What 7OMM is to Johan Wolthuis
Johan Wolthuis of The Netherlands interviewed during the Todd-AO Festival, 2016
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The 70mm Newsletter
|Interviewed by: Thomas Hauerslev. Retyped from audio files by Margaret Weedon and Mark Lyndon.||Date: 12.11.2016|
|Johan C. M. Wolthuis as many people know him. His vintage Todd-AO scrap books on display and selling 70mm-fan books. Picture by Thomas Hauerslev|
Johann Wolthuis (1940) has been crucially instrumental in reviving world wide interest in 70mm. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that there might not have been the same level of awareness and appreciation of the 70mm format without his tireless dedication, advocacy and enthusiasm, which goes back for over three decades. We who love 70mm and see it as the greatest and grandest medium for the moving image of them all, owe him a great deal. He speaks most eloquently for us all. And not from Holland!!!
Thomas: In 1988 you started as secretary of the International 70mm Association; a long time has passed and I have interviewed you before so this is a follow up and I only have a few questions for you:
So I would I would like to know your opinion of the current status of 65mm films. Since our first interview 20 years ago, we have seen “Hamlet” we have seen “Samsara” we have seen “The Master”, “The Hateful 8” and several films in IMAX, which are beginning to show in 70mm cinemas. What do you think about that?
Johan: In my opinion, IMAX is a beautiful thing but it does not match the 70mm normal sized 5 perforations 70mm – and especially when I saw Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful 8” the first part – it was wonderful. It was Ultra-Panavision, bright, and that is what is lacking in IMAX; it is too square despite it’s a beautiful thing. When we were together making that promotion tour, I had expected that something would happen, but nothing happened, and it was a pity. And in 1994 “Far and Away” came and was released and I was thinking that something would happen, but nothing happened after that.
|More in 70mm reading:|
Johan Says Goodbye as Editor of The 70mm Newsletter
The 70mm Promotion Tour 1994 Part #1
The 70mm Promotion Tour 1994, part #2
Widescreen History - A New book about wide screen from International 70mm Publishers
2013 Academy Member Johan Wolthuis (The Netherlands)
The Golden Elephant Award
|Johan C. M. Wolthuis being interviewed by the author on the first row at the Schauburg Cinerama. Picture by Orla Nielsen|
TH - what do you think of the films that they are making now - it is not big commercial films – it is art movies – like “The Master” – “The Hateful 8” and “Samsara” – it is not commercial films like we know it. It is artist’s films.
JW – yes, but the art films from the 50s and 60s were quite different from what they are making now – it is all action and computer generated tricks, etc., etc.
TH – yes, but what do you think of the current films made in 70mm?
JW – I had a little hope that it would continue because before it was only digital and it looks like the 35mm and 70mm are disappearing, but then I hear that Woody Allen would always use 35mm and Christopher Nolan is also a fan, and Quentin Tarantino. I hope that there will be more directors who will say "Hey that is a good idea to make a film in 70mm" – a good film!
TH – yes but what do you think of "The Master" for example?
JW – I did not like “The Master” because it was not real 70mm, it was made on 65mm – it was not the normal scope of the 70mm film. So I did not like that at all. That is what I liked with “The Hateful 8” from the beginning it was a bright image and a beautiful image – like you used to see on 70mm in the 50s and 60s and 70s.
|"In my opinion, IMAX is a beautiful thing but it does not match the 70mm normal sized 5 perforations 70mm". Picture by Orla Nielsen|
TH – you already answered this a little bit – but in what way does the new films live up to your expectations – if at all?
JW – now I am awaiting for “Dunkirk” because that is less computer tricks and more photography with real 65mm cameras – although I could not hear which part was in 65mm and which was in IMAX – that was a pity; you will see that. But this is not what I expect, I hope that there will be another project next year or in the coming months when some director thinks "Hey – let us make a movie with a real good story" and I think that Quentin Tarantino was on the right way but I think his kind of film is quite different from a good story despite the first half was a good story and then it continued with a lot of violence as I said before. But it still gives me some hope and it is important that they save the Kodak laboratory in Los Angeles or in New York; and I think now that Kodak is looking in Europe for a laboratory for 70mm. So that gives hope that – next to digital releases – there will also be releases in 70mm. That is what it looks like; the way it is going.
TH – what do you think about the latest story that will come out in 65mm – "Vox Lux" - have you heard about that?
JW – No, I have not – I saw the name but I do not know what the content is – so maybe you can tell me something more.
