Monochrome cinema has always created a strange sense of abstract division for modern audiences, presenting a dark reality, jittery, unclear and detached from the contemporary world we see around us. When such images are brought to life with a modern restoration, given a new lick of coloured paint and spliced with a new frame rate, a profound truth can often be extracted from the oldest cinematic artefacts.
Such was demonstrated in Peter Jackson’s technological marvel They Shall Not Grow Old, a fascinating restoration project that saw the Lord of the Rings director take old WWI footage from the front line and commemorate the lives of the soldiers by colourising and modernising the videos. In the restoration of footage, colourising the war efforts that had only ever been seen in murky black and white, Jackson was able to extract a surreal truth that transcended time and space, acting as an invaluable piece of historical evidence.
Similar such noble projects are being carried out by filmmakers across the world, with Jackson taking part in a similar film in 2021 with The Beatles: Get Back in which he restored the practice footage from the iconic band that included John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison. Distribution company Criterion has seized the marvel at such technological leaps, restoring countless films to contemporary 4K glory, receiving an air of quality the original filmmakers could only dream of.
These feats can also be found across the landscape of YouTube, with budding editors now able to transform old footage to modern standards, with the short film from 1905, Le déjeuner de minet (Girl shares her breakfast with the cat) being distributed on the site after receiving a restoration from Pathé. The short two-minute film features a young girl named Estelle Roy De Menditte as she eats her breakfast before offering the final few morsels to her pet cat.
Made in October 1905 in Troyes, France, it is not known who made the film, though excited commentators online have reported that it may just be the first-ever cat video ever captured on film. This is particularly true, as whilst it would be hard for the film to have any sort of story, half of the runtime is taken up by the cameraperson having an intense preoccupation with the activity of the cat itself.
The nature of restoration is truly bizarre, with the colourisation of this film giving it a new lease of life, allowing modern audiences to view the film as if it had been made yesterday.
This remarkable film joins the likes of the film Snow Battle from Auguste and Louis Lumière, a film that went viral in 2020 due to its remarkable restoration that reveals extraordinary details behind the original version. In colouring the film and improving the frame rate, modern audiences were transported to rural France to experience a charming and genuinely quite funny snowball fight over a century since its creation.
See the film, below.