Surrounded by growing hordes of cold-hearted, computer-wielding opportunists eager to digitally alter classic films, indulge their modern whims, and reap ill-gotten profits, a rebel filmmaker stood before Congress in 1988 and argued that the madness must stop: “People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians,” he said, his voice no doubt taking on an emotional, Jimmy Stewart-like quaver. “And if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society.”
Stirring words, and an impassioned argument levied against that decade’s trend of colorizing black-and-white films, lest those “defacements” presage even more endless tinkering with the films of the past, and they fall irrevocably into the hands of “egotistical gangsters” who would seek to “change our cultural heritage to suit their personal taste.” And that argument came from George Lucas, whose speech—dredged up by the site Save Star Wars, in the wake of Lucas’ most recently revealed alterations to his works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power—now reads more like a statement of intent:
“These current defacements are just the beginning. Today, engineers with their computers can add color to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder. Tomorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with ‘fresher faces,’ or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor’s lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new ‘original’ negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires….
In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be ‘replaced’ by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten…. Attention should be paid to the interest of those who are yet unborn, who should be able to see this generation as it saw itself, and the past generation as it saw itself.”
Still, while George Lucas does seem to be warning people of the future about George Lucas, it must be noted that his speech was primarily about the artist’s rights to preserve his own work—which also includes the right to make any alterations he desires. And most importantly, while he may have once believed “our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten,” he certainly said nothing about making it more special. Everything’s better when it’s special. [via /Film]
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