2018 Widescreen Weekend Introductions
The 70mm Newsletter
Feature film text by: -. Pictures
by: Ulrich Rostek
"The Greatest Showman" by Wolfram Hannemann
„Ladies and Gents – this is the moment you’ve
With these very promising words a film musical opens which instantly took my
breath away when I first saw it at a press screening in Stuttgart, Germany,
last December. I had goose bumps all over me and tears of joy ran down my
face. Lucky me that the projectionist had the house lights dimmed all
through the end credits which meant that none of my colleagues was there
when I left. It was that kind of movie I had long waited for. In fact
director Michael Gracey is quoted saying that the movie is similar to WEST
SIDE STORY, MARY POPPINS and THE SOUND OF MUSIC! With that in mind nothing
can go wrong!
It was a dream project for Hugh Jackman since 2009. According to Jackman,
the seven year development process was, in part, due to studios'
unwillingness to take a risk on an original musical. Nevertheless, after a
slow start in the UK and Ireland, the film became an unexpected smash hit.
Earnings in the 11th week of release increased 26% over the previous
weekend, which is almost unheard of.
Michael Gracey, who gave his directorial debut with THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, is
convinced that no other genre would have allowed them to live up to the
title THE GREATEST SHOWMAN than a musical – it gives one complete freedom to
explore fantasy, magic and spectacle. When Hugh Jackman sent him the script,
his instinct was to put together the film he believed P.T. Barnum would have
made were he alive in the 21st century. Barnum was a visionary of his time,
so it only was appropriate to design the film in the most forward-thinking
way. Apart from pulling references from the great MGM musicals , Gracey
wanted to explore how contemporary pop sounds and dance could elevate the
story and make this period film accessible to a modern audience.
Gracey says: „Hugh and myself felt really strongly about creating an
original musical with all original songs, and that one decision meant years
and years and years of work trying to find the right people. When we found Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, at the time they had only done an off-Broadway
show which were not the credentials that anyone felt confident about. Except
I knew that when I met them and I heard the first songs that they wrote for
the film, those two were the perfect people to write something that is a nod
to musical theatre but is also very heavily influenced by contemporary pop
music. We wanted to sit somewhere in the middle. Some songs, because they’re
narrative songs, tend to be a little more musical theatre because you’re
telling a story within the song, but others could afford to be a little more
pop, lyrically. People can say what they like about the film, but the music
is exceptional. You can’t watch the film and wake up the next day without
hearing one of those songs in your head. That to be was why we spent so many
years writing and rewriting. To their credit, we were rewriting all of those
songs again and again and again before we even had a greenlit film. There
was no guarantee that their work was ever going to see the light of day, so
I owe them everything because there would be no film if it wasn’t for the
work that they did.“
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, by the way, also wrote the songs for another
film musical which we screened in this very auditorium during
Widescreen Weekend last year and which became one of my favorite movies:
LA LA LAND.
in 70mm reading:
Widescreen Weekend 2018
Gallery: Widescreen Weekend 2018
Past Widescreen Weekend programs
Creating the Widescreen Weekend
Projecting the Widescreen Weekend
Planning the Widescreen Weekend
David Strohmaier and the "We have all seen it as a kid" thing
in70mm.com's list of films
blown up to 70mm
Presented in 70mm
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN was filmed digitally with, among other gear, an Arri
Alexa 65 which is the digital equivalent of our beloved 65mm film camera.
Director of Photography Seamus McCarvey who created the stunning look of
films like the 2012 version of ANNA KARENINA or LET’S TALK ABOUT KEVIN,
says: „We had some fantastic sets, with very wide shots of the performers,
lots of extras and lots of detail going on, and the Alexa 65, shooting in
Open Gate ARRIRAW mode, was perfect for that.“.
With regard to the aspect ratio, McCarvey says: „We shot widescreen 2.39:1
spherical, which we protected slightly for the IMAX versioning later on in
post. We considered more vertical aspect ratios, such as 1.66:1 and even
discussed 1.33:1, but when we saw the horizontal nature of the choreography,
with 30 or 40 performers together in a line, the widescreen ratio proved a
more natural fit.“
Asked about how the look for the film was established, McCarvey says:
„Michael already had a very strong visual notion of the film, as he had been
working on it for such a long time. He had created a range of digital
storyboards and previzualised scenes to sell the idea to the studio. These
were quite elaborate and took the visual look away from a photorealistic
approach and more into the realms of theatricality, artifice and the magical
imagination. They had a sort of handmade quality – the live action was to be
blended with old-school, painterly backdrops, and other elements such as
miniatures of the Manhattan cityscape.