TH – I do not know much about it
JW – I was amazed that you knew already about the “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” - which was filmed in Vista Vision [Photographed digitally, with Ultra Panavision 70 lenses, ed]. I read that in Robert Richardson’s story about Quentin Tarantino – [he was the "H8" photographer for Quentin Tarantino]; he mentioned that the next project was “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, but you told me it was only done in a digital camera and will not be issued in 70mm, and that is a pity.
So my whole hope is on “Dunkirk” and the next project. If they have a 70mm project that will be OK.
|"Films from the 50s and 60s were quite different from what they are making now". Picture by Orla Nielsen|
TH - What is it about 70mm that excited you?
JW – when I saw this morning the "Sky over Holland", I thought this is what 70mm is – it is a beautiful image – beautiful scenes of nature, of the sky, of scenes on the fields and the ground and then in Cities, and on paintings; this is for me an exact example of how you should make a 70mm film. A combination of – not acting – OK you can put some acting in – but it was beautiful photography – beautiful aerial photography – compared with paintings; so it was a real story. Without even a word spoken you can understand what it was all about.
TH – “The Hateful 8” – that was a controversial release for many reasons because the artist insisted on showing it exclusively in 70mm in a hundred cinemas in the States. And he wanted to show it with an Intermission and with an Overture - and with a printed programme. What are your thoughts about releasing a film like that today?
JW - it was very clever – a good re-introduction to 70mm in the States; they were already busy a year collecting all 70mm projectors and nobody knew about that – otherwise the prices went up and up.
TH – yes, but what did you think about it?
JW – yes, I think it is a good thing, because I am not against digital; my children ask me – are you against all digital? No, I am not against all digital because it can produce good quality. Sometimes if you cannot see a film except on digital then OK, but we should keep 65mm and 70mm alive - next to all the digital experiences, etc.. Just like now you have CDs and DVDs, and also they are making long playing records again. I think they should exist next to each other – digital films and 65mm and 70mm films; that is my hope.
|"I would love to see more restored films like we saw in Berlin in 2009". Picture by Orla Nielsen|
TH – Let us turn to the Schauburg cinema - where we find ourselves on the first row. What are your thoughts on seeing 70mm in the Schauburg cinema? about the screen and the organising of the programme, and everything?
JW – the great thing here is that the screen is just what I remember seeing in 1957 for the first time when they projected “Oklahoma!” and that is what I see here again; this is really 70mm - what I like – despite I do not like faded prints, but then we had that beautiful example again of “Sky over Holland” and also I was amazed to see “The March of Todd-AO”. It is a long time ago since I saw “The March of Todd-AO” it is a long time since I saw it, but the "Sky over Holland” is my favourite I think; and “Oklahoma!” and “Around the World”, and “Hello, Dolly!”; someone mentioned he had seen it in 2009 in Berlin.
TH – so the Schauburg live up to all your expectations?
JW – yes, it is my perfect location for 70mm – yes, it is really good – and the sound is beautiful - you do not need Dolby, or Atmos, there. The sound is good and Dataset is very good and you do not need to put magnetic stripes on it – at the same time as you print it you put the time code on; it is really very simple, and much cheaper.
|22 years since the "7OMM Promotion Tour". Johan and Thomas with a vintage edition of "The 7OMM Newsletter". Picture by Orla Nielsen|
TH – I have known you for the better part of 25 years at least – since 1988. And you are the number one fan of 70mm that I know - you live it like no one else – and I am proud to have been involved with you and to have invited you this year, since I believe that all 70mm Festivals need someone special, and we need Johan.
JW – and I am very happy that you invited me
TH - When you look back over all these years since you started the Magazine in 1988 – do you think you have succeeded with your personal ambition about 70mm where Festivals are concerned, I mean since 1988 there have been a lot of 70mm Festivals much more than ever before – does that live up to your expectations?
JW – my expectations were, that they made new films in 70mm but if we have not that, then I am still happy with the 70mm festivals, but I would love to see more restored films like we saw in Berlin in 2009, it was very good festival with all new prints, “Hello, Dolly!”, “Flying Clipper”, etc., – I would love to see “Flying Clipper” again. So yes, there are a lot of restored nice prints – but it depends on programming – I think it is a pity and it is what I hear from a lot of people. I would love to see a film we saw five years ago screened here, and I would advise to do that because if you see a film like "Sky over Holland", and “Gorillas in the Mist”, and “Empire of the Sun”, which was also a good print, which I liked despite it was a blow up (I would have preferred it in 70mm); my first thought is – do it on 65mm and then release it in 70mm! I am a positive person and I still hope that maybe every year if we have one director who makes 65mm, 70mm film it will be OK.
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