Last night I re-sampled Roma on Netflix. My fourth viewing. The black-and-white compositions have always looked great on theatrical screens, but they look even better on my Sony 930C 65″ 4K HDR, especially via the new Samsung 4K Bluray player. I could live in that film, that eye spa. The only film that offers a similar monochrome wonderland vibe is Pawel Pawlikowski‘s Cold War.
But I’m of two minds about some forthcoming 70mm presentations that Netflix has planned. On one hand I’d like to see what it looks like; on the other I know it can’t look as good as it does at home or via digital projection.
I’m slightly puzzled by a quote from Roma director Alfonso Cuaron in a 12.20 Variety piece by Dave McNary, to wit: “Roma is designed to be meaningful whether experienced at home or on the big screen but offering cinema lovers the opportunity to see it in theaters is incredibly important to me. The 70mm print of Roma shows unique details not available on any other version. Being shot in 65mm, these prints bring live detail and contrast only possible using a big format film. It is for sure the most organic way to experience Roma.”
I heard this morning from a tech-savvy friend who disagrees with Cuaron:
“The foundation of Roma is the beautiful, shimmering, nitrate-like black-and-white imagery,” he said. “I wonder if it was captured in color and affected in post?
“The strange thing is the announcement that they’re making some 70mm prints to have an ‘organic’ look, whatever that is. The publicity mentions a large-format 65mm negative, but Roma was shot as data.
“65mm digital, straight from the chip, blows projected 70mm celluloid out of the ballpark. If you go from original finalized data to a recorded negative, and then to a print and then project it, and projection is almost always flawed unless you’re screening it in the Academy or some other first-rate venue…if you do all that you’ve lost probably 25% of the image quality. Not to mention trying to achieve the purity of the black-and-white data on color stock.
“So why project it on 70mm film?”
I’ve asked Cuaron about these disparate views, and whether my tech-savvy friend might be missing something. Haven’t heard back.