Filmarchiv Leuzinger

Ben Hur exhibited at Meisterschwanden, Switzerland, May 1930, from

I was introduced to this website a while ago (by its author), and thought you ought to know about it. The subject of Filmarchiv Leuzinger is a small town family cinema business from Rapperswil, Switzerland. It was founded by restaurant owner Willy Leuzinger, who began organising film screenings in his restaurant in 1909, going on to open two cinemas in the Lake Zurich district. In 1919 he began a touring cinema business, the Wanderkino Leuzinger, which dominated film exhibition in north-eastern Switzerland from the mid-1920s to 1943. Leuzinger was also a filmmaker, shooting many local topicals (local newsfilms) throughout the 1920s, around eighty of which survive. After Willy Leuzinger’s death in 1935, his eldest daughter took over, and today his granddaughter Marianne Hegi still runs three cinemas, in Rapperswil and Altdorf.

The Wanderkino Leuzinger in 1923

All of this is a charming story, but in the hands of Mariann Lewinsky Sträuli it has been turned into an eye-catching and evocative website. Filmarchiv Leuzinger (click on the Übersicht link to find the main ‘archive’ page) arranges an archive of family memorabilia – biographies, photographs, documents, music, background information and film clips in thematic columns to create an innovative and enticingly explorable site that opens up the Leuzinger’s world. The film clips (in QuickTime format, with MPEG-4, DVD-quality downloadable versions also available) show local festivals, parades, fairs, gynmatic events, and so on, each meticulously described. Every clip, image, audio file or other link leads to a page of information (with larger versions of the images), progressively building up a resonant picture of time, place and occupation.

It is a delightful site, quite an inspiration in conception and design. Unfortunately for the linguistically-challenged English speaker, it is in German. But don’t let that deter – it’s clear enough just from looking that it is a fine piece of social and cinema history (the numerous photographs of cinemas in the 1920s and 30s will delight many), put together with a loving archivst’s care. Mariann Lewinsky Sträuli prrogrammes section of Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, teaches film history at the University of Zurich and directs restoration projects at Memoriav, the Swiss audiovisual heritage organisation.

Go explore.

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