We didn’t look at any other films about Barnum and his life. Rather we
talked about developing a Technicolor-based look to support the artifice. We
considered the effect of the two- and three-strip Technicolor process on
colour in movies such as AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN
BROTHERS and THE ROBE. The idea was to take the real and transform it into
this vivid, imaginative, magical Technicolor realm.“
The digital intermediate was done by Efilm at a resolution of 4K. The DCP
which we are going to see was further enhanced by IMAX’s DMR process so that
it still looks great on a very big screen like ours. However, the first
generation of digital IMAX which is installed in here does only have a
resolution of 2K. So we are in fact watching a 4K DCP on a 2K system.
Nevertheless I personally think that the picture quality is still very
impressive as is the 5-track sound which, by the way, was downmixed from a
Dolby Atmos source.
In an interview director Michael Gracey said: „It took so many years to
make, that you kind of forget the joy of watching others experience it for
the first time. Just in the last few weeks, seeing what people take away
from the film, sitting in screenings where they don’t even know who I am,
listening to their honest appraisal afterwards. It’s been incredible. To me
the ultimate thing is if people leave the cinema humming a song from the
film - that to me is real success.“
I would like to add a quote to Gracey’s comment. It comes directly from P.T.
Barnum himself who once said "The Noblest Art Is That Of Making Others
Happy.". And in this regard, I think, Cracey ultimately succeeded.
Enough now of my strong German accent - Ladies and Gents – this is the
moment you’ve waited for.
“Grand Prix” by Dave Strohmaier
Widescreen Weekend 2018
How many of you saw it in 70mm
Cinerama? Anyone have home video release
"Grand Prix" 2011? Interesting short called “Style and sound
of speed” that includes interviews with race drivers, and “Grand
Prix” crew and even included someone named
This was a perfect film for single lens 70mm Cinerama and was the 3rd
film in the MGM (4) film contract with a budget of 9 million. Others –“Ice
"2OO1" in 1968
Panavision 70 was the format with 6 tracks magnetic so a flat 65mm
image - not Ultra Panvision like “Mutiny” or “Khartoum” to
fit Cinerama screens a slight bit of masking was added at the sides or
in some Cinerama theaters the top and bottom of the screen had some
cropping so it could be as wide as possible. The west coast premiere was
held dec. 22 1966 at
Dome and played for 43 solid weeks. The
day before that it opened in
New York City at the Warner Cinerama.
Highest ticket prices was 4.00 and cheap seats and matinees could be as
low as $1.50. It was in the top 10 box office draw of the year (5th?).
It won 3 Oscars, sound - sound editing - & editing. Acting nominations
were for Jessica Walter and Antonio Sabato. My nomination as a 17 year
old projectionist in Keokuk Iowa would have been Francoise Hardy - hands
down! Even though she had only 10 lines of dialog. This was 36 year old
John Frankenheimer’s first color film and 70mm widescreen film to boot
his early career was at CBS directing live TV such as Playhouse 90 -
over 140 live shows 1954 to 59.
Then later Hollywood features: “Birdman of Alcatraz”,
“Mancurian Candidate”, “Seven Days in May”, “The Train” and
“Seconds” the film just before “Grand Prix”. “Seconds” was written by Lewis John Carlino, who would eventually
become a director as well on his own script for “The Great Santini”. I was one of the film editors on “Santini”,
and he told me he had the utmost respect for Frankenheimer - having
worked and learned a lot on “Seconds” working together for
Note that all of Frankenheimer’s previous films were in 1:75:1 ratio and
in b&w. For his first large format film, Frankenheimer wanted a real
racing documentary feel on screen -- for this he asked graphic and film
designer/concept man, Saul Bass to come aboard. Saul had been involved
with such widescreen large format films as “Spartacus”, “Exodus”,
Story", “North by Northwest,” and even helped Hitchcock
with the thrilling shower scene in “Psycho”. On “Grand Prix”
Saul would help the director, as a visual consultant, and even did some
directing on some of the races.
As you can imagine there was the danger that each race could look like
the others. So each had to have a different look, style and feel in its
approach. So this was one of Saul’s primary tasks. Example - watch for
the wonderful ballet sequence of racing cars where the music takes over
the sound track. Then there is the amazing optical effects -- like split
screens montages etc. This was hard enough with regular 35mm optical
work in the 1960s but now done in 70mm and the need to try and keep a
first generation film look for Cinerama. Saul bass supervised all this
as well in the complicated post production period.
