Widescreen Weekend 2000 Review
Pictureville, Bradford, England
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
|Readers letters. Pictures by: Thomas Hauerslev||Issue 61, June 2000|
Guest of honour, film director Ken Annakin inspects 70mm print of “Battle of the Bulge”.
I thought the Bradford Wide Screen Weekend 2000 was terrific. How wonderful to see the movies one made for the cinema instead of all the little multiplex houses, video or cable. As I looked at many of the scenes in “Battle of the Bulge” the thought passed through my mind - how the hell did we set up that scene with all its tanks and action?! And I remember in the ”Magnificent Men” sequence of the day the planes were to take off. I thought, “Those 50 or 60 veteran cars, we persuaded them to drive around our airfield, on their way back from the Brighton Rally, and we had a crowd of 2000 plus our 20 old planes...and on that Cinerama screen we saw them all!!!!”
That is what picture making should be all about, and it is no longer - or very rarely.
Beverly Hills, California, USA
Further in 70mm reading:
Widescreen Weekend, Bradford, England
Widescreen Weekend Archive
Projecting The Wide Screen Weekend
Planning The Wide Screen Weekend
Creating the Wide Screen Weekend
More 70mm Festivals!
John Belton, author of Widescreen Moview
This was my first trip to Bradford and I don't think I had ever seen so many large format films together at one time. The experience was so powerful that I must admit that seeing a few short films in the program in 35mm was a dramatic let-down.
Though faded, "Windjammer" was a reel treat--cramped quarters below deck were even more claustrophobic than I remembered; on-deck scenes and port visits became explosive bursts of open-ended space by comparison. The Technicolor print of "How the West was Won" gave some idea of what the film looked like back in the 1960s. It was interesting to see how the John Ford segment used diagonal staging in depth for each of the side panels, leading the eye into the background. You can actually feel the image pulling the eye into depth in different directions.
Director Ken Annakin was a real pleasure--there's an intelligence and generosity to him that are also core elements of his films. "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" and "Battle of the Bulge" were both machine-spectacles (airplanes and tanks). Annakin seems to have a fascination for these products of the 20th Century. Though he spoke of the tanks as "monsters," I suspect he is partially entranced with them. Unfortunately, I had to leave before "The Longest Day". All in all, it was a very good line-up of films. I came away convinced, more than ever, that we need more 70mm festivals like this so that the current generation of moviegoers (who have never seen 70mm widescreen) can get a sense of the power of that format.
John Belton, New York, USA
Pictureville Was Great
I only saw two films (“Windjammer” and “HTWWW”) but didn't attend any of the lectures or other screenings. I thought Pictureville was great and I'm grateful for places like that, which give us the opportunity to revisit the grandeur of widescreen films as they were meant to be seen.
Gerardo Paron, Los Angeles, USA
A Wonderful Time
Dion Hanson giving a talk
Another great weekend. "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" get my vote as the films of the festival, although the fading on the latter was particularly sad given how gloriously colourful this film should look. "The Longest Day" was a most enjoyable film, but it made a good advert for using 65mm source elements given the size of the grain apparent in the blow-up (particularly on process shots). Cineramacana was a highlight of the weekend yet again. Having said that, I think I've now seen sufficient footage of female Russian parachutists to last a lifetime, thank you.
I suspect, given the ribbing it got, that I was one of the few in the audience who actually quite enjoyed "A Good Ship Citizen". It was very much in the style of Vic Reeves' other (rather silly) comedy output. He's a bit of an acquired taste, though, so I can understand the audience being a little perplexed by it all. Showing the DTS trailers gave a chance for the audience to directly compare digital sound against analogue. The digital sound is very clean, but the treble notes are far too shrill and nowhere near as pleasing to the ear as those produced from magnetic soundtracks. It was pretty clear which format was superior. The news about the virtual inevitability of digital cinema replacing celluloid was particularly depressing. I suggest that we large format fans get organised. How about forming the "70mm Commandos" ? We could all dress up in army uniforms and black berets, and go around the country smashing up digital projectors!
As for next year's festival, I understand that "2001: A Space Odyssey" is (predictably) being re-released in 2001. Hopefully not only will it be released in time for the festival, but also in a 70mm print. I'd also like to see the new 70mm print of "Tron" which Disney re-released recently. The glimpse of "Ice Station Zebra" got me thinking that this wouldn't be a bad choice either (okay, it's not a great film, but it's no worse than, say, "Song of Norway", which was screened last year).
