Non-pros who’ve never attended the Cannes Film Festival won’t care about the following, but a persistent and profoundly irritating sound problem in the Grand Lumiere theatre, the largest inside the sprawling festival bunker known as the Grand Palaix, hadn’t been solved as of last May’s festival, and so this morning I wrote Cannes honcho Thierry Fremaux about asking Boston Light and Sound’s Chapin Cutler to take a look at things:
“I’ve written you once before about what I and several others regard as a troubling sound issue in the Grand Lumiere. Too much bass and echo, not enough middle-range, and a resulting inability to understand much of the dialogue in certain films. I’m not a sound technician but there’s an acoustical condition called ‘standing waves‘ that may be a factor. Or not — I’m not sure. But I know that the Grand Lumiere’s sound has definitely compromised the dialogue in certain films shown there over the last two or three years, and that a solution needs to be found.
“Last May the dialogue in two films that I saw in the Grand Lumiere — Denis Villenueve‘s Sicario and Justin Kurzel‘s Macbeth — was all but unintelligible. More than a few journalists have reported the same. I can say for sure that in the case of Sicario it’s not the mix. A week ago I re-viewed Sicario in CAA’s screening room in Los Angeles, and the dialogue was fine — I understood every last vowel and consonant.
“I’m convinced that Cutler, co-founder of Boston Light and Sound and perhaps the most respected projection and sound guru in the business today, could really solve your difficulty. In the view of the Telluride Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival and the TCM Classic Film Festival, which have regularly used Cutler for years as their projection and sound director, Cutler may be the best in the world at diagnosing and solving this stuff.
“When Cutler was tributed with a Special Silver Medalllion by Telluride in 2012, Francis Coppola said the following: ‘Over the years, Chapin Cutler has proved equal to the task of mounting some of the most original, challenging, and difficult cinema experiences that I’ve seen yet. He deserves this recognition for his work on the Abel Gance three-screen tour of Napoleon alone, but his work went far beyond that.’
“I have encountered the same kind of sound problem in two other major theatres — the Princess of Wales in Toronto and in the TCL Chinese IMAX in Hollywood. I have discussed this and other acoustical issues more than once with Cutler, and I’m certain he’ll be able to solve or at least improve the Grand Lumiere’s situation significantly.
“I recognize, of course, that the French technicians you have hired for the Cannes Film Festival will probably take umbrage at the thought of an American specialist coming and in and making suggestions. That is always a touchy situation and fraught with political peril, but I know for certain that the Grand Lumiere issue is not imaginary and that it’s been brought up before and that, due respect, nothing satisfactory had been done about it as of last May’s festival.
“I will happily provide contact info should you require it.”