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Newly renovated Cinematek ready for 9 June reopening

05:55 08/06/2021

Brussels’ Cinematek has taken advantage of the enforced closure during the pandemic to completely renovate its two screening rooms, overhaul its website and obtain the Brussels Health Safety Label for its coronavirus protocols.

With its 800,000 films and 80,000 unique titles, the Royal Cinémathèque of Belgium (Cinematek) is one of the biggest and most eclectic film collections in the world, and it is the only cinematheque which still offers regularly scheduled silent film screenings with live piano accompaniment.

Conservateur Tomas Leyers told The Bulletin: “We had the fire in Bozar [in January] which gave us some substantial damage in the venues. We took the time to refurbish the venue with new seats, new carpets, new ceiling. It’s all spick and span and new.”

The reopening on 9 June features the premiere of the latest restoration and digitalisation of André Delvaux's first fiction film, L'Homme au crâne rasé (The Man with the Shaved Head).

Released in 1965, the director’s debut film was one of the first Belgian films to make an international splash. It won the Sutherland Trophy at the British Film Institute Awards and the Young Critic's Award at the Pesaro film festival, the Mostra Internazionale del Nuovo Cinema di Pesaro.

The also film received the Khalimer Grand Prix at the Hyères Young Cinema Festival and the Special Outstanding International Jury Prize at the Mannheim International Film Festival, and finally the Antwerp Film Festival Grand Prix, all in 1966.

The restoration of the film itself has also been selected for a Bologna award, in Found and Restored section.

Also opening on 9 June is an exhibition on the life and work of Fernand Schirren (1920-2001, pictured), the pianist who perfected the art of improvisation when accompanying silent movies. Cinematek is publishing the first edition of the original calligraphic manuscript "The Pianist accompanying Silent Films" by Schirren.

This composer-musician was chief pianist of the Cinema Museum (as Cinematek was called at the time) from 1962 until 1982 and wrote the text to inspire budding film pianists. An eccentric musician and composer, he didn’t follow a traditional approach focused on history, but rather gave flight to his avant-garde impulses. He was also the rhythm teacher for Maurice Béjart and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and other contemporary performers.

As well as featuring the book, the exhibition showcases personal objects, film sequences and archival documents. The exhibition will be held from 9 June to 31 August.

On 10 June, as part of the Nocturnes of the Brussels Museums, guided tours of the new exhibition and the permanent collection will be organised.  In addition to the guided tour, two silent films will be shown that evening to complete the experience.

Cinematek’s website has been completely overhauled so that not only is it much easier to access information on the screenings and to reserve seats, but the website is also loaded with behind-the-scenes reporting.

Top photo: Francine D'Hulst

Written by Richard Harris