My Great BIG 70 mm Experience

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Adam_S, Jan 25, 2004.

  1. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    The American Cinematheque at the Egyptian in Hollywood held their fourth 70mm film festival this weekend. There were five films on the billing, and I managed to see all of them!

    The feature attraction was a relatively new 70mm print of Jacques Tati's Playtime, this opened the festival on thursday night, with two more screeings on friday and saturday evenings.

    On Saturday I got to the Egyptian a little late, they had already began admitting to Hello Dolly. Hello Dolly was the first of four films I had never before seen, and it is probably the weakest of the festival. There is so much in Hello Dolly that the film gets Absolutely Right, but the film never completely coalesces. I don't think I could have sat still through this entire film in anything less than 70mm.

    Seeing Hello Dolly was an absolute treat: it had the best print of all five films, perfectly restored, with not a single tiny section or shot blown up or lacking restoration. Watching in 70 the clarity is incredibly stunning, the detail is incredible, and the rich colors were the first equal I've seen to the dye transfer technicolor print of Ten Commandments I saw at this time last year. When the dance numbers began, I was totally enrapt and engaged, unfortunately when most of the actors were 'acting' or singing I was distracted.

    I've never seen a Streisand film before, and having heard good and bad things about her, I had trepiditons about whether or not I'd be driven screaming from the theatre in horror. Imagine my surprise that Striesand was the only person in the film able to sing, dance and act (though she didn't do much athletic dancing, come to think of it)--in short she sold the performance and character beautifully, but it wasn't even to save the movie. Walter Matthau can't dance and his singing is only endurable. The two bumpkins can neither sing nor act, they can dance marvelously. They go through the motions of acting, but neither has the charisma or ability to make these rolls work--they made me cring more often than not. And their inexperience was only exacerbated by being onscreen with a presence like Striesand (who seems to embody the 'camera on me' precept, I think the only time we don't see her face is in the very beginning). What I wouldn't give to see Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor in their Singin in the Rain prime play the roles of the bumpkins--that'd make one hell of a musical. replace Walter Matthau with Rex harrison and you have one of the all time great musicals. The numbers are there, the numbers are there in excess! in fact there may be too many GREAT numbers, there's no time for character or drama. There's only the down time between the next gorgeous and spectacular number.

    Hello Dolly - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] (in 70) [​IMG][​IMG]½ (likely grade for normal watching) - out of four, highly recommended, and recommended with reservations respectively

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    Playtime is another film I had never seen. Unfortunately I went into this film with absolutely no idea what it was supposed to be. it took me the better part of the first twenty minutes plus a five minute nap to figure out that the film was an overblown homage to Modern Times and that it was meant to be essentially silent comedy. I wasn't tired whatsoever, so the fact that I managed to fall asleep at all, especially in a 70mm presentation is quite astonishing.

    Eventually I got into the film, and enjoyed myself. however I never lost the sensastion that the enjoyment was just a little bit strained, always. I wanted to like the movie, so I did, but I probably would have honestly liked it had I known that I'd have to wait a half hour to see the main character (or at least figure out who it should be), that I'd have to wait a half hour to figure out they weren't going to translate (via subtitle) any of the french. to wait a half hour to figure out that it was indeed dubbing (semi okay) of the american voices and that I shouldn't be annoyed by the dubbing. to wait a half hour to figure out this was silent comedy. in other words I endured a half hour before I had worked hard enough to begin to enjoy the film.

    This film took the least advantage of the 70mm format. The detail was nice to see clearly all the silly inventions, but that was about it. The aspect ratio was fairly narrow, so I'm guessing some masking was intended. The sound however was excellent, and for the type of movie this is, the sound was just as important as the images.

    However this movie is improving in my mind, and I might give it an eventual other try.


    Playtime - [​IMG][​IMG]½ (70mm) [​IMG][​IMG] (regular) - out of four, recommended with reservations and solid movie

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    Sleeping Beauty is the one film I had seen before. and it was a delight to see and at the same time something of a let down. The animation is absolutely gorgeous, but 70 shows how simply so many of the background characters were drawn. And the King and Queen are not much better. There's a stiffness to the human animation that is just a little disconcerting. This is less noticeable on the small screen, but I was longing for the town in Beauty and the Beast, a far cry and many years of experience from Sleeping Beauty for Disney. Prince Philip and Aurora in Particular are fairly nonplused through much of the film. They have great character interaction during the once upon a dream sequence, but Philip alone isn't that impressive, good with his father, but otherwise... blah. The fairies are the usual delight, and the light and life of the film.