Today with digital computer editing - this would have been difficult
enough - so imagine the difficulty in 1966, with all the trial and
error. Although real race car driver Steve McQueen was to be cast in the
lead - he stormed out of the first meeting with Frankenheimer. Probably
realising that he could not control this director. So another actor and
known race driver was cast as the main lead. James Garner (real name
Bumgarner). Garner often said of himself “I’m just another racer
forced to act for a living”. Frankenheimer was sold after that.
Garner did quite a bit of his own driving in the film and at one point,
during one stunt halfway through the filming, his car caught fire.
Although unhurt - Lloyds of London immediately dropped his insurance
policy on the film. So for the rest of the shoot – he drove with no
insurance! Of course Garner was already a well known face from endless
TV shows like “Maverick” - last year’s guest, Greg Orr’s father
was in charge of that production. Some of you may remember his later hit
shows like “Rockford Files” that Steven J. Cannell produced
1974-80. I worked as an editor for Steven on several TV shows 1983 to 88
and he would often bring up Garner’s name often as he was complaining
about some actor in dailies “Why can’t this guy be more like Jim”?
When “Grand Prix” came out McQueen, who was Garner’s neighbour,
expressed regret to Jim that he walked out on Frankenheimer. So not to
be undone - McQueen helped to get another racing film “Le Mans”
off the ground for 1971. “Winning” with Paul Newman was earlier
in 1969. All three racing epics were shown in 70mm 6-track in big cities
with “Le Mans” and “Winning” shot in 35mm scope and blown
up to 70mm.
My co-presenter Hector Warr has another perspective on several other
earlier racing films as well as “Grand Prix”.
91 year old actress Eva Marie Saint was our guest at last April’s TCM
festival screening of “Grand Prix” at the Cinerama Dome and she
said she had to close her eyes for most of the racing scenes. Kathryn
Penny and I toyed with the idea of handing out seat belts for the races
and to aid in getting you though the Cinerama motion effects off the
curved screen. So if you are ready and have taken your Dramamine?
Especially you brave folks down front - we now present to you in digital
Cinerama the roadshow production of John Frankenheimer’s & MGM’s
"Grand Prix" by Hector Warr
Widescreen Weekend 2018
Formula 1 is typically seen as the pinnacle of
motor sport and "Grand Prix" matches its standards in cinematic terms.
It captures the racing thrill with stunning cinematography.
It captures the drama with personal conflicts on and off track.
It has love and it has tragedy.
From its inaugural season in 1950 it took until 1966 to get the movie that
Formula 1 deserved.
Prior to Formula 1, Brooklands featured in the 1939 Will Hay comedy film "Ask A
In the final chase sequence Will Hay and his sidekicks are seen running around a
rear projected Brooklands, dodging racing cars.
A hint of what Formula 1 could look like on the big screen came in 1954 when
Hammer films produced Mask Of Dust, released in the United States as A Race For
The film was directed by Terence Fisher, the man behind all three of Hammer’s
first classic colour horror films Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and
Mask of Dust follows the story of once great driver Peter Wells as he struggles
to regain his former glory.
Fisher was a director who could get the most out of limited material and in Mask
Of Dust he delivers a strong drama.
Racing sequences were filmed at Goodwood but the actors drive against a back
projection screen, looking like they are taking a pleasant drive in the country
rather than driving full out on a grand prix circuit.
The film only features two races, the British and Italian grand prix.
The British grand prix features Raymond Baxter as race commentator.
Baxter was an English broadcaster and prior to Murray Walker he provided
commentary for the BBC in the 1950s and 1960s.
Those of you who remember Raymond Baxter will also spot him in tonight’s film as
a correspondent interviewing the winner at the British grand prix.
Mask of Dust credits five drivers; Stirling Moss, Reg Parnell, John Cooper, Alan
Brown and Leslie Marr.
However, only Stirling Moss has a speaking part and it is a blink and you miss
it speaking part.
According to John Frankenheimer, the drivers in Grand Prix were modelled on real
life Grand Prix drivers.
James Garner was based on Phil Hill, Scott Stoddard on Stirling Moss,
Jean-Pierre Sarti on a composite of Juan Manuel Fangio, Wolfgang Von Trips and
Grand Prix also gives far more screen time to real Formula One drivers with
Graham Hill popping into a number of scenes through the course of the film.
Father of Damon, Hill was a larger than life character well known for his Dick
Dastardly moustache and derring-do.
