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Visit biografmuseet.dk about Danish cinemas


A "Titanic" Day Out

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
The 70mm Newsletter

Written by: Dirk Lorenzen, Hamburg, Germany Issue 53 - June 1998
Danish "Titanic" advert

It was exciting news when Thomas Hauerslev called and told me that there would be a 70mm OV (original version) print of "Titanic" with DTS sound presented at the Imperial Bio in Copenhagen/Denmark. At that point I had already seen "Titanic" (at least I thought I had) in a 35mm/anamorphic German dubbed DTS version in a THX auditorium (28m, slightly curved screen, 806 seats) at the UFA Palast in Hamburg, Germany, where I used to work as projectionist and technical supervisor at one time.

I hadn't heard about any 70mm OV print playing in, or being announced for, any German theatre up to the day Thomas called me. A fellow projectionist in Austin, TX told me that he had heard of a 70mm print running at a theatre in San Antonio. The question was: did I want to travel to Copenhagen, did I want to spend about DM 200.00 (about USD$ 110.00) for the railroad ticket, did I want to leave Hamburg at about midday, spend hours on the train, attend the show and go back to Hamburg the same night, arriving back home in the early morning hours the next day, did I want to do all this just for seeing a movie? Pretty easy decision: Of course I wanted to! Not only did it give me another opportunity to meet my friend Thomas before my departure to Australia (where I am going to live from May '98 in the Sydney area), it would also allow me to see a 70mm presentation in Scandinavia's biggest motion picture theatre, housing over 1,300 seats.

I love watching movies in big theatres, a love that became an obsession during my frequent visits to the United States where I used to attend bargain matinees or late shows in these wonderful downtown movie palaces from the 20s or 30s. So I grabbed this rare opportunity with both hands! Thomas organized a ticket for the evening show, and I guess it was NOT easy to get a ticket for "Titanic" , running the second week (in Denmark) on a weekend and for a really decent seat in the auditorium, not too close to and not too far away from the screen. The seat was situated two thirds back and slightly off the optical axis, it was simply perfect!

The auditorium was pretty much filled to capacity and it was a nice atmosphere (although it seemed that everybody was eating popcorn and babbling with their neighbors throughout the entire presentation, something really nasty and irritating).

Anyway, I enjoyed the show. The image was satisfyingly sharp; not as sharp as I expected, though, and the sound was clear. Sharp image and good sound in a nice auditorium, that's all I am asking for when I go to the movies in the first place. If these three criteria match, it is possible for me to enjoy a movie. But! And there is always a "BUT!"! Due to my profession as cinema technician and field (sound) engineer with quite a few years of experience, I am trained to look and listen beyond the average. So what did I see and hear?

Technical aspects of the reproduction. First of all I have to say that unfortunately I didn't see the booth and the equipment that was installed. I only knew what Thomas told me, what I could obviously see, and for the rest I had to guess, based on experience. As I already mentioned, the picture was satisfyingly sharp, but considering the fact that it was a 70mm print (a Super 35 blow up, ok, but still with less grain than a 35mm print, and its image was spherical), and also considering they have a long throw in the Bio and thus no problems with extreme wide angle projection, the result was rather poor. Before seeing this 70mm print of "Titanic" I had had the opportunity to look at two different 35mm (anamorphic) prints. The first was a print coming from Technicolor Lab in Rome and was one of those supposed to be used by all German first run theatres. It was the usual crap. The second 35mm print arrived a week later from Metrocolor Lab in London. Compared to the other one it was extremely sharp and it had gorgeous color and brilliance, but we had severe problems with the timecode on the print which didn't allow proper tracking of the DTS disk, so we Unfortunately had to play it back in SR.D. And I must say, it was looking almost as good on the 28m screen as the 70mm print was looking on the even smaller screen of the Imperial Bio.

I don't know where the 70mm print came from, but the lab that struck this print either did a lousy job or was forced to use inferior quality material. Thomas told me that the management of the Imperial Bio did invest some money in the sound system, but that they did not install top-of-the-line components. The result was really ok and above average. The sound quality was good, at least where I was sitting. Good channel separation and well equalized. But apparently no stereophonic surround. Hardly any surround output audible at all. Let me say that I am NOT one of these THX fanatics who think that loud and distorted sound coming from every corner of the auditorium automatically means maximum fun and best quality available. Nope! Nossir! No, Sir! And I really didn't miss the subwoofer, either. But I do think that at least the levels of the different channels should match. It wouldn't really matter in a movie like "Hamlet" (which I saw in a 70mm magnetic OV presentation at the SAVOY in Hamburg and which I really enjoyed!), but it did matter in a movie like "Titanic" where sound effects are a substantial part of the whole production. And the presentation was advertised as 70mm DTS after all. So basically I would say, yes, the presentation was ok and I can really recommend the Imperial Bio to the average moviegoer.

Technical aspects of the film making: again, I don't want to go too far into details. Yes, I did like the way Cameron's crew made the movie. Nice camera positions, good editing, good research on the topic, very good art direction and breathtaking special effects. A few computer animations didn't really work in my eyes. Especially those where the camera position was over the head of the actors (when Di Caprio was standing at the bow of the "Titanic" and the camera was pointing down to the ocean, the ship appeared to me small as a yacht) and some fully animated sequences, e.g. when the camera was riding over the ship from its bow to the stern, turning round by 180 degrees, lifting up and pointing forward to the horizon. The people on the ship and the ship itself looked like they had been taken out of an early 1990s computer game. Rather ridiculous and really distracting.

The movie. When I first saw "Titanic" (in German dubbed version) I thought I had seen it. Yes, I knew that the original versions are always different from the dubbed ones, some more, some less. But I really thought I could tell how the OV would be. What a mistake! What a big mistake. "Titanic" in German was just another movie; it was a little more perfect, a little more touching and a little bit longer than other movies. But it did lose its main point. The very moment the actors lost their original voices (and dialects), the movie lost its strongest statement. And the statement is: All English are evil!

In my eyes this film tried to evoke strong anti-English and pro-Irish sentiments. All the snobbish 1st class passengers were English, the officer who shot another crew member who tried to get on board a lifeboat was English, and so were all tha other bad guys in this movie. On the other hand, the steerage passengers (mostly Irish) were just a crowd of good blokes who were always laughing and celebrating who were the victims of what the dogs of the first class passengers left behind and were telling their children fairy tales when the ship was sinking. Even Kate Winslet ended up having a funny little Irish accent after she spent a night in steerage. Di Caprio himself, of course, and Kathy Bates both were Americans, and the accent of the officer who redirected the only lifeboat after the "Titanic" sank was... Welsh. Maybe it's only my impression, but I think it is worth spending a second thought. Hidden (and open) racism is nothing new in Hollywood productions, but I was really surprised to encounter it here. And the music! Only the Celine Dion tune was fine, the rest of the score was simply awful! Did they run out of money again or why did they choose to emulate a symphony orchestra on a bloody computer? How dare they employ a score sounding like the worst 1980s elevator muzak to illustrate a 1912 ship catastrophe? That's tasteless! And hell knows why it was Academy Awarded. Bernard Hermann would get restless in his grave if only he knew!

So, all in all I must say: Yes, I did like watching "Titanic" in 70mm and, yes, the presentation was worth travelling to Copenhagen, but NO! I did not like the movie! Compared to how much the production cost, and considering the near mass-hysteria it caused, the true output of this movie, no matter on which level, is far below zero. If I were Leslie Halliwell and had to give it a rating, I would give it one star.

Further in 70mm reading:

That Sinking Feeling

"Titanic" Gets a Record 14 OSCAR Nominations!!

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