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January 21, 2008:

THE HANDS OF THE CLOCK LOOM LARGE

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I can see by the hands of the clock that I must write these here notes in a hurry. That is what happens when one sees a film that runs 208 minutes plus a fifteen-minute intermission. Yes, the hands of the clock loom large and I must write these here notes in a hurry, like a gazelle in a turnip truck. Speaking of a turnip truck, yesterday was a day in which I thought I’d get some relaxing time in, but that proved not to be the case. I got up, played through the act one score in preparation for our reading this evening, then sat down to write. It was slow going at the beginning (starting a new chapter and all), but once I got going I got on a roll (an onion roll) and ended up doing eight pages. I’m sure I’ll be revising many things this morning, but it felt really good to knock out that many pages – and, should I choose to do a couple less today, it won’t make any difference, and it looks like I’ll be giving my muse Margaret another fifty-something pages on Wednesday morning. By the time I finished the pages, I was quite bleary-eyed and my back was most tired and sore. I took a quick shower, and then toddled off to the Monica of Santa, where I had a bite to eat at the Blue Plate CafĂ©, near the Aero Theatre. The restaurant itself is very small, with only about fifteen tables, and the clientele is upscale, trendy, rich, and totally irritating in just about every way. I had an okay chicken salad sandwich and a side of decent mac and cheese, but I don’t think I’ll be going back. I then toddled off to the theater, got my seat and waited for the show to begin. At seven-thirty, Mr. Foster Hirsch, author of the new Preminger bio, introduced Miss Eva Marie Saint, and some fellow from the LA Times to ask her questions. Miss Saint, who I believe is eighty-four years young, looks amazing. She’s still quite beautiful, trim, and very on the ball. She was delightful, and they spent about fifteen minutes talking. Then the house lights dimmed and the film began.

Last night, I saw a motion picture entitled Exodus, directed by Mr. Otto Preminger, starring Mr. Paul Newman, Miss Eva Marie Saint and a very large cast of very good actors. It was all shot on location in Cypress and Israel by the excellent cameraman Sam Leavitt. The film is very long – 208 minutes, plus a fifteen minute intermission. The first half is all talk, and the second half is mostly action. I wrote about the experience of seeing this film in 70mm and six track stereo sound at the Wilshire Theater in either Kritzerland or Kritzer Time. For a twelve year old, it was a riveting and somewhat mind-boggling experience, and one that has vividly stayed with me. Interestingly, when the film went into wide release at popular prices, I saw it again at a smaller theater (the El Rey) where seeing it in 35mm with mono sound was not nearly the same experience, nor did it have the same impact. I have not seen it on the big screen since then. I was quite excited when the laserdisc came out, only to be appalled by how bad the transfer looked and how lousy the two-track stereo sounded. When it hit DVD, I got excited again, until I put on the thing and to my utter dismay saw that MGM/UA had used the laserdisc transfer, and to add insult to injury, it was non-anamorphic. So, I sat with fear and trembling to see what sort of print we were getting. As soon as the image came up, I knew two things immediately – it was a somewhat worn and tattered 35mm print, and it was mono. Still, the titles looked nice. As soon as it went to its opening shot, a glorious, long pan of Cypress, I knew we were seeing an old IB Technicolor print – that part was great. It was very sharp. But, as I mentioned last night, it also became instantly apparent that I was right about the projector bulb’s yellow bias and what it does to prints that were timed for carbon arc lamp houses. The IB Tech’s colors were all there – the glorious blue skies, the vivid reds, the blue of the sea, the blue cast to the night scenes, only it all had a yellow cast to it that made the cast all look like they had jaundice. While it was great to see it on the big screen, 35mm for this film is the wrong ratio, and basically they have to reformat the film when they print down to 35mm, as the scope ratio is 2:35 and the 70mm ratio is approximately 2:20 – the framing is off in many scenes, with tops of heads lopped off in a very unflattering way. Mixing down the six-track stereo to mono never gives a satisfying result. I fear that we’re never going to see movies like Exodus again, not in the way they were meant to be seen, and therefore the film is never going to have the impact it once had. All one can hope for is a digital restoration off the large format elements, in the proper ration, and with a great 5.1 mix. But, given the DVD we’re stuck with, who knows if we’ll ever have that. I do love all the actors, the script is very, very talky, and Mr. Preminger, shooting in 70mm for the first time, does very little camera movement and almost no editing within scenes – most of this film is played in long takes from one angle. It must have been a breeze to edit. Still, I really like the film, and especially the score by Ernest Gold (it won the Oscar). Unfortunately, in the mono mixdown the score doesn’t sound good and is mixed way too far back. I’m quite certain the print on view was from a private collector.

Well, why don’t we all click on the Unseemly Button below because the hands of the clock loom large and I must get to bed, for I shall definitely need my beauty sleep before the long day ahead of me.

Today, I shall have a long day ahead of me. I must get all my writing out of the way by two o’clock at the latest. Then I must get everything organized for this evening’s reading, and I must practice playing the score one last time, so I don’t totally embarrass myself whilst playing the piano. I also have several errands to do (I’m completely out of printer ink), and I must get more water and Diet Coke.

The rest of the week is equally busy, with many things to do, including writing, meetings, lunches and other things. And, of course, after tonight’s reading, will be moving on to act two, and there’s an equal amount of work to do on that act.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, write pages, organize things for the reading, buy ink, water, and Diet Coke, and practice playing the piano. Today’s topic of discussion: We’ve done it before, but not for a while – what are your all-time favorite large format, reserved seat film experiences – what were the films, where did you see them, how old were you, how impressed were you – the whole nine yards or, at the very least, the whole seven yards. Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, because the hands on the clock loom large, and we all know what THAT means.

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