5th "70mm Film Weekend" Centrum Panorama Varnsdorf 2019
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The 70mm Newsletter
|Written & Photographed by: Dr. Gerhard Schwach, Austria||Date: 17.06.2019|
Day One, Thursday 9 May
|Audience of the 5th "70mm Film Weekend" Centrum Panorama Varnsdorf 2019|
From 9th until 12th May 2019, one of Europe's most fascinating cinemas, the VARNSDORF CENTRUM PANORAMA, with its deeply curved and stunning 70mm Todd-AO screen, hosted a superb 70mm Festival Weekend. Within the framework of the „Neisse Film Festival 2019“, the 70mm festival weekend at the „Centrum Panorama 70mm Cinema“ in Varnsdorf (German: Warnsdorf) once again offered an interesting compilation of some popular classics and some rare vintage 70mm titles. Vintage 70mm prints came from Kinomuseum Berlin e.V., Jean-Pierre Gutzeit (chairman), and the United Kingdom.
The Festival began with Sergei Bondarchuks „War and Peace, part III – Year 1812“ (1966) in an original Sovscope 70 vintage print. The presentation – and the presentation of „War and Peace, part IV" as well – was a color filtered projection through which a very natural color impression of the picture could be reached, something which the audience is not normally used to see on old 70mm prints. However, color filtered projection compromised the picture's contrast, which got a slight overweight in direction green, probably influenced by the projector mirror. The 6 track magnetic sound however was very balanced and discretely directional. Ron Howard's “Far and Away” (1992) in Panavision System 65 was shown in a very clean intact original print without frame skips but unfortunately, not with correct Dolby adjustment of the sound system. For the "2010" presentation later in the programme, however, Dolby sound adjustments were correctly adjusted. Robert Wise's "STAR!" (1968) was presented in an vintage print photographed in Todd-AO. Although the print showed a somewhat strange color fading, not in the red area alone, but in the whole color range, which meant the major portion of the primary colors were barely recognizable, it was the excellent sharpness of Todd-AO which impressed the audience.
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Day Two, Friday 10 May
|Centrum Panorama Varnsdorf in evening light.|
Day two of the festival began with an almost sold-out performance of John Frankenheimer's „Grand Prix“ in Super Panavision 70 and 6-track magnetic sound. It was a promotion show for the Centrum Panorama and this performance was also attended by members of the National Czech Film Archive and some school classes. Besides some minor film damage during the first 10 minutes of the second reel, obviously through a warping of the filmstrip and fading of the print, the picture sharpness was outstanding. The roadshow presentation of „Grand Prix“ with its overture, intermission exit music, intermission entr’acte music and final exit music contributed to a real „70mm feeling“. The programme continued with Sergej Bondarchuk's „War and Peace, part IV - Pierre Bezukhov“ (1966), also presented with color correction filters (see above).
Every year it is the goal of the annual Varnsdorf 70mm Weekend Festival and Kinomuseum Berlin e.V. to program representative examples of various 70mm technologies: Super Panavision 70, Todd-AO, Sovsope 70 and Super Technirama 70 and their creators, especially Samuel Bronston, David Lean, Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Mann, Nicholas Ray, Sergei Bondarchuk and others. Every year the festival organizers of the Varnsdorf 70mm Weekends also try to bring back some forgotten treasures to the big Todd-AO screen, which have not been seen by the public for decades. In previous years "The Big Fisherman", "Porgy and Bess", "Finian's Rainbow", "San Sebastian" and "Shalako" have all been shown in Varnsdorf.
A real highlight for me this year was a reunion with Anthony Mann's monumental medieval epic „El Cid“ (1961). This is one of the few surviving Super Technirama 70 prints with 6-track magnetic stereo sound. However, despite some damage to the print, splices etc., the major part of the print is still watchable and has at least shown us „some“ colors. As always with Super Technirama 70 – similar to VistaVision, however with anamorph horizontal compression - the picture sharpness was excellent. „El Cid“ was shown in Varnsdorf in a roadshow presentation with overture, intermission exit music, intermission entr’acte music and final exit music.
|Alfred Hichcock's "Vertigo" (1958) was introduced by film enthusiast Jean-Pierre Gutzeit, Berlin.|
The sound of the this vintage "El Cid" print was very good, albeit in the view of some people (including myself), it was played with the volume too low, so that Miklos Rozsa's outstanding musical score could not really be enjoyed at its fullest 6-track magnetic stereo potential. In 1961, after the premiere, Miklós Rózsa complained that his score could not be heard properly by the audience because sound editing operators had pushed the music too much in the background.
My tip: buy the soundtrack in the 3CD Edition of "El Cid" played by the City of Prag Philharmonic Orchestra under Nic Raine and enjoy the full power of this ingenious Miklos Rozsa music!
