In the Splendour of 70mm...In Copenhagen!
The 70mm Newsletter
by: Brian Guckian,
film posters from Nordisk Film's superb Decoration dept. Image by Thomas
From ancient Rome to the depths of space...from the Austrian Tyrol to
the North African desert...it was all happening this weekend in
Copenhagen, and in the splendour of Cinema's premier format - 70mm
6-track prints from (mostly) 65mm negative!
Presented in the magnificent setting of Nordisk Film's flagship Imperial Biografen venue, this was an event certainly
not to be missed, and marks another milestone in the continuing revival
of 70mm theatrical screenings in selected cities around the world.
Utroligt! (Incredible), Ekstraordinært! (Extraordinary), Fantastisk! (Unbelievable) are just some of the words that attempt to
describe the stunning picture and sound experience that was on offer
over the duration of the festival in this beautifully-designed cinema
with its magnificent 51,5ft / 15,7m (approx.) curved screen and
spectacular full-range sound system.
in 70mm reading:
Kubrick's masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey" entranced on Friday evening,
and one of the things this writer noted was how well the superb special
effects work and production design stand up today, easily surpassing
anything produced by contemporary cinema. The 65mm photography (by renowed cinematographers Geoffrey Unsworth BSC and John Alcott BSC) was
displayed to perfection on the Bio's twin DP70s, and after 40 years the
film has lost none of its relevance or power, as Kubrick confronts us
with the unknown - and the unknowable.
magnificent Imperial Bio during 70mm projection, Tuesday 29. April 2008.
Image by Thomas Hauerslev
Perhaps no less philosophical (or demanding!), Kenneth Branagh's
unabridged, lavish and highly detailed version of Shakespeare's "Hamlet"
on Saturday (of course - this was Denmark!) really showed off what the 65mm format can achieve given
modern film stocks, cameras and lenses, and in the masterful hands of
the late lamented Alex Thompson BSC. At times during this film one felt
as though one could literally walk into the picture, and as at other
times during the weekend, the writer was left totally perplexed as to
why 65mm is not the format of choice for today's big-budget "event"
films (especially given that perceptions of high cost have been
Some light relief followed with a screening of Robert Wise's evergreen
classic treatment of Rodger's and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music" with
more standout 65mm photography by Ted McCord, ASC and the rousing
musical numbers (greatly enjoyed by the audience) well served by the
DTS-70 soundtrack. Like the majority of the other titles, the print was
recent, and in excellent condition.
of Arabia" new 70mm DTS print #4. Image by Thomas Hauerslev.
"Lawrence of Arabia" continued the procession of 65mm titles over the
weekend (the only blow-ups in the festival were "Doctor. Zhivago" and
and showcased the work of another legendary cinematographer, Freddie
Young BSC. This was a Sony reprint from the original Robert A Harris /
James C Katz restored negative, but with a colour grade and contrast
considered to be closer to how the original release prints looked in the
1960s. An epic undertaking in every aspect, this was a film that could
only have been made, and screened, in 70mm, and was all the more
impressive and visceral given that all the action and set-pieces had to
be staged without recourse to the visual effects tools filmmakers take
for granted today.
Sunday saw screenings of Ron Fricke's extraordinary "Baraka", with
stunning 65mm photography that took one's breath away, and my visit to
the festival was rounded off with a viewing of the grand-daddy of all
blockbusters, the epic "Cleopatra" which is well known to have almost
bankrupted 20th Century Fox (but was well worth it!). Again the
cinematography was extraordinary, showcasing the work of the legendary
Leon Shamroy, ASC, and also the incredible production and costume
player XD10 playing "Titanic". Image by Thomas Hauerslev
almost overwhelming weekend of visual and aural experience was rounded off
by an excellent lecture by our Editor on "Fantastiske Film Formater" [The
Wonderful World of Film Formats, ed] on Saturday morning. This very clear,
accurate and educational presentation went through the various widescreen
processes and sound formats, and provided a valuable learning opportunity
for audiences, helping them to appreciate the 70mm format much more and
setting it in the context of the overall development of Cinema.
Audience numbers exceeded expectations, no doubt due to the excellent
publicity work by Thomas and Lars Møller (including TV and radio
appearances!) and further credit is due to Imperial Bio projectionists Peter
Jensen, Jan Niebuhr and flemming Andersen who handled the demanding work
extremely well, particularly given the fact that 70mm had not been run in
the venue for 10 years - a situation that no doubt will change after the
success of the festival ("Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal
Skull" perhaps? It was being heavily promoted with poster and lobby
displays over the weekend!).
again, the 70mm reels are empty. Image by Thomas Hauerslev
An additional note must also be made of the excellent staging at the
Bio, with patterned illumination of the curtain tabs and auditorium
ceiling, 70mm Festival dedicated screen logo, house breaks and of course
the correct playing and cueing of the overtures and entre' act scores.
The festival also provided valuable technical feedback - such as the
need for improved soundtrack layout information with prints - that will
inform the continuing work of the 65/70mm Workshop.
Finally, the only single criticism one could have of the entire event
was the screening of a very poor-quality print of "Doctor Zhivago". This
print should be withdrawn from exhibition, and it raises the age-old
dilemma of whether to show a print no matter how bad it is, if it is the
only one available. This writer would argue that it is in fact better to
withdraw such prints, as their consequent non-availability provides an
incentive to strike new copies.
In conclusion, Nordisk Film and in70mm.com deserve great credit for
organising this memorable event - here's to next year!
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