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A scene from the 1937 film Crossroads, starring Bai Yang and Zhao Dan.
One of the highlights of this year's Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) is the screening of three films from the 1930s and 40s, which were restored jointly with Jaeger-Lecoultre, a Swiss luxury watch and clock manufacturer.
The works are the products of the Classic Movie Restoration Program, launched at SIFF last year.
"Both a luxury watch and an old film need good care to keep them working well," says Daniel Chang, Jaeger-Lecoultre's managing director for China. "Also, they both require the inheritance of exquisite and subtle techniques."
Crossroads is the oldest film on the list, directed by Shen Xiling in 1937. Starring Bai Yang and Zhao Dan, the film exemplifies the trend of Chinese films in the mid-1930s, which incorporated allusions to the war with Japan.
The other two, A Spring River Flows East and Eight Thousand Li of Cloud and Moon, were both made in 1947.
A Spring River Flows East, directed by Zheng Junli and Cai Chusheng, portrays the trials and tribulations of an ordinary Shanghai family over a decade, while Eight Thousand Li of Cloud and Moon depicts how a woman lived her dreams during World War II.
China Film Archive and Laser S. Film, an Italian company based in Rome and specializing in post-production and film restoration, repaired the films.
To support the restoration, Jaeger-Lecoultre worked with SIFF to initiate a charity auction at this year's festival opening night, where the watch brand sold its latest women watch series, Rendez-Vous Night & Day, for 580,000 yuan ($92,000).
"Rendez-Vous means 'a date', and Jaeger-LeCoultre considers the cooperation with SIFF a sweet date," CEO Jerome Lambert says.
Jaeger-LeCoultre offered a Duomtre Quantime Lunaire last year, which was sold at 600,000 yuan.
Several filmmakers and celebrities also donated souvenirs for auction.
Director Jia Zhangke put a valuable camera, which captured his glorious days at various international film festivals, under the hammer. Zhang Zilin, Miss World 2007, donated her red carpet dress from the 2011 SIFF. Director Wang Quan'an contributed a viewfinder.
According to Tang Lijun, managing director of SIFF, the idea of restoring classic Chinese films first came about during a meeting in 2006 with Marco Muller, former director of the Venice Film Festival and an expert on Chinese cinema. Muller had told Tang that Venice festival was restoring some Chinese films with fashion brand Prada.
Five years later, Tang turned to SIFF's official partner Jaeger-Lecoultre and reached an agreement on the restoration program. She appreciates Jaeger-LeCoultre's enthusiasm for the project.
"Thanks to Jaeger-LeCoultre's efforts, more than 100 media organizations interviewed China Film Archive last year, raising public awareness of the project," she says.
The 179-year-old watch brand has been passionate about cinema for a long time. Its collaboration with the Venice International Film Festival started in 2004, with the restoration of classic Italian films, awards to outstanding filmmakers and documentaries about them.
Its cooperation with the most esteemed film festivals in China is also motivated by the market's great potential.
"The collaboration with SIFF to restore more Chinese films increases Jaeger-LeCoultre's footprint and presence in China, one of our fastest growing markets in the world," Lambert says.
The festival will add seven more films to their restoration roster next year, increasing the number up to 10 before 2014. But they have not disclosed the titles.
The films will be screened at the World Cruise of Jaeger-LeCoultre's Rehabilitation of Chinese Classic Films event at the 2014 SIFF.