Please note it is no longer possible to produce new Super Technirama 70 prints from Technirama originals since all Technicolor equipment for this process; printers, lenses, lamp houses etc. have been completely dismantled and discarded some decades ago. All we have left are the few remaining 70mm prints.
Alfred Hichcock's "Vertigo" (1958) was extensively introduced with a separate lecture by the film enthusiast Jean-Pierre Gutzeit from his [so-called, editor] Kinomuseum Berlin, a partner of the Neisse Film Festival and the 70mm Varnsdorf Weekends. It was the only case during this 70mm Weekend where a new 70mm print with DTS sound was shown ("Vertigo" was beautifully restored by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz in 1996). Originally „Vertigo“ had been shot in the 35mm VistaVision process (horizontal camera photography and possible horizontal projection in order to enlarge the picture frame and give it more widescreen character). In his lecture Mr. Gutzeit gave a detailed explanation of the VistaVision process with some examples (e.g. Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" (1956)), and the history of this Hitchcock movie („From Flop to Eternal Myth“).
Day Three, Saturday 11 May
|The audience was invited to a gathering with excellent beers, food and drinks in the FilmPoint bar of the cinema.|
The third festival day began with Walter Lang's „The King and I“ (1956), shot in CinemaScope 55 and presented with six-track magnetic sound from a vintage 70mm print struck from a 35mm reduction negative. When the 35mm CinemaScope format became popular by the mid-1950's, 20th Century Fox film corporation decided to create a unique format to produce better 35mm prints, which they called CinemaScope 55. This format used a 55mm wide film with an 8 perforations pull-down and custom made anamorphic lenses by Bausch & Lomb. This new production format was used for only two feature films, "The King and I" and "Carousel", after which the 55mm format was abandoned in favour of Todd-AO. Preservation of these titles from the original negatives has turned out to become problematic. The shift from CinemaScope 55 to 70mm printing happened in 1960. The print is still in favourable condition, colors partly faded and leaving an acceptable sharp, red / red-yellow picture, however, with a very good sound quality (as always from 20th Century Fox).
Peter Hyam's „2010: The Year We Make Contact“ (1984) was the first blow-up-presentation of the festival. The first outdoor scenes appeared rather coarse-grained, as it happened with other real life sequences again – they show no 70mm effect, whereas the space scenes showed a great game with outstanding 3D-models and impressive 65mm photography. „2010“ has its qualities, but it should not particularly be regarded as a „2001“ follow-up.
Edward Dmytrik's „Shalako“ (1968), a British-German coproduction filmed in 35mm Franscope, was presented in a 70mm blow-up version with six-track-magnetic sound. Accordingly, sound and picture quality were good to very good. There was a certain color fading, leaving mostly red or red/brown color components, but the picture sharpness was – for a 70mm blow-up – very good, probably because it was directly blown up from the 35mm camera negative. The screening of „Shalako“ in 70mm was an absolute rarity with a considerable international star assembly, led by Sean Connery in his one and only westerner. Ridley Scott's “Alien” 1979 was celebrating its 40th anniversary, and for this show, the cinema was already completely sold out! The excellent sharpness and contrast of this 35mm Panavision blow-up was supported through an incredibly dynamic and powerful soundtrack in 6-track magnetic sound without Dolby! After the movie the audience was invited to a gathering with excellent beers, food and drinks in the FilmPoint bar of the cinema.
Day Four, Sunday 12 May
|Organizers of the 5th "70mm Film Weekend" Centrum Panorama Varnsdorf 2019 addressing the audience.|
Day four began with John Carpenter's „Big Trouble in Little China“ (1986), another action adventure movie in 70mm 6-track-magnetic sound. A terrific example of just how good a movie experience really can be, if you compare 70mm with a "flat" 35mm Dolby Stereo or mono presentation of the same title.
David Lean's "Ryan's Daughter" (1970) in Super Panavision 70 was something of a cornerstone of the festival. Originally panned by the movie critics meant „Ryan's Daughter“ was seldom shown in cinemas, and the negative reviews left David Lean in a somehow discouraged state, until he made "A Passage to India" 14 years later.
Loved by fans, this screening was a real highlight for many visitors in Varnsdorf. The movie seems to become better and better every year. There was only little to medium color fading, and the outstanding photography of cameraman Freddie Young came to its full power in the excellent sharpness of this vintage print. The 6-track magnetic sound and the colourful score of Maurice Jarre made its contribution. „Ryan's Daughter“ was presented in the roadshow version with overture, intermission exit music, intermission entr’acte music and final exit music - all of them in dark cinema hall with closed curtain. Absolutely perfect. It's almost impossible to experience „more“ of „70mm“….
The organizers of the 70mm Varnsdorf Weekend, Centrum Panorama cinema owner Pavel Nejtek, chief operator Zdeněk Štěpánek and his team have continuously worked all through the year on technical tests, improvements and modifications in order to account step by step the challenges of the various print conditions and sound formats. They are really committed to deliver to you the best possible quality performances of 70mm movies.
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