I had only one minor complaint on the whole weekend - the showing of "Keepers of the Frame" from what looked like an NTSC VHS copy. Showing a video copy would have been poor enough without the video recorder deciding to make matter worse with a large line of snow half way through the screening. It was an interesting documentary, but I thought it was a bit cheeky to be charging full price admission given the poor quality of the source.
All in all, though, I had a wonderful time and am looking forward to next year already.
Allan Young, England
A Great Accomplishment
Ken Annakin in conversation with Ingolf Vonau.
Reading through a copy of the Yorkshire Post Supplement for The Bradford Film Festival, confirms that this is an event of international significance throughout the film world, and a great accomplishment for all those involved in what must surely be an exercise of enormous complexity. Securing sponsors of such integrity, and that are willing and confident to support so worthwhile a project, surely, is initially a challenge and ultimately a triumph.
It is obvious that everyone on the list of names at the bottom of Page Two loves their job and is dedicated to the Museum and the success of the Festival. But then, this Museum is unique.
Every visitor has his own favourites...and...yes... less than favourite. Here are one or two of mine:
My particular Widescreen Weekend began on a sad note. Aware throughout, that this was to be the final screening of "How The West Was Won". One cannot claim to have seen this truthful, epic account of the exploration and expansion of The American West, unless one has seen it in the originally-intended format, three-strip Cinerama. The widescreen has never since been used nor exploited to such dazzling effect. The great spectacular highlights: The River Raft, The Indian Attack, The Buffalo Stampede, and The Train Robbery. This treasure was rescued from a vault in Germany, where it had lain for many years. Surely we must not allow this film to resume such a fate in Pictureville's vault. Particularly since Pictureville is one of only two cinemas in the world capable of screening it.
|I am no technician, so much of John Belton`s lecture went over my head. However, it was reassuring to learn that the problem of security, and interception piracy, makes global transmission of films a good many years away.|
"The Battle of the Bulge", and particularly the presence of the man who directed it, Ken Annakin, made this a special occasion. Among Mr. Annakin`s reminiscences, he recalled, "We were fortunate in having six weeks of snow", an advantage that the most of us, and apparently Charles Bronson too, would regard as a somewhat questionable blessing. Despite Ken Annakin`s assertion that the only `plot` was the relationship between Robert Shaw`s character, Colonel Hessler, and his batman, this was gripping stuff. 70mm at its most effective. Those damned tanks threatened to come right out of the curve of that screen and flatten the first six rows.
This was the third time I had seen Dion Hanson`s "Fantastic Formats" presentation, and it is pure joy. (well almost). Who could forget that immaculately-suited announcer in the Fox demonstration film, produced to convince exhibitors that in order to screen authentic CinemaScope, they had to invest in magnetic stereophonic sound? His constant instructions to "Tom", an imaginary projectionist at the back of the theatre, brought roars of laughter. This was just one of so many instructive, enjoyable and nostalgic items, with which Dion delighted us.
Initially, the account of the continuing development of Dolby sound was intriguing and interesting...until the demonstration. Mr. Hanson, it was TOO LOUD. I instinctively checked the walls of the theatre for cracks. Afterward, many of us crawled into the foyer, deafened, dazed, and searching our pockets for Paracetamol. "Turn it down, Tom".
I was not prepared for "Baraka". Surely, film at its most sublime. Images that broke through the screen and clawed at emotions. An audience stunned, overwhelmed, and sometimes aghast at what it was watching. There were moments when I had to look elsewhere. In an industry obsessed with box-office returns, how could such a film come to be made? Who would finance a project that acknowledges that the world`s cheapest commodity is human life?
|Judiciously, this masterpiece was saved for Sunday evening, the climax to days of flawless projection and presentation.|
However, for those unable to stay until Monday morning, there was even more..."The Longest Day". Probably, the most authentic re-creation of what happened on D-Day, and shown on that giant 70mm screen. The cast had obviously been chosen with regard to their nationality. The French actors spoke French; the German actors, German. English translation sub-titles along the bottom of the screen.
Again, at the conclusion of the film we were privileged to have an on-stage, question-and-answer session with the film`s director, Ken Annakin, who reminisced about Darryl F. Zanuck, Elmo Williams, and the making of the film. Suddenly, a young fellow in the fourth row, (maybe the third) jumped to his feet.
"Mr. Annakin", he demanded, "I wonder whether a language-coach was employed on this film to supervise the authenticity of the pronunciation of the German language. It was rubbish", (I paraphrase). Then followed The Longest Gasp. World War Three was about to break out. Annakin waited until the uproar died down, and then, ever the English gentleman, with directoral authority, serenely dismissed the youthful upstart.
This incident proved to be the dash of spice that flavoured the feast that was Widescreen Weekend 2000.
Howard Rust, England
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