was “used in the stairs scene [with the Woman number 2 and her pianist husband in the scene]”. According to Saulo, “in the inside recordings, Edgar used skillfully the unraveling such as in the shot case of Brutus Pedreira on the top of the stairs. The technical information regarding the image capture of a movie sequence fits in the segment related to the cameras used in Limite. In our research, we identified the use of four distinct cameras by Edgar. The Ernemann camera, which turned out to be one of the main used in Limite. The Mitchell camera, landed by Adhemar Gonzaga to Mário Peixoto, so he could accomplish a few plans of Limite at Cinédia. Using installments, Mário acquired the hand Kynamo, used by Edgar in the most audacious and risky plans, such as the train wheels’ sequence. And the actor Carmen Santos, who acts in Limite, Mário takes a loan from Debrie Parvo L.

Besides the matter of filming speed e projection, the camera studies could provide us information about technical resources of each machine taking into consideration the sensible movie and accessories set (objectives, filters) available to the photographer in the set.

Taking its turn, the meticulous study of the audible monitoring of Limite, made by the researcher Lécio Augusto Ramos, helps to reinforce the hypothesis that Mário Peixoto had created lately four sequences [3] that never were filmed by Edgar Brasil. Lécio affirms that “relating to the images and its editing, the track of Limite is very strict: the combination in the image track repeats itself in the sound track and also with certain rhythms in the assemblage associate to the musical rhythm changes”. Besides, according to Lécio, the musical compilation of Limite came with a note of Brutus Pereira, which recommended: “if the last record of any of the eight parts of the movie finished before the indications, restart to play it until the indication is mentioned. The original records should start in the corresponding indication, whatever is the point where the previous record is “.

The first projection of the assembled copy of Limite, occurred at Cinema Capitólio, on May 17th of 1931, with the conventional record’s execution with 78 rotations per minute. Therefore, if the sound drawing was constructed in accordance with the images, it was pretty likely that the development of the “unfinished” visual copy did not match with the sound track, a fact that is missing in the documents we consulted. Meeting Lécio’s research, Saulo’s text provides us with the same information about the technical aspect of the sound reproduction of Limite, in its first projection.

To know and to identify, in each sequence of Limite, the cameras used by Edgar Brasil, and having access to the execution map of soundtrack chosen by Brutus Pedeira and Mário Peixoto, takes part of a work strategy that seeks to bound chains production/exhibition/preservation. Objectively, we associated the image filmed by the four cameras of Limite to the synchronised songs, assembled to the image during its execution, combining definitely the image capture speed of each one of the cameras to the image speed and sound projection of the artwork. Understanding conceptually how a diffusion of an audiovisual artwork impacted about the same preservation, we comprehend the importance of collecting and registering of this type of technical documented information.

By finishing our research regarding the production tracks, its technical choices, its manipulations yet made by Edgar Brasil [4], duplicating sections in advanced stages of deterioration, and the processes that evolved physical restoration of Limite, taken by Saulo and Plínio, we realize the introductory character of our venture. The types of identified events and its frequency during the analysis of the positive and negative rolls in the winder table presented a complexity that deserves to be deepened.

The evidence gathering of the first sensible materials that formed the images of Limite represents, under this point of view, a contribution to the silent brazilian cinema history, because, beyond problematize some issues related to the filmic material of Limite, our study could point some ways to be explored by the next researchers.

In the methodological point of view, our research proves the size and relevance of work documentation about a movie. The document collecting, its labeling, and its conservation, giving access to the information to the interested public is a fundamental work developed in the film library and in the film archives. By assembling a considerable number of works and researches about Limite, the CD-ROM Estudos sobre Limite, updating with the transferring of its content to a website, is inserted in an invaluable documental “treasure map” that makes the eyes of any researcher interested in Limite or in the Brazilian Cinema History glow.

[ 1 ] Masters dissertation defended by the author in September 2012 in the Post-Graduation Program in Image and Sound, string of research History and audiovisual Politics, of São Carlos Federal University. Available here.

[ 2 ] Saulo Pereira de Mello (1933-2020) – Dean of Brazilian audiovisual preservation, restorer, essayist, researcher, thinker and documentalist. His dedication to Mário Peixoto’s artwork preservation is so intense from the years of 1950 that his personal path confuses with the series that he always represented and defended Limite of disappearing.

[ 3 ] Letter of Mario Peixoto of March 1st of 1980. Document deposited at Hemeroteca of Cinemateca Brasileira. Four unpublished parts described by Mário Peixoto in 1980’s letter to justify the exhibition of Limite unfinished in 1931. Saulo, in an interview authorised by the author, remembers his almost obsessed wishes of Mário to return to his artworks (audiovisual and literary), giving to them an unfinished status.

[ 4 ] Until the year of his death, in 1954.

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