    It's important to remember that this was only the second major film to really foreground animated humans for disney (I think cinderella was the first majority realistic human cast). So it's instructive to see the differences within Sleeping Beauty. When the one shot animated animals enter the film, it's a breath of fresh air that puts you in awe and reminds you just how good the animators could be. With just a few simple moments, they enliven and light up the screen. There's a vibrancy passion and elegance to animation of the animals that is evident in the artistry of the rest of the film, but seems to be restrained or shackled.

    So if I'm going to rag it a bit, I must praise the scoring. The score is incredible. Derived from tchaichosky but the orchestrations and songs incorporated into the film are stunning and more than worthy of praise in their own right. The score makes this movie great--it doesn't just improve the movie, it makes it. All the moments I really responded and thrilled to the onscreen action was complemented by a stunning bit of work in the score and sound department. From maleficent's entrance and the gift giving, to the first swells of once upon a dream, and it's filled with so many great matches of just music and gorgeous animation, it gives you a glimpse of what Disney features could have been like if Fantasia had been more of a success.

    This is one of the great Disney films, in my opinion up there with Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast as one of the best ever.

    The print was the worst of the lot I saw, although it was still incredible. This is the same print that's been in circulation for the last five years, so it was somewhat beat up and worn. The most annoying thing about the print was a mild pulsing to the image that was especially distracting at first. I seem to remember something similar being discussed on the DVD transfer, but I didn't remember that until I saw the wierd fluctuations in the image myself.

    Sleeping Beauty - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] (in 70) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]½ - out of four, masterpiece, great movie

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    More tomorrow evening with my thoughts on the two films I enjoyed the most out of the festival. The absolutely stunning prints of It's a Mad Mad MAd MAd world, and Those Magnificent men in their Flying machines.

    Adam
     
  2. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Viewed another way, Playtime is the logical end of the journey of M. Hulot that began in Mr. Hulot’s Holiday and examined the differences between M. Hulot’s old France and the one that was then fast encroaching.
     
  3. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    Good to know Lew, I suppose that quote you pulled out was a bit harsh on the film :p. I'll definitely see tati's other films, and give playtime a second chance after catching M Hulot's holiday.

    Adam
     
  4. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    You should like it Adam. Then see Mon Oncle.

    In Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, M. Hulot is very comfortable with his surroundings. Mon Oncle is really a contrast between the ‘old’ world seen in the first film and the new, modern, urban France. Here Tati’s character spends time in each world.

    By the time we get Playtime, there is none of his old world left.

    I’m quite envious that you got to see it in 70mm.
     
  5. Paul Linfesty

    Paul Linfesty Stunt Coordinator

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    I SO wanted to go this weekend, but the weather looked kind of bad, and I dislike driving the Grapevine in foggy/rainy conditions. I was going to attend Sunday to see TMMITFM and IAMMMMW. I saw HELLO DOLLY at last year's festival and IAMMMMW at the Dome this past October, but I was interested to see how it looked on a flat screen without the side screen wash-out you get at the Dome. Hopefully, they will repeat MAGNIFICENT MEN in the future.
     
  6. StevenA

    StevenA Second Unit

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    I was there on Saturday night for Playtime and wow!!!! It was absolutely gorgeous. I completely disagree that the film fails to take advantage of the 70mm format. The detail was astonishing, and this was the reason Tati chose to use the format: he continually divides the frame into "sections", so that the finer detail possible with 70mm allows the viewer to observe whichever part of the action he/she wishes, and still be able to discern the images fully (there are no closeups or cutaways). Believe me, I've seen the film in 35mm, and the difference is astonishing.

    A truly remarkable film, and to see it in such a beautifully restored version was a revelation. The person introducing the film described it as one of the ten best films ever made, and I think that's a fair assertion. It is really an experimental, abstract work, however, with its masterful use of choreographed actions and patterns. It's quite different from Tati's earlier work, and I concede that it's less accessible.
     
  7. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    I've only seen Playtime on DVD but I can imagine what a 70mm presentation would do for it. There are numerous scenes that I'm sure look absolutely stunning on a big screen that have their effect muted on my TV. Though it still wouldn't make that interminable club scene go any quicker [​IMG]
     

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