In the 1965 Monaco Grand Prix, the year prior to the season in which tonight’s
film was shot, he pushed his car back on track after taking avoiding action up a
slip road – and still won the race.
He was a media star and very popular with the public.
In his autobiography Life at The Limit Hill discusses his role in the
“This of course was my first appearance, and probably my last, as a film star.
Naturally I only had a small part as Bob Turner, having initially balked at
being called Billy Turner – I never saw myself as Billy.
Frankenheimer later told me that I had just missed receiving the award for the
best supporting actor.
But I’m sure that the people who voted for me did it for a laugh.
At the premieres I attended in New York and London, I could never understand
why, whenever I appeared, people roared with laughter.”
Despite his prediction, Hill made it back onto the big screen for a brief role
as a helicopter pilot in the 1974 adaptation of Alastair Maclean’s Caravan to
Hill was also appreciative of the efforts required to make a film about Grand
Prix racing on such a scale:
“… I thought everyone carping about the hardship of having Hollywood filming a
Grand Prix was either very short sighted or a bit bitter and twisted.
I was delighted to see someone taking so much interest and such pains to portray
Grand Prix racing …
from the point of view of the ordinary motoring enthusiast, we were given the
opportunity to see a film in Cinerama which had some fantastic racing scenes
which will probably never be repeated again.”
Indeed, the race sequences are unique.
The split screen segments show that life goes on even while the cars are being
raced hard around a grand prix circuit.
The racing is the central but not only aspect of a grand prix.
Frankenheimer said that he got the idea for the split screen and multiple images
from Alexander Hammid and Francis Thompson’s film To Be Alive, shown at the
York World’s Fair in 1964/65.
The film traced how children in various parts of the world matured into
It was shown on three separate screens, each separated by a foot of black space.
Grand Prix captures Formula One during what many people consider its finest
period; beautiful cars unadorned by sponsorship and some of the best drivers.
Indeed it marks a transition between the daredevil fighter pilot driving of the
post war period and the start of a serious review of safety in the sport.
1966 is the year that Jackie Stewart was trapped under his car at a rain soaked
Belgian Grand Prix, halfway up to his waist in fuel.
Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant, who had both slid off nearby, rescued him with a
From that point on Stewart taped a spanner to the steering shaft of his BRM.
In the coming years he would be a vociferous campaigner for improved safety in
The 1966 world championship was won by Australian Jack Brabham.
In a little under three hours’ time you will know who won the Grand Prix world
"Contact" by Carin-Anne Strohmaier
Widescreen Weekend 2018
Hello…. I’m delighted to be back to Bradford, the last time I
was here was in 2008 to introduce “Who
Framed Roger Rabbit” which was my first feature film with Robert
was my sixth feature with him and I have just finished my twelfth one.
In my career I have run into two type of film devotees at work - whose who
love Robert Zemeckis' movies and whose who don’t - who would tell me
“Forrest Gump” — too sappy —“Pulp Fiction” should have won Best
“Back to the Future” — too juvenile” and so forth but
then they will backtrack and say “except for Contact, that was a
good one he did.” At that time “Contact” was considered his most
adult film to date .. Ellie Arroway was no Marty McFly and the science in
this movie was more science than science fiction, Hollywood style, of
It was in 1979 that Carl Sagan and Ann Druyen who would later
become his third wife, wrote the film treatment for “Contact” for
Warner Brothers and there was immediate interest in the project. Everyone
Encounters of the Third Kind” but it stalled in
development hell mainly due to changes in studio leadership. In the mid-80’s
Carl gave up and turned his film idea into a novel which became a
Even though Warner Brothers still wanted to make this movie, filmmakers and
writers involved with the project came and went — Roland Joffe was attached
to direct at one point. Then George Miller was hired but after a long and
expensive drawn out pre-production period, he was fired by the studio. And
Zemeckis was hired after approving the rewritten script and was assured he
would get final cut. it was shot on film and finished on film with the
original cut negative — shot in 35mm, super 35, Vista Vision and 65mm.
This was the first time I’ve ever worked with 70mm and everything about it
was big - big to handle and needed to use big equipment. You needed big
hands while I had small hands. The editing was done on the Avid digital
system but we always maintained a up-to-date film print of the latest cut
with lots of slugs for the missing vfx shots. Toward the end we went through
3 passes of negative cutting and I would get complaints from the negative
cutters that you should only run two passes with the original negative or
you could damage the negative. But we needed a film print for the Press
Junket and then an updated new print for the World Premiere (which happened
way before all the vfx shots were completed) and finally the final release
version. Somewhere on this planet are prints of this movie with a lot of
temp vfx shots. When it went out for previews before the final release date,
it stayed out, they weren’t returned. I hope you won’t see it in this
We shot from September 1996 to early February - almost 6 months of shooting
with lots of location changes and had barely four months of post. After
principal photography wrapped, we were suppose to have 8 months to finish
but the studio wanted to make this a big summer event movie and moved up the
release date from late November to early July.
