Movie buffs should find special interest in this documentary directed by Bill Morrison and rich in cinema history. So should film preservationists. “Dawson City: Frozen Time” is both a colorful excursion into the silent movie past and also the story of Dawson City itself, located in northwestern Canada and once a colorful gold rush center, later with subsequent highs and lows.
Back in 1978 when digging was done for construction, an important film discovery was made. There were cans of silent films found buried. The trove was traced to the days when silent films became part of the past, and as the movie companies sometimes no longer wanted them returned from theaters, they were simply dumped. The films were found to be in various stages of deterioration, some better preserved than others.
Morrison has taken those films and used excerpts from them to recall those long-considered-gone silents, and added other clips from the silent era to construct a fascinating film. In the process he has also used footage that tells the story of Dawson City.
The result is a unique film that covers much ground, cinematic and sociological. There is some feeling of repetition that sets in during the film’s two-hour running time, but on the whole there is great pleasure in viewing this impressive archaeological movie dig. A Kino Lorber release. Reviewed June 9, 2017.