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Roadshow ways to Milan and Melzo: the 70mm Festival in Italy 2009

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Jean-Pierre Gutzeit, Berlin, GermanyDate: 30.01.2010
Spazio Oberdan, Milano: 10th anniversary with a reception and a special screening of silent moves and "Dick Tracy". Photo: Jean-Pierre Gutzeit

Invited by Mrs. Luisa Comencini, Secretary General of the Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, regarding a cooperation for its Festival „70mm - Bigger than Life” in Milan from May 2 to May 12, 2009, I had the opportunity to supplement that project with several 70mm prints and suggestions.

The Festival was conceived and arranged by the ‘FONDAZIONE CINETECA ITALIANA’, which celebrated its 10th anniversary of screenings at the ‘Spazio Oberdan’, a film theatre run by the Province of Milan in the centre of the city (the volume “Spazio Oberdan 10 e lode, 1999-2009 informs about the work of the Cinematheque and is garnished with many film clips – it can be ordered at the Cinematheque, price 10 €).

Besides Spazio Oberdan, the choice of location went to Multiplex Arcadia of Melzo near Milan, a greater and also more expensive cinema complex than those in most cities in today’s world). The cooperation between a film archive set in the middle of the historic centre of Milan with the new built Multiplex cinema in Melzo is a good strategy in my eyes. Especially the commercial effort in Melzo, building a modern cinema in conjunction with experts as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of the cinematographer Vittorio Storaro is exemplary for other countries.
More in 70mm reading:

70mm Bigger Than Life - Multiplex Arcadia, Melzo, Italy

Multiplex Arcadia, Melzo, Italy

The Shoes Of The Fisherman

Royal Palast, Berlin, Germany

Internet link:

Fondazione Cineteca Italiana
viale Fulvio Testi 121
20162 Milan

tel. +39-02-8724.2114
fax +39-02-8724.2115

The biggest projection room of the ‘Arcadia’, Mrs Laura Fumagalli (at the left), Mrs Luisa Comencini (‘Cineteca Italiana , Mr. Piero Fumagalli (head of the Arcadia group). Photo: Jean-Pierre Gutzeit

Mrs. Comencini, Secretary-General of the Cinematheque, invited me as guest at Friday, so we had a meal and a special Ice Cream in Milano. Afterwards we toured to the Multiplex ‘ARCADIA’ in Melzo, about 30 km far from Milano. Afterwards we met Theatre chairwoman Mrs. Laura Fumagalli before a giant replica of a T-Rex at the lobby of the ‘ARCADIA’’.

Laura Fumagalli showed us all the rooms and timetables, so that the preparations of the print could begin. Unfortunately the screening of "Porgy and Bess" was not allowed from the British right holders, so that instead of that title further screenings of "Lawrence of Arabia" were decided.

It was impressive (from the German point of view, after we lost all Roadshow cinemas with screens bigger than 20 metres in the last 15 years) enjoying a complete undistorted Todd-AO format in the ‘ARCADIA’ with the exact aspect ratio of 2.21 :1.

Dear Thomas Hauerslev,

I am writing upon Mr Jean-Pierre Gutzeit's request, to back his desire that the article he wrote ("Roadshow Ways to Milan and Melzo: the 70mm festival in Italy 2009) be published and made available first of all in your website, which is among the main references for the lovers of 70mm.

I could read and revise the text, and fully agree with the report and descriptions it contains.

We recently equipped our cinema Spazio Oberdan, in the centre of Milan, with projectors suitable to screen 70mm films, and were proud to host a wide retrospective from 2nd to 12th May 2009 both in Milan and in Melzo near Milan (at the Arcadia Multiplex, run by Piero Fumagalli, who was our partner in this initiative). Mr. Gutzeit's private archive was the source for many films, and his contribution to our retrospective was fundamental.
Chief projectionist Amedeo Liberti. Note the large 70mm reels. Photo: Jean-Pierre Gutzeit

And that cinema has luck with the format approaches, because of the installed special screen for 8-Perf 70mm formats (Iwerks systems for example) and the possibility to enlarge the screen height enormously, which is important for the largest formats in my opinion.

Afterwards we made several tests with the new installation in the Spazio Oberdan projection booth together with the technicians of Cinemeccanica and the head projectionist Amedeo Liberti. So the spool could proof a very smooth runable condition. At the moment only Dolby-A-Magnetic Format is installed for 70mm prints, but nearly all magnetic prints screened in Oberdan and Arcadia have that sound format.

The show was performed in the neo-classic style of an Auditorium of the 30’s, and the acoustic conditions were excellent!

