Saturday, December 26, 2015

Breaking Scandal re: The Hateful Eight at the Park

(image lifted from Sylvia Soska's Facebook thread)

Where projection is concerned, given the state of current technology, I am no purist about film vs. digital. I would almost always rather see a pristine, top-of-the-line digital projection than a scratchy, faded, pinked or otherwise damaged film print, given a choice, no matter what the movie or context. I do admit that there is a seedy, nostalgic charm to the latter at times, of course; seeing Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City that way at last year's Northwest Horror Show was plenty of fun, and only added to the experience, particularly since, let's face it, it's not a particularly great-looking movie to begin with. But did that added charm actually make it worth the added cost to fly a 35 mm print in? I'm not sure. I know the curator, Shane Burzynski, thinks so - I ran into him on the Skytrain this week and apparently all but one of the upcoming fest's films this year will be film, once again - but I would have been equally happy with a sharp-looking digital projection. Among other things, my eye is simply not that discerning; while I can hear the difference between vinyl and CD, I doubt very much that, shown a simultaneous projection, side-by-side, of digital and film, that I could say unassisted which was which, or find reason to choose between them - unless the film was in some way damaged, in which case I'd probably prefer the digital. I'm more focused on content than image, anyhow. I want to see the colours at least reasonably close to what was originally intended, I want the image to be clear, and I want the correct aspect ratio, if possible - but beyond those few basics, I don't care HOW you project it.  Just show me a good movie, y'know?

But that's me.

On the other hand, when I first saw trailers for The Hateful Eight, boasting and booming that it was in 70mm, I have to admit to grinning. The whole thing seems basically a joke, but it's actually a funny one, if I'm appreciating it properly. I mean, given that Tarantino had a level of success with Django Unchained that allowed him to write his own ticket, more or less - given a culture that is obviously prepared to indulge his every excess and whim - and given that he's often pretty entertaining in his self-indulgences (cf. the close-ups of Juliette Lewis' toes in From Dusk Til Dawn, say, while his character ogles them; it's a clear and funny reference to his foot fetishism, also encoded into Jackie Brown)... given all that, how else could he better take stock of his own self-importance, his hubris, and his peculiar, maybe-once-in-a-lifetime position of authorial luxury, and encode it grand-scale into the film, than by shooting and distributing it in a grandiose, old-school format that very, very few cinemas are presently equipped to handle? There is on the one hand a sort of "bow down and worship me" arrogance to the gesture - which is kind of how I read PT Anderson's doing the same with The Master a few years ago - but it's also so OBVIOUS, as a signifier of hubris, so clearly a superhero pose that it ends up actually endearing the guy to me all over again; it's a ha, ha, Quentin, I see what you did there moment, a shamelessly overt bit of egomaniacal scheming that actually ends up coming across as self-deprecating, like he's simultaneously celebrating his hero status and making FUN of his hero status, at the same time... if that makes any degree of sense. Maybe I'm reading more into it than is there - maybe it is ONLY egomania, but, well, whatever: good for him for having gotten away with it.

Plus given the nature of Tarantino's project - to resuscitate genres, actors, music, and so forth from cinema history and make them relevant and fresh again; why not do that with technology, too?

So it's a good joke - and less irritating and unwelcome, as excuses to plus-size ticket prices go, than ultra AVX 3-D D-box bells and whistles. It's actually an added amusement for me that apparently most of the film is set indoors anyhow, that it's a typically talky Tarantino movie that really doesn't DO a lot with the 70mm projection. I'm sure 35mm or DCP would do me just fine; but, despite my usual indifference on matters of technology, I'll go see it in 70mm if I can. That's not what my liking or hating the film is going to be based on, but seeing it that way DOES seem to be an important aspect of "indulging Quentin" on this one.

Guess what, though? The Park, now showing the film in Vancouver, seems to be screwing it up. There's been a bit of a scandal on Facebook, as Jen and Sylvia Soska have reported that the screening of the film they saw, starting at 6pm, was interrupted just near the end, and an announcement was made that, due to a techological failure, they'd been watching the film digitally all along. Despite what was on the marquee (pictured above). This blows for any number of reasons, because:

1. If you advertise 70mm, and you can't deliver, TELL people beforehand
2. ...ESPECIALLY if you're charging a premium (I gather tickets are $20)
3. ...And waiting to just before the end of the movie, to stop the film and tell everyone, and then let them finish it, feathers all ruffled, distracted... who exactly made that call? Was the manager proper at home for Christmas, and junior staff filling in? It's a scandalously bad decision, and someone should have to bear the consequences.

Robin Bougie also has weighed in on Facebook: apparently he saw the 2pm screening of the movie today and it WAS 70mm, but they had to stop the film twice for technological issues; he says the projector broke, or such. (Apparently Cineplex have told someone they're working on it but I have no real idea what the story is as of the 26th).

My plan was to see the film at what, as of this edit, is 6pm tonight, but I'm not exactly sure how that's going to play out, at this point. I would LIKE to, in fact, see it as a 70mm film print, but not if it means them stopping the movie for repairs or adjustments. And while I would probably still go see it as a digital projection, I'm sure not going to pay extra for the privilege. I really hope the Park gets this ironed out beforehand, because things are lookin' pretty ugly on Facebook; a lot of people are disappointed and pissed-off, and I really, really cannot blame them.


Allan MacInnis said...

I didn't end up going today - too many strikes against it - but might try tomorrow, if it's not sold out...

Allan MacInnis said...

More here -