But I was fortunate to meet Carl Sagan and his lovely wife Ann when we were
on location in Washington DC. Growing up I had heard of Carl Sagan - he was
a headliner in the 60’s and 70’s, making the cover of Time magazine in 1980
being hailed as “the Showman of Science.” Even if you didn’t know anything
about astro physics, you heard of Carl Sagan and "Cosmos". Though
what I had read about him was very critical of him and a lot about his ego
and he was a publicty hound. So I was surprised when talking with him - I
found him to be a very humble and cordial and amicable person with a sense
of humor who was very excited to see his project come to fruition. This was
definitely the best thing that I took away from my experience working on
this movie. To have met Carl Sagan… This was in November … And less than a
month later he was gone. He was supposed to have had a cameo in the film.
I’ve often been asked about the opening shot in “Contact”. Carl wanted to be
active in this production even though he was not in best of health, after
all this was his baby. Before shooting started, he was in a hospital in
Seattle for bone marrow transplant and Robert Zemeckis wanted Carl to sign
off on the opening concept he had in mind but didn’t want to impose upon him
at such a time. So like all good leaders, he sent his producer, Steve
Starkey up to Seattle instead, and Steve said that Carl approved the concept
but wanted to tell Bob this:
“I can’t believe you have defied all the laws of Physics in your opening
So with that in mind, I hope you enjoy this screening of “Contact”
and thank you for supporting the Widescreen Weekend Festival.
"Flatliners" by Rebecca Nicole
Celluloid Saturday 70mm Screening – Widescreen Weekend 2018
Thank you, Kathryn and to the team, and thank you for coming out whether
you’re here for the entire Widescreen Weekend, Celluloid Saturday or just
this rare 70mm screening of Flatliners, which has been a long time in the
making. I discovered that this print exists within days of Widescreen
Weekend 2016, only for Sony to withdraw the film throughout 2017 in
anticipation of the remake, which came out exactly this time last year and
disappeared very quickly.
Flatliners was controversial well before it came under the scrutiny of the
medical community. Uber-producers and bidding wars defined its era, and
Scott Rudin found himself the most reported on person in Hollywood when he
bid for Peter Filardi’s screenplay against Columbia, with whom he already
had a multi-picture deal. Rudin had learned about the script from a Columbia
executive and was alleged to have bought another script during a Writer’s
Guild of America strike. After two weeks of “wrangling” Rudin left Columbia
and Flatliners reverted to Michael Douglas and Rick Bieber’s Stonebridge
Productions who had a three-year, three picture deal with Columbia of their
own. Rudin retained an executive producer credit. Douglas, being Douglas,
never commented on the matter.
Peter Filardi was a 26-year-old graduate of Boston University, encouraged by
friends to move to Los Angeles after becoming the veteran of two unproduced
spec scripts for Miami Vice and an episode of MacGyver. Earning a living
through TV commercials for telephone sex lines, Filardi started writing
Flatliners in 1988 after the experience of a friend who had lain on the
operating table technically dead for 90 seconds. The film’s principal themes
were drawn from a buzzword of the Irangate scandal: “accountability” and the
material expectations of his generation. “It’s essentially an adventure
movie,” he said, “The west has been done, space has been pretty well
charted, and it seemed as if the only frontiers left would come from within
ourselves.” Sending out his finished draft to 4 or 5 producers, within a
week 10 were interested. Bidding started at $10k. Scott Rudin bid $400,000
“Unlike St Elmo’s Fire these students are highly competitive,” said
Schumacher. “It takes their near-death experience to soften and bond them.
They view their dangerous experiments as an easy way to fame and wealth, yet
death brings their blind ambition to its knees.” For the director the theme
resonated having just come from filming a weekend event for people with
various stages of HIV at the Centre for Living in New York. Saturated by
discussion of the fear of death, amends and the completion of relationships,
Schumacher signed up to direct Flatliners before he finished reading it.
