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It's alive at the Cinémathèque Française

The 70mm Newsletter
Written and photographed by: Projectionist Ivan Školuda. Organizer of Panoramic Film Presentation in Banská Bystrica, Slovak Republic, and responsible for projection at the KRRR! 70mm Festival in Czech Republic.Date: 21.03.2023
I've been following the calendar of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris (France) for years because of their specific programming and mainly because they try to screen also classic 16mm, 35mm and 70mm film. There are very few such cinemas in the world anymore and this Cinémathèque is probably one of the biggest in terms of number of screenings. It was one of my dreams to visit this cinema.

Recently I was in Paris for other reasons, and specifically set aside some time to visit this cinema as well. My enthusiasm was greatly increased after discovering that, by pure coincidence, they were screening a series of science fiction films in progress, and in 70mm format too! What more could a fan of sci-fi films and the 70mm format ask for?

I managed to see two of the featured films. The first was “Starman” (1984). The capacity of the theater was about half filled, which pleasantly surprised me. The film was preceded by a roughly 10-minute introduction, where the lecturer explained to us visitors what 70mm film is, introduced and appreciated the work of projectionists of such old films, and of course briefly acquainted us with the facts about the featured film. This pleased me, because I am accustomed to this from various other festivals, and we do similar things in our Film Club or at the Amphitheatre in Banská Bystrica. In a commercial cinema one gets popcorn, but not information. Here it's the other way around and that's the way I like it. Then followed the screening of the film, which I was pleased with.
More in 70mm reading:

70mm Cinema and Film in France


7OMM in Paris - Plein Les Yeux! Saison 4

Panoramic Film Presentation in Banská Bystrica, Slovak Republik, 2019

The Short history of the Amphitheatre in Banska Bystrica, Slovak Republic

70mm in the Slovak Republic

Kino Mir 70's 7OMM Seminar Krnov

in70mm.com's list of films blown up to 70mm

in70mm.com News
The film was in color with original English sound and French subtitles on the film print. I assume this was the original distribution print and it was in very good condition. The image was consistent with film "blown up" from 35mm, and the sound was Dolby Stereo. There were occasional odd noises in the audio, which is a result of the age of the print and is sadly often encountered for such archival prints. It wasn't distracting and I don't think most visitors noticed it. The only thing that bothered me initially was the high volume level of the sound, but I got used to it during the screening - or perhaps it was lowered some durign the show. The film was projected from two projectors with change-overs after each reel. As a projectionist, I have to commend my colleagues as the projection was absolutely flawless. The average attendee certainly had no idea of all the activities going on behind their backs in the projection booth. Unfortunately, I am professionally "tuned in" and I saw all the cue marks and noticed an interesting sound, like someone weakly hitting a large bass drum at each change. Again, I will add that it wasn't distracting. Interestingly, I didn't notice it during the next performance.
The second film of the evening was “Alien” (1979). The cinema was completely full, the introduction before the film was again brilliant. A period distribution print was shown in English with French subtitles on the print. The condition of the print matched its success in the cinemas at the time and also the year of production. Simply put, the print suffered from colour degradation (dye fading) and had a number of cuts. Even this negative effect of shortening the film made me happy as I caught the night bus to my hotel without any problems. I was not pleased with the sound of "Alien". The volume level was okay, but something was different because it sounded worse than the first film and also worse than the original distribution copy that survived with us in Slovak Republic. The last time I screened it locally in Banská Bystrica was from 70mm in 2020. Possibly more wear and tear on the soundtrack? But it's an insignificant problem that I think only I was aware of. Most of the visitors were obviously satisfied, as evidenced by the final well-deserved applause.

It's just a pity that the cinema doesn't have a curtain! This little detail did slightly limit my complete satisfaction. From home, I add my thanks once again to the programmers, the projectionists and the entire Cinémathèque for a nice evening and a wonderful experience.
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Updated 23-03-23