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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

[OnePiece] Mark Rance on restoring The Whole Shootin' Match digitally

Most people don’t realize how fragile film history is, and it’s not about the third DVD in a row arriving in two pieces from Netflix. When I was a kid, Eagle Pennell’s 1978 The Whole Shootin’ Match (released in New York in 1979), made for around $30,000, was written up in all the film magazines that I read to read about the films that would never have come to my part of Kentucky. This slacker avant le lettre Austin fable was obscure then (even with a Vincent Canby notice) and would remain obscure to this day if not for the discovery of a mint print of the shot-on-16mm black-and-white film, and the digital restoration of its gamy glories by veteran DVD producer Mark Rance, who’s just launched his Watchmaker Films DVD label with a pleasing three-disc set devoted to the feature, its music, and a new documentary on Pennell’s slow, if spirited, dive into failure.

The DVD booket is rich with background, including bits from Austin’s legendary journalist Louis Black. Paul Cullum, an Austin peer, writes that “the man belonged in the Alcohol of Fame; he put pop alcoholics like us to shame.” Cullum got confirmation that this quote from Robert Redford was indeed about the troubled Pennell: “I thought a real service to the industry would be to provide a guy like that with a place to train, a place to go where he could develop his skills. It would shortcut a lot of the problems he was going to be facing.” Voila: Sundance.
But voila aussi: The Whole Shootin’ Match, which also inspired the similarly shaggy but much more prolific filmic ambitions of another Austin cineaste, Richard Linklater. This rambling, profane charmer of a film is still an inspiration, and it’s terrific that it’s out for a new generation of potential regional filmmakers to admire. (And a Texas-size cautionary tale to boot.) [Interview shot at Chicago’s Siskel Film Center.]

[Below, Rance describes “frame-based” restoration.]


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