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The Lost Dominion 70mm Film Festival Report

Read more at
in70mm.com
The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Paul Gordon, Programmer, CanadaDate: 07.10.2010
Image by King-Wei Chu

After months of preparation the 70mm festival officially began for me with picking up famous film Archivist Robert A. Harris from his hotel in Gatineau on Thursday afternoon. He had driven up to the festival from his home in New York State to check out the films and talk about the process of restoring "Vertigo", "Spartacus" and "Lawrence".

We quickly drove back to Ottawa for an interview at CBC radio about the festival. The interview can be found here (5 mbyte .mp3 file)

After that we went to the local film co-op IFCO for an artist talk with Mr. Harris.
 
More in 70mm reading:

The Lost Dominion 70mm Film Festival

I love the smell of mag in the morning!

Internet link:

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National Film Board of Canada

ottawafestivals.ca
City of Ottawa
Ottawa Citizen
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Canadian Museum of Civilization
100 Laurier Street
Gatineau
Quebec K1A 0M8
Canada
 
Image by Paul Gordon

Friday began early to make sure everything was ready to go for the screening of "Vertigo" at 1:30pm. Kirk Sayers, our only projectionist for the weekend, was busy making up films.

The museum theatre holds 500 people. The screen is roughly 40 feet wide, with 5 JBL speakers behind the silver screen and 12 surrounds. The booth consisted of a pair of Victoria 8 Cinemechanicas with clutches set for large 5000ft reels. The lenses were super-sharp Schneiders, and the sound processor was a Dolby CP200 with magnetic preamps. The lamp houses were running new 4000 watt bulbs. The projectors also have a button for 3D sync, mechanically locking both the motors at the same speed (maybe next year we can find some vintage Canadian 70mm 3D films...I know of about 4 or 5 titles that can be booked).
 
 
Image by Paul Gordon

Kirk had over 60 cans of 70mm to deal with and only about 15 house reels, there would be a lot of makeup and break down. Only "Baraka" and some of "Lawrence" were doubled up on the larger 5000ft house reels all the rest was run reel-to-reel on 2000 footers.

"Vertigo" looked amazing, a mint condition print! The Vista Vision negative really showed through on 70mm and the sound was great (being the only 6-track mag mix of the print ever made).

Next was "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country". The print had been around the block - the Uptown Theatre in Toronto used to do a lot of 70mm Star Trek marathons in the early 90's so it got well played. Regardless it still looked good and sounded great. Paramount in Canada apparently also still has prints of Star Trek III-V on 70mm in Toronto.

"Star Trek" was followed by the 7pm showing of "Vertigo" and I noticed a couple people from the 1:30pm show who wanted more! "Vertigo" twice in one day on 70mm!
 
 
Frame grab from 70mm short film "Seasons in the Mind"

The late show started with the Canadian short "A Place To Stand" which premiered at Expo 67’ in Montreal and went on to win an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Subject. The film had some wear and was a little faded but was very sharp and the early Format 40, 6-track sound-mix was great.

The evening ended with "Baraka". I truly think that "Baraka" holds the top spot with "Lawrence" as being the best looking 70mm film out there. During my days as a projectionist I had played "Baraka" many-a-time on 35mm, and seeing it in 70mm was like night and day. This film is killer in 70, and the bass-heavy soundtrack rocks.
 
 
Image by Paul Gordon

Saturday started with "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", a free show for kids. I have to say this film also looks great. The vintage print had been printed off the original 65mm negative and it showed. Although faded (see photo from in booth looking out to "Chitty" on screen) there was still some colour and the condition was almost mint. Also the Format 40 soundtrack was a treat with all the dialogue and singing moving around the screen (Note to Hollywood: Please bring back mixes like this, centre-mono dialogue sucks!). "Chitty Chitty" also came in vintage cans with the original paper reel bands with glued wood blocks to hold the bands in place on the transit reels (see photo)
 
 
Frame grab from 70mm short film "Seasons in the Mind"

Next was "Spartacus" at 2pm. This print was stunning and again 5 stage channels with moving dialogue. I’d forgotten how a good a movie Spartacus is and how great the cast is as well. In 50 years will the films being made today hold up like Spartacus? I think not. Peter Ustinov is so good in this, and his performance is worth the price of admission alone.
 
 
Image by Paul Gordon

It was around halfway through "Spartacus" that one of the projectors started to have changeover problems. The changeovers were being made fine (in fact Kirk never missed one the whole festival) but right after changing over the fire shutter plate would fall back down (only sometimes, being intermittent) and Kirk would have to slam it open again. In fact the whole fire plate on the one projector was so loose that we had to hold it together with some blue-tack (see photo) as the show went on. Why do we even need fire shutters in these days of safety stock? I recommended removing them from the projectors after the festival.

At 7pm we had the big event, "Lawrence of Arabia", and also our biggest crowd. This film looks stunning on 70mm, and for all those people seeing it for the first time there I envy you. The print was in good shape, though a little dirty at reel changes and it had a few splices. Halfway through the first half we had a film break right at a changeover, but the show went on (we lost 5 frames, cracked right through the middle).
 
 
Robert Harris. Image by King-Wei Chu

The last day of the festival started with a real treat, 5 Canadian short films from Expo 67’ to the opening of the Ontario Place Cinesphere in 1971. These vintage shorts were a tad faded but they looked good and rocked the house with 6 discreet tracks of magnetic audio. "Multiple Man/L’Homme Multiple" was especially cool with its experimental electronic sound track and numerous optical split frames and optical movement effects. "Seasons in the Mind" was also a hoot since it was shot in the Ottawa Valley and featured a talent show in Arnprior, Ontario (just up the highway from Ottawa/Gatineau) that verged on the psychedelic.

Sunday continued with encore presentations of "Lawrence" and "Baraka" followed by the 80’s Gangster classic "The Untouchables". "The Untouchables" blow-up was not the best in the world, but the print was pretty clean and the sound mix was stellar in mag.

Robert A. Harris was the perfect guest - gregarious and generous with his time. He talked after everyone of the films that he helped restore, took loads of questions and was positive throughout the weekend (not a small achievement considering the cool, wet weather!). A true gentleman, he made a great impression on all involved, and the amount of information he gave me on film restoration was incredible… my head is still trying to correlate it all.

The festival was a lot of work, and I was a little stressed at times (as were all of us behind the scenes) but it all came together very well. I wanted people to have a great time seeing classic films on 70mm and I think they did.
 
 
Frame grab from 70mm short film "Seasons in the Mind"

I have many people to thank but I want to make sure that the following get their names in in70mm.com

Robert A. Harris, for coming up north and “roughing it”
John Yemen, Collective Member and partner in this madness
Helen Anderson, Collective Member and stellar ticket host, "Lawrence" and "Spartacus" virgin
Kirk Sayers, Projectionist thrown into the fire. He liked the challenge!
Daniel Boivin, for curtain control and museum support
Bob Morris, for support and contacts
Bill Kretzel, for the master 70mm lists and short film research
Evan Graham, Collective Member and volunteer
Dave Callen, for finding the Canadian shorts in the bowels of the Cinesphere
Randy and Nancy Gordon, for moving big cans of film
Adam Bowick, Allan Bradley, and Ryan Greenacre, for the 70mm can wrangling
The Canadian Film Institute
Mayfair Theatre
Invisible Cinema

Round two is in the works!
 
 
 
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Updated 22-12-16