Researching from hundreds of books Schumacher observed that “suicide
attempters report horrible experiences, and this is what the Flatliners
technically do. I wanted to give it a sharp ironic edge, because if you
screw with death it screws you back. The purpose of Flatliners is to give
you a visual and visceral experience that you haven’t had before in a
Starburst proclaimed “Flatliners has the most exciting visual look any film
has dared to present this year”. The opening, continuous, 35 second
helicopter shot firmly establishes Kiefer Sutherland as the head of this new
band of Lost Children and the recurring themes of Schumacher’s early Brat
Pack hits. Incorporating half the giant head of Mercury, a painting of
Prometheus, a combination of Greek, Roman and Renaissance art and a vivid
Halloween sequence Eugenio Zanetti’s production design was either praised as
high concept Hammer or dismissed as MTV gothic. In interviews Schumacher
enjoyed recalling a hospital attendant in Miami who asked him “Where was
Flatliners shot? Rome?”
Principal photography began in Chicago on 23rd October 1989 with a 15
million-dollar budget. 12 Chicago locations were used, including Loyola
University’s Lake Shore Campus for exteriors. The Museum of Science and
Industry plays the Taft building. The production then moved to three
soundstages at Warner Bros in Burbank where an iron grid floor was laid so
their images of the underworld could be lit from below. The shoot lasted 57
days, with remaining exteriors shooting on the Columbia lot. Principal
photography wrapped on 22nd January 1990.
Schumacher told Jan De Bont to make Flatliners look like an action movie.
“It’s the content shaping my form,” Schumacher said, “not the style. Instead
of having Flatliners come across like a special effects film I went for an
unusual and distinctive look. Sometimes we’ve got 65mm, 35, 16 and 8mm
footage going off all at once that makes the journey into death fun and
visually fascinating.” Make-up effects were created in camera by Greg Cannom
and Ve Neill. Quantel Paintbox editor Steve Purcell assembled some rough
effects on video which Schumacher liked and transferred straight to film
rather than recreate. A sequence going into someone’s eye was created using
the then state of the art “Harry” effects compositing system.
Shooting what the crew dubbed the “Descent into Hell Sequence” the
production manager got a little worried. “He said he’d never had to use so
many different colours of gels in any movie he’d ever worked on before,”
said Jan De Bont, who shot most of the film’s anamorphic Panavision footage
himself handheld. The sequence uses five locations, beginning with a long
lens dolly move cutting to a crane shot as Nelson lights a cigarette. As he
enters the second location the camera goes from 24fps to 30, 36 and then
40fps drawing us into his nightmare. One camera dollies behind him with a
parallel Steadicam capturing his point of view before turning back in on
Murals feature prominently in Schumacher’s aesthetic and the next location
in the sequence features the work of LA street artist Julian Ingals. The
opposite wall is covered in polyester film Mylar for blue sheen. “The stairs
look strange,” De Bont described the subway used next, “because they’re
blood red contrasted by fluorescent lights with blue gels and a water
slicked floor.” After night shoots finished the sequence was completed at
one last location, a 60-foot-long tunnel on the railyards side of downtown
Despite the nightmarish storyline and images, Julia Roberts enthused that
“Joel created such a warm working set that everyone wanted to do their best
for him and his vision.” Kevin Bacon habitually made Roberts break into her
infectious laugh, making it hard to do serious scenes, the fun and games
shocking the Jesuit fathers of the campus at Loyola.
Flatliners opened on 10th August 1990 playing in 70mm at the Odeon Westwood,
the AMC Century City and Grauman’s Chinese. The press focussed firmly on the
ill-fated engagement of Sutherland and Roberts, and a woman who passed out
at the premiere, although this turned out not to be related to the film. On
35mm Flatliners was the debut of CDS (Cinema
Digital Sound) while 70mm
blow-ups came with 6 track. In the UK Flatliners played in 70mm at the Odeon
West End. What we’re about to see may be the very same print.
Variety reported an opening weekend of over 10 million dollars, and a final
domestic total of $65 million. The LA Times called Flatliners the “hottest
movie in town”, The Episcopalian News said it “may even accomplish some
evangelising of its own”, and The Hollywood Reporter wrote “one could
service several hundred werewolf movies with the amount of steam that rises
from this set.” Flatliners 2 was announced in a Variety article on February
4th, 1991 but never materialised. 2017’s reboot featured Kiefer Sutherland
but in a different role, disappointing many fans.
During the filming of Flatliners a San Diego doctor was arrested for faking
near death experiences on patients whose hearts he would stop, just like the
students do. Schumacher responded to one interviewer on whether someone
might imitate the Flatliners with a look of complete blankness. “Well…” he
considered, “Maybe someone insane….”.
