Archive for carbon arc

Big Day

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2017 by dcairns

Yesterday —

9am THE ROAD BACK — major James Whale, a rediscovered director’s cut. Huge production values and a brilliant script by R.C. Sherrif which mingles humour with the tragedy. “It was nice to see Andy Devine being given big things to do.” If it has a flaw, it’s an over-literal approach to emotion, an on-the-nose quality, so that if a character is written as wistful, Whale casts the most wistful guy he can get and has him play it wistful. This cuts down on the humanity you get in something like THE MORTAL STORM or (showing here later) LITTLE MAN, WHAT NOW?

10.45am SHERLOCK HOLMES. Kept my seat and let them project another movie at me. This was William K. Howard’s 1931 tongue-in-cheek travesty, with Clive Brook dragging up and Ernest Torrence hamming it up. I’d seen a very fuzzy copy in which it was clear Howard was trying interesting things, mainly montages in between the scripted pages — on the big screen, in splendid quality, his direction seemed even more dazzling. Second John George sighting this fest.

12 DESTINATION UNKNOWN. Early thirties Tay Garnett is a mixed bag, but after HER MAN wowed everyone last year, we had high hopes for this. Visually, it doesn’t deliver anything like the same panache, but it fascinates by its oddness. A semi-wrecked rum-runner drifts aimlessly, becalmed. The gangsters, led by Pat O’Brien’s mild wheedle, have control of the water supply. The sailors, led by Alan Hale’s ridiculous Swedish accent, want to get it. Nobody is sympathetic. Then Ralph Bellamy turns up, effulgent. Everyone seems to think they recognise him — from long ago when they were innocent. A religious parable is clearly being palmed off on us, but we’re also tempted to anticipate the line, “He looks like that guy in the movies, what’s his name, Ralph Bellamy.”

The creepy Jesus pulls off one startling miracle, changing wine into water.

Very spirited work from Chas. Middleton (Ming the Merciless), who actually throws in a dog bark at the end of a line, out of sheer joie de vivre.

Fish and chips for lunch, with Charlie Cockey.

14.15 KINEMACOLOR — running late I missed the explanation of how this miracle process worked, but the results are striking, and became even more so when I remembered to take off my sunglasses.

16.00 I remained in my seat to see MILDRED PIERCE, stunningly restored — better than new? “I’m so smart it’s a disease.”

18.15 THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. In a way, I was remaining in my seat to see the thing that terrified me on a small black and white screen as a kid. Here it was on a huge colour screen and I was front row centre, looking right up that cyclops’ nose. I guess they’ll never be able to get the grain remotely consistent — that would be remaking, not restoration — the cave entrance, which I assumed was a matte painting, looks very granular indeed, as do the titles. During monster bits, the monsters are much finer-grained than their backgrounds, but oddly the matte shots with tiny Kathryn Grant seem very sharp. All this will be less problematic on a smaller screen and if you’re not front row centre, of course. The efforts to get the film looking as good as it can (faded Eastmancolor negative — the image is now vibrant again) are appreciated.

Dinner with friends Nicky, Sheldon, et al.

22.15 CARBON ARC PROJECTION. More early colour processes, two vintage projectors. Beautiful. I was very tired and snuck away before the end.

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The Sunday Intertitle: That Man

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , on July 17, 2016 by dcairns

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And on top of her work, Marie suffers the attentions of that man who inspires terror in her.

Thinking of a friend caught in an abusive relationship. I say “caught” — of course, the door is wide open, but she doesn’t see it.

Images from COEUR FIDELE, shown in Bologna as part of their Marie Epstein season — the multi-talented Marie co-wrote and co-stars in COEUR FIDELE for her brother Jean, which I wrote about at length here. But there’s more to be said about the Bologna experience.

The film was projected in the Piazzetta Pier Paolo Pasolini, on a carbon arc projector, making for an authentic silent movie screening experience. The thrills of this are manifold — you get the excitement of watching poisonous fumes billowing from the projector, all lit up like the steam from a locomotive in some version of ANNA KARENINA, only more toxic (so the screening must be outdoors — they just didn’t bother about things like poison gas in the old days). And the light from the carbon arc has a different quality — more silvery? And the DARK has a different quality too — more velvety.

Seeing Jean Epstein’s film projected enhances its striking modernity too — not just the Lynchian montages, all double exposure phantasie — but the big closeups. With a pristine print from the Cinematheque Francaise, every dancing grain feels uniquely PRESENT, and every pore on an actor’s face appears in relief. In a sense, it feels like the film was shot yesterday. In a sense it feels LIVE.

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It’s necessary to book seats in the Piazzetta, but you can gather on the outskirts without tickets. We had booked for STELLA DALLAS earlier in the festival and at the last minute collapsed from exhaustion and didn’t make it. At the last minute we decided to attend COEUR FIDELE, and THEN we collapsed from exhaustion. We started out sitting on the ground at the outskirts of the seated area. Then we would up LYING on the ground. Fiona propped her head up with her little silver rucksack. At some point, lulled by Epstein’s luminous imagery and Gabriel Thibaudeau’s piano accompaniment, she fell asleep. Nevertheless, she described the occasion as one of the greatest cinematic experiences of her life. Maybe after a week of sitting in sweltering cinemas, the sheer relief of watching in a completely relaxed position, with the occasional soothing breeze, accounted for some of her ecstasy. But let’s give the Epsteins and M. Thibaudeau some credit too.

The show began with the original Lumiere shorts programme, screened by yet another vintage projector, an actual Victorian one — a British R.W. Paul job, rather than an original Lumiere, but close enough. Curator Mariann Lewinsky held a microphone to the device to amplify its whirr, so that the piano could accompany THAT. The image flickered, as it would have for those restaurant patrons 121 years ago. Thibaudeau is really great — when the Lumiere baby is deciding whether or not to accept a spoonful of baby food, the suspense he created was quite something, and not something I had ever felt about that film before.