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The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Ulrich Rostek
Nejtek and his projection team
In may 2015 the 70mm-Weekend at the "Centrum Panorama" debuted successfully as
part of the "Neisse Film Festival". This year cinema owner Pavel Nejtek and his
crew once again welcomed 70mm enthusiasts from many countries at Varnsdorf in
the Czech Republic, not too far away from the German border. Once again an array
of 7Omm film reels was waiting to be run through two Meopta UM3570 projection
The Varnsdorf 70mm Weekend started on Thursday with the east german espionage
drama "KLK an PTX" followed by Ken Annakin's material battle epic
"Battle of the Bulge".
Friday was dominated by two epics shot in super wide Ultra Panavision 70 or MGM
Camera 65 respectively. Although the prints either of "Mutiny on the Bounty"
and "Ben Hur" were severely colour faded this was for many delegates the
first and probably last chance in life to enjoy Robert L. Surtees' marvelous
cinematography the way it was meant to be presented - in 2.76 : 1 aspect ratio.
For this purpose two Ultra Panavision projection lenses were shipped to
Varnsdorf. Unfortunately one of the lenses was damaged. Lens flaws resulted in
double edged contours as well as lack of contrast and sharpness as we were told.
Pavel Nejtek's team made the best of the situation. With each reel change the
projection was stopped for a few seconds and the one intact lens was rapidly
changed between the two projectors.
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specialities served on film platter
A special surprise was waiting at the end of the day for those who were still
receptive for another movie. Outside the official festival programme the brave
and steady ones were invited to a private screening of Otto Premingers film
version of George Gershwin's famous folk opera "Porgy and Bess". I was
absolutely delighted because I thought this film was already lost forever. The
print was in an amazingly good condition with almost unfaded colours. So it was
a pleasure to enjoy Leon Shamroy's photography which was so well composed to fit
the Todd-AO frame. The rich and warm 6-track magnetic sound turned out to be the
best mean to reproduce Gershwin's powerful music. My personal favourite.
At least nobody is perfect and Murphy's Law always applies. One reel of "The
Dirty Dozen" started upside down, another one flipsided. The Overture of
"Ben Hur" rolling backwards was another interesting experience (some called
it "The Psychedelic Remix"). But I don't want to blame the projection team, who
did an over all great job, for the one or the other mistake. People made of
flesh and blood make mistakes every now and then. I would rather take this as a
demonstration how 70mm projection works.
Panavision 70 projection lens with flaws and blurs
Many of the prints presented this year came from the collection of "Kinomuseum
Berlin e.V.". The founder of this association, Jean-Pierre Gutzeit, was present
at the festival, always ready to discuss and report about technical details,
giving a lot of behind-the-scenes information.
One rarity from the archieves of "Kinomuseum Berlin" was "The Big Fisherman",
a biblical epic in the tradition of "Quo Vadis" or "The Robe".
With "The Big Fisherman" Panavision used 65mm film with new build
spherical lenses for the first time to meet the technical specifications of
Sunday morning saw a rare screening of "Far from the Madding Crowd" with
Julie Christie in self-destructive complex relations with three men.
Disregarding the inevitable colour fading grain and sharpness were so good that
it was hard to believe this was "only" a blowup print.
Carol Reed's "Oliver!" closed the festival with unforgettable tunes,
breathtaking choreography and Oswald Morris' brilliant cinematography.
At this point I want to thank Pavel Nejtek and his team for their hospitality,
their open-mindedness, and their patience when another crowd of enthusiastic
delegates burst into the tight space of the projection booth. I hope we'll meet
again at the "Centrum Panorama" for another amazing 70mm Weekend.
Note: No prints were harmed during this festival!
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