On whether Flatliners contains a deliberate homage to Don’t Look Now,
Schumacher explained that the original costume to be worn by a key character
was a dark suit, but that this blended into the backgrounds so a convenient
red hoody floating around the costume department was picked for contrast.
“But having thought about it a lot, I’m sure it was somewhere in the
recesses of my burnt-out brain,” he speculated, “Both films feature
spiritual and physical karma and both feature scaffolding. I’m just a
demented old director at work. If you see in my next film a camel going
across a desert with a man in white clothes on chances are I’d forgotten I
saw Lawrence of Arabia.”
I hope no-one here tonight has just woken up after last year’s closing 70mm
"Lawrence of Arabia". But if you have, I’m Dr Williams and I’ll be
here again at 9:30 with Michael Cimino’s comeback Year of the Dragon. But
now let’s plug in and take the 70mm trip that is Joel Schumacher’s original
"Year of the Dragon" by Rebecca Nicole
Celluloid Saturday 70mm Screening – Widescreen Weekend 2018
Thank you again, Kathryn and I’d like to take a moment to thank the
projection team up in the booth for whom this has been a big day. How about
we give it up for the projection team?
And welcome back, if you were here in Pictureville just now for that
fantastic screening of Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners and if you’ve just
joined us a simple “welcome.” If you’ve just woken up, I’m Dr Williams and
we’re moving on to another cult director and one of his most notorious
works: Michael Cimino’s
“Year of the
Cimino was a great widescreen director, shooting all seven of his films in
the anamorphic 2.35:1 ratio. Born in New York City in 1939 he studied fine
art at Yale before becoming one of Madison Avenue’s top commercials
director. Moving to Hollywood in 1971 he said that the only way to become a
director was to own a script that a star wanted to do. Clint Eastwood bought
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot intending to direct but was so impressed with Cimino he let him work on the script for
Magnum Force eventually up the
directing reins on Thunderbolt and propelling Cimino to the A-list.
By the 1980s, however, Cimino had ended the New Hollywood era of American
auteurs with Heaven’s Gate going several times over budget, taking years to
complete and becoming a box office disaster that nearly bankrupted United
Artists. Between 1981 and 1984, Cimino was attached to several projects
including Footloose, which he envisaged as a musical Grapes of Wrath,
causing Paramount to panic and replace him with Herbert Ross.
Cimino has been likened to directors such as Howard Hawks, John Ford, King
Vidor and Roberts Altman and Aldrich, for whom myth often comes before
psychology. One critic compared Year of the Dragon to The Man Who Shot
Liberty Valance, where the great American hero is forced to act irrespective
of whether he gets any credit. Easy Riders Raging Bulls author Peter Biskind
called Cimino, with his themes of what it means to be an American, “our
first home grown fascist director, our own Leni Riefenstahl”.
Dubbing Cimino’s eventual comeback “Hell’s Gate” Nick Roddick wrote in the
March 1986 Cinema Papers that it was “amazing Cimino was able to make
another big budget film post Heaven’s Gate. Less surprising that it is under
the aegis of Dino DeLaurentiis, who has the gambler’s instinct of a true
impresario.” Principal photography started on 27th October 1984 on an
immaculate recreation of New York Chinatown at the DeLaurentiis studios in
North Carolina, one of the largest street sets ever built. Director of
photography Alex Thomson operated his own camera, shooting mainly handheld
in Joe Dunton's anamorphic process J-D-C Scope. Cimino reportedly brought
the production in on time and on budget.
When completed the film’s politics immediately came into question. Cimino
said Year of the Dragon had “been described as a sort of sequel to
Hunter, as if Robert De Niro’s character were 8 years older and had become a
New York City cop”. Finding its place amongst the movies of the time that
had sparked huge outrage, Year of the Dragon was quickly nicknamed “Rambo in
Chinatown.” As Mickey Rourke’s character, Captain Stanley White, says in the
film: “This is Vietnam all over again. No-one wants to win this thing.”
Picket lines formed in Hollywood, Washington, Boston and Detroit. Protestors
distributed leaflets. Press conferences were held in New York and San
Francisco. Outside Loew’s Astor Plaza in Times Square over 200 demonstrators
announced the boycott. The Coalition Against Year of the Dragon had formed
between seven bodies including the Organisation of Chinese Americans, the
National Asian-American Telecommunications Association, and the Chinese
Benevolent Association. Feelings were strong about the tide of anti-Asian
movies such as First Blood Part II and Cimino’s own Oscar winner, The Deer
Hunter. Soon Year of the Dragon screenwriter Oliver Stone would spearhead a
new cycle of films about the Vietnam war which would last at least half a
decade and include entries by filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, and Brian DePalma. The deranged Vietnam veteran became a “thing” in action movies like
“Lethal Weapon”. “I was in ‘nam, man” became the 80s equivalent of a meme.
