Right now I’m busy settling into my summer home in Rochester, NY, and beginning an internship at the Image Permanence Institute. To keep the blog ticking over, I’ve queued up the reports from last month’s Widescreen Weekend. Enjoy!
What’s in the bag, Widescreen Weekend?
As a festival delegate, I am a sucker for freebies. In my limited experience, the Widescreen Weekend loot was relatively generous considering that the weekend is just one part of a larger event. However, it must be said that some of the stuff was a little bit odd…!
1. Bag and XL t-shirt, leftover from the 2011 Bradford Animation Film Festival.
2. Black Sheep cap and bottle opener, acquired at the opening night drinks reception.
3. Issues of Cinema Technology and CInema Retro magazines.
4. Tickets for all screenings and events.
5. Pen, pad and, er, mouse pad from Dataset.
6. What looks to be a knock-off DVD of Hidden Hawaii, an IMAX film! (My friend got an even weirder pirated copy of Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 adaptation of Little Women!)
7. Spare toothbrush and AA batteries.
8. Pretty promotional postcards for the upcoming Flicker Alley DVD releases of This is Cinerama and Windjammer.
9. Brochure for the entire Bradford International Film Festival (time and budget constraints probably preclude a Widescreen Weekend only pamphlet, though this would have been handier).
10. Lanyard and delegate pass to add to my collection.
So, once I had confused my festival buddy by getting up early to photograph my belongings, we went to Gregg’s to stock up on supplies (recommended: timings are too tight to get lunch and dinner most days) before setting off for another day’s retrospectacles.
Cinerama Update by Randy Gitsch and Dave Strohmaier
Dry title for what was anything but a dry talk. Being somewhat of a widescreen newbie, I was unaware that essentially the widescreen movement is being kept alive by a small but dedicated circle of technological enthusiasts, archivists and, well, rich benefactors. Randy Gitsch and Dave Strohmaier are at the forefront of Cinerama research and development. They don’t just find and restore Cinerama titles and technologies, they’re in the business of producing brand new Cinerama on a proper Cinerama camera. Among general updates on their restoration work, the fellas showed us some pretty stunning rushes of Los Angeles, on brand new colour stock but shot with a 1950s tri-mounted camera.
Lecture: Cinerama in the South Seas
I love it when archivists nerd out with their collections. I get the impression that historian David Coles has been waiting a long time to show us absolutely everything to do with the people who produced and starred in Cinerama – South Seas Adventure in advance of the screen, sourced from various documents. The crowning glory was the attendance of Ramine, the Hawaiian beauty whose grass-skirt-wearing visage was heavily used to promote the film on its original release.
South Seas Adventure (Carl Dudley, Richard Goldstone, Francis D. Lyon, Walter Thompson, Basil Wrangell, USA, 1958)
Unlike This is Cinerama (original three-strip print) or Cinerama’s Russian Adventure (70mm remastered print), Cinerama – South Seas Adventure was presented digitally, smileboxed to fit the curvy screen with 5.1 digital stereo sound. While the remastering was super-impressive, the screening itself was lacking a certain wobbly authenticity.
The content was the usual Cinerama mix of fluffy scripted nonsense (in this case, a couple who find love on holiday to Hawaii) and stonking travelogue plane footage. The second half was the best bit, featuring the School of the Air and the flying doctors in the Australian outback.
Ryan’s Daughter (David Lean, 1970)
This is NOT Cinerama! Rather, this was a stunningly preserved 70mm print of David Lean’s underestimated classic. I’d never seen a 70mm print before*, and had never seen Ryan’s Daughter either, having always believed it to be the weakest of Lean’s epic period in the late 1960s. Happily, I was so wrong. Sheldon Hall mentioned in his introduction that it’s a fascinating companion piece to Brief Encounter (my favourite film evah) and I’m inclined to agree. Formally, it couldn’t be more different, but it deals with the same themes but inverts and distorts the results. Monochrome middle England becomes sepia-hued widescreen coastal Ireland. Selfless stoicism becomes urgent and impetuous adultery. War shifts from being unspoken of to being the pivotal action. It even has Trevor Howard, though he’s no longer the youthful romantic, but the voice of morality. It’s long, yet endlessly involving.
* I’ve seen brief clips of 70mm projected in the cinema and I’ve seen it in the archiving classroom. I’ve also technically seen The Red Shoes projected from a 7omm print, but that was a modern print of a digital restoration of a 35mm film. This was my first ‘proper’ 70mm print screening of a ‘proper’ Super Panavision widescreen film, and it was so clear I swear I could see Sarah Miles’ pores. Photochemicals being what they are (i.e. irreversible), this print (sourced from Sweden) even included original Swedish subtitles!
The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (Henry Levin, USA, 1961)
I have a gripe with the Widescreen Weekend. The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm is out-and-out family fayre, yet here it was screened late in the evening which meant there was a distinct lack of kids. I bet kids would love to see a Cinerama print on the massive curve. The film itself was recognised as flawed on its original release, and flawed it sadly is, but the peppy, colourful dance numbers and the presence of the Puppetoons make it entertaining nonetheless. Kudos to the Widescreen Weekend for getting it sent over all the way from Australia, and well done to John H Mitchell, the notable Cinerama-loving wonder who constructed his owned curved screen in his back garden and who restored and printed new magnetic sound from the hopelessly vinegary original.