Saturday, February 16, 2013

Movie Lovers Paradise or Cornucopia Hell? 70mm at the Music Box, Leos Carax at the Siskel

A long time ago, 70mm represented the highest possible tech for making films. Capturing four times the image of a 35mm print, and projected on massive screens with state-of-the-art surround sound, 70mm films, especially when shot by a master like Freddie Young, created images as beautiful as anything you'd find at the Art Institute, 24 times a second.  The visceral kick of a masterwork  in 70 cannot be replicated on a home theater system, no matter how large the screen.

With few exceptions, the era of 70mm died forty years ago, when exclusive downtown bookings were replaced with wide releases in thousands of theaters simultaneously.  In the current era of high-res digital scans, rumors persist that the studios will be longer be distributing their remaining 70mm prints, and, at a cost of $50,000 on up, won't be striking new ones.
So this week's 70MM Film Festival at the Music Box could one of your last chances to see these films in the format for which they were made to be shown.  There are a number of omissions: no Cleopatra, Ben-Hur, Ryan's Daughter, Sound of Music, or Mad, Mad, World, but there's still Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (Saturday, Sunday and Thursday),  Hitchcock's Vertigo (Sunday and Tuesday), West Side Story (Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday), and, for the masochists, Chitty, Chitty, Bang Bang (look it up - I'm not going to encourage you.)
There's the rare opportunity to see Richard Brooks' Lord Jim, reteaming Lawrence of Arabia's Peter O'Toole and Freddie Young, Jacques Tati's masterpiece Playtime , , ,
 Branagh's visually splendid Hamlet, and a real oddity, Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce.  The festival will also offer the first opportunity to see Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master in 70mm since its sold-out preview at the Music Box last fall.
The Trib's Michael Phillips has a great overview of the festival and films here. You can view the entire schedule here.  This is is something not to be missed.

The Star-Crossed Visions of Leos Carax
As, in some kind of act of astral punishment, this very same week the Music Box has a festival of 70mm,  the Gene Siskel Film Center is offering up  a rare retrospective of the work of Leos Carax,  one of the most unique filmmakers of our time.  As I wrote about his latest film last November . . .
Holy Motors is, in turns, pretentious, incoherent, disgusting, sensationalist, raw - and all the better for it. . . .

We must disenthrall ourselves," Abe Lincoln said.  "√Čtonne-moi!" added Diaghilev, upping the ante. The curse of CGI is to make the fantastic as mundane as the every-day.  Says Leos Carax, "The problem is to find again that primitive power of cinema, that first shot of the train in La Ciotat. It’s harder and harder to do today. You have to reinvent that power, which is almost a mystical power, a magical power. 
In addition to Holy Motors, the Siskel is screening hard-to-find titles as Bad Blood (Mauvais Sang) with Juliette Binoche, Denis Lavant, Julie Delpy and Michel Piccoli . . .

. . . plus Boy Meets Girl, and the ineffably, darkly strange Pola X.   See the full schedule here.

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