After fitting the Spazio Oberdan projection booth with the necessary equipments, Warren Beatty’s "Dick Tracy" was screened as the first 70mm movie for the Cineteca’s jubilee day. Nowadays there is installed a Victoria 8 projector, modified for bigger spools with the volume of about 3000 metres wide gauge material. Nevertheless a short interval after 90 minutes is necessary.
It was the first time the Milanese audience could enjoy such kind of screenings, and we hope these will be repeated some time in the future.

I therefore hope you may agree to the publication.

Yours sincerely,
Luisa Comencini

Print Review 2009

Spazio Oberdan, preparation of "Dick Tracy". Chief projectionist Amedeo Liberti is very professional in handling new and old materials. Photo: Jean-Pierre Gutzeit

"Ben Hur"
had (of all English language versions) the best attendance in Italy (Unfortunately, a 35mm matinee screening in Berlin two years earlier had only 1 guest in the cinema). But in my opinion it was also one of the most problematic prints I had ever seen (but in a mechanical way in near mint condition): cropped, grainy, green, dark and unsteadiness – however with a superb magnetic sound (the same print was elected from the German Cinematheque too, and now the print gets any tours from Australia around the world). Despite an acceptable DVD-transfer with the original format (excellent in color quality and faith to the format), there is no stunning 70mm print more in the world since many years.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to screen "Porgy and Bess" because of troubles with the right owners. So we screened only a single reel for the Festival staff.

No surprise for someone, but "Baraka" was one of the few prints in the world, which has today in the currently line a correct production and print standard, so a projection of that movie on a real big screen is always the proof for advantages of the 65mm photographic process in terms of definition and contrast.
‘Arcadia’, Melzo, Mrs Luisa Comencini (‘Cineteca Italiana), the technical engineer at the ‘Arcadia’ and Mr. Piero Fumagalli (on the right side, head of the Arcadia group). Photo: Jean-Pierre Gutzeit

"Pink Floyd - The Wall"
, a print from the BFI London, was as Blow up from 1982: in my eyes a concession to heavy needs of the sound and concert community of that time, however the flat photography with zoom lenses and the poor quality of the inter negative stock from 80’s - and last but not least the color fading in 2009 – could aggravate explaining the audience the incomparable effects and depths of the original Todd-AO process: the effect as a part of participation via plastic panoramic processes.

"2001: A Space Odyssey" was the restored version from Warner library, struck as a special version for the ‘ARCADIA’ in Melzo and was Italian dubbed. I haven’t seen the new version in Italy, but several times in Berlin, and there a few of discussion in the film fora.
Spazio Oberdan, Milano: 10th anniversary.  Photo: Jean-Pierre Gutzeit

"Play Time"
was the reconstructed version from 2002, however with faults of density and color balance: many changes in the density and color corrections (mostly visible a tendency to the green tint), and also a lost of dynamic within the modern DTS transfer of the prior discrete 6-track magnetic sound (we can compare with our old faded print in the museum’s archive) diminished the qualities of Tati’s cinematic perfection. I must add that there is another print in circulation, better in scene correction, but with a blue tint, I saw during the 70mm festival in Amsterdam and both prints for a comparision in Berlin. In my option the color timing in 1967 was neutral, but with more vigorous in the color saturation).

"West Side Story" was an unfaded print from 1992, struck from the original negative, but had slight scratches with the tendency to a olive-green color correction and a lost in the blacks (that against the dark-green grading of the brand new print from 2008, struck from a grainy internegative).
Spazio Oberdan, Milano: 10th anniversary with a reception and a special screening of silent moves and "Dick Tracy". Photo: Jean-Pierre Gutzeit

was the restored version from 1991 with German subtitles, with an astonishing equal color correction, but unfortunately with the strongest grain in all large format restorations and a lost in the density (so that the newer prints of "Spartacus" were graded more regulated into the dark undertone). "Lawrence of Arabia" was the restored version from 1989 with a lack of darks in the print material from 1989 and a slight green tendency: however with more color density compared with the last 70mm prints). All three titles have slight scratches and came from Berlin: in Melzo’s ‘ARCADIA’ they obtained Italian subtitles via a Video-Beamer from the first row.
Jean-Pierre Gutzeit in front of his prints in the ‘ARCADIA’. Photo: ‘Arcadia’, Melzo

The best attendance have in Melzo the Italian dubbed versions however: "Dick Tracy", "The Last Emperor", "Little Buddha" – print in excellent condition and screened biyearly. More often than in France and Germany, the mother language has a meaning in Italy.

70mm screenings are a regular part of the program of Piero Fumagalli in Melzo over the years, and Fondazione Cineteca Italiana has now undertaken the first steps in screenings of 70mm movies to revitalize that heritage for the Italian cinematheques, and Spazio Oberdan has now began with the ultra wide formats.

Hope we will get more of that Panorama in future!
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Updated 30-01-10