Robert Daly, whose novel had been greatly altered, issued a statement
against the film: “I deplore the violence and racism in the film. I tried to
show that the Chinese were as good as any other human beings, who suffer,
and care, and bleed like anyone else. This portrayal is horrible.” When
of the Dragon opened in Manhattan on 16th August 1985 it was top of the box
office. Playing in 982 theatres, it took over $4 million in its first 3
days. John Lone, alumnus of the Peking Opera, defended the film, comparing
it against the Suzie Wong and Charlie Chan depictions of old.
MGM/UA issued an unsigned statement reading: “We believe the claims made
against the film Year of the Dragon are without validity. Regardless of our
opinion, however, we encourage members of the Asian community to view the
film and make their own judgement”. Within a week the coalition represented
fifty organisations and had some demands: “MGM/UA should provide employment
for Asian-American actors in movies that portray Asians with accuracy and
sensitivity. The price of employment in this movie is the perpetration of
destructive and demeaning stereotypes.” Variety reported that, ironically,
the production had provided work for more Chinese actors than any American
film in years.
August 24th was designated a national day of protest. The New York Times,
the New York Post, CNN, Variety and Entertainment Tonight all reported on
the 1,000 protesters in San Francisco and the symbolic coffin that was
carried down Hollywood Boulevard and burned in front of Grauman’s Chinese
Theatre where Year of the Dragon was playing. Within three week the
Coalition had shut the film down in 36 cinemas, and the initial box office
success quickly waned. On August 28th Frank Rothman, CEO and Chairman of
MGM/UA, announced that a disclaimer would be added to the nearly 200 prints
circulating in New York and Los Angeles. The disclaimer read “This film does
not intend to demean or to ignore the many positive features of
Asian-Americans. Any similarity between the depiction in this film and any
association, organisation, individual or Chinatown that exists in real life
is accidental.” Cimino claimed in interviews that his films portrayed
Vietnam veterans he had known as a Green Beret, but fact checkers disputed
this proving his only experience was six months training at Fort Dix and
Fort Sam Houston in 1962, well before US troops were sent to Vietnam en
masse. Cynics questioned the release of Final Cut, Steven Bach’s essential
book on the making of Heaven’s Gate and the collapse of United Artists, at
the same time as Cimino’s new film.
Frank Rothman offered to give a portion of the profits from Year of the
Dragon to an Asian-American community project or support the development of
Asian-American led stories and projects. Michael Woo, the first
Asian-American council representative in Los Angeles got a lot of credit for
his part in the protests, but some organisations remained dissatisfied with
a seemingly glad-handed resolution. Year of the Dragon closed in the US
after 5 weeks having recovered only 8 of its $18 million budget.
Robert Daly said the film “grossly distorted the public’s perception of
Chinese Americans during a time of great misunderstanding and anti-Asian
sentiment”. The changes to his novel were significant. Stanley White was
called Arthur Powers, Stanley White being the name of a real-life cop Rourke
had shadowed during research. Powers wasn’t Polish nor his lover Chinese.
The Powers character had no military background. Some of the violence
against women does not happen.
Year of the Dragon opened in
London on 10th January 1986 at the Warner West
End and ABCs Shaftesbury Avenue and Fulham Road, one of ten DeLaurentiis
pictures picked up by Thorn-EMI-Screen Entertainment just before they were
taken over by Cannon whose big box VHS release contributed to its cult
status. The Financial Times observed that British critics were raving about
it, but most drew attention to Mickey Rourke’s improbably greyed hair, just
as they did to his new chin for Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man 6 years
Rourke acknowledged that he was “10 or 12 years too young to play a police
captain” while Cimino argued that a lot of guys in their early 20s came back
from ‘nam grey. Cimino only directed three more movies: Mario Puzo’s The
Sicilian, a remake of The Desperate Hours and Sunchaser, which went straight
to video in the US. All three were troubled productions, but all three
warrant a revisit. Maybe another year. And while 2018 is actually the Year
of the Dog in the Chinese zodiac, here at Celluloid Saturday it’s time for
Year of the Dragon.
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