Last evening the SRO and I were heading east on Montana Avenue when I noticed that a new 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey was playing at the Aero. It was 7:10 pm, or 20 minutes before the show would begin. I excitedly talked her into catching this 1968 classic, as she’d never seen it. So we bought our tickets, got our refreshments, sat down in the third row…and the film looked like dogshit.
Dark, muddy, no focus or sharpness to speak of, all of those exquisite values covered in shadow — a complete rip-off of the patrons who paid $15 a pop.
They were presumably showing the same freshly created 70mm print that’s been playing at the American Cinematheque Egyptian in Hollywood, which means that it probably looked like shit there also. It’s an absolute scandal that that no one’s said anything. All of these 2001 fans, paying crowd after paying crowd, watching one of the inkiest, most under-lighted prints I’ve ever seen, and they’ve all just sat there like sheep.
I went into the lobby and told the staff that the print, or at the very least the projection, was bullshit. “My 2001 Bluray looks glorious on my 65″ Sony 4K, but what you’re showing doesn’t look anywhere near as good,” I said. They reacted like cigar-store Indians. Shocked, fearful.
The manager appeared. “Have you ever seen the 2001 Bluray on a decent high-def screen?” I asked him. “Yeah,” he said. “Well, the Bluray is how it should look — what you’re showing looks like shit.” Manager: “You can’t expect a 70mm print to look like a Bluray…it’s a different thing. It’s celluloid.” Me: “Oh, yeah? I saw a clean 70mm 2001 print at the old Plitt twinplex in Century City back in the mid ’80s, and it looked beautiful. Your print looks like crap.” Manager: “You’re the first person to say anything like this.” Me: “Oh, well, that changes everything! Nobody else complained, you say? That must mean I’m full of shit then!”
Stunned ticket guy: “Well, I…I…I don’t know what you want me to do.” Me: “I want you to go outside and find the nearest birch tree, and I want you to saw off a couple of thin branches, strip yourself to the waist like Max Von Sydow in The Virgin Spring and beat yourself with the branches, and I mean until you can’t stand it any more. Then report back here for further punishment.”
An older woman was walking slightly ahead of us as we left. She had overheard my complaint. “I agree with you,” she said, turning in my direction. “It looks like hell, and I’m in this business. My husband told me, ‘Oh, it’ll look great…70 mm print!’ God. Waste of time.”