Most people don’t realize how fragile film history is, and it’s not just because the third DVD in a row arrived in two pieces from Netflix. When I was a kid, Eagle Pennell’s 1978 “The Whole Shooting Match” (released in New York in 1979), made for around $30,000, was written up all in the film magazines I read about the films that would never have come to my part of Kentucky. This slacker avant-le-lettre Austin fable was obscure then and would remain obscure now if not for the discovery of a mint print of the shot-on-16mm black-and-white, and the digital restoration of its gamy glories. Of Pennell (1952-2002), writer Paul Cullum, an Austin peer, wrote, “the man belonged in the Alcohol of Fame; he put pop alcoholics like us to shame.” Cullum also got confirmation that this quote from Robert Redford was indeed about the troubled Pennell: “I thought a real service to the industry would be to provide a guy like that with a place to train, a place to go where he could develop his skills. It would shortcut a lot of the problems he was going to be facing.” Voila: Sundance. But voila aussi: “The Whole Shooting Match,” which also inspired the similarly shaggy but much more prolific filmic ambitions of another Austin cineaste, Richard Linklater. This profane charmer is still inspiring, and it’s terrific that Mark Rance’s Watchmaker Films is putting both this and Pennell’s second feature, “Last Night at the Alamo,” out for a new generation of potential regional filmmakers to admire. Watch the trailer for a taste (watchmakerfilms.com/trailer.html); fall in love with it this week at Siskel. The “chinchilla/flying squirrel” exchange in the trailer between the effortlessly charming Lou Perryman and Sonny Carl Davis is only a modest sample. 109m. (Ray Pride)
The restored digital version (including soundtrack) of “The Whole Shooting Match” starts Friday at Siskel. Rance will appear at Friday’s showings to describe the difference between film and digital restoration.