“Rendezvous with Quentin Tarantino”, a special event at Theatre Croisette (home of the Directors Fortnight program), began at 4:22 pm. QT was introduced, stepped on stage to vigorous applause, and announced that John Flynn’s Rolling Thunder (‘77) would be the secret screening — a 35mm print, he proudly announced — and that a fun discussion would follow.

The film began at 4:35, and I’m sorry but it looked and sounded like shit. A faded, half-pink print. Smothered in dirt and scratch marks during the first two or three minutes and never looking or sounding all that clean. To me the dialogue was weak and whispery and barely audible, especially with the soundtrack humming and popping and crackling.

I hadn’t seen Rolling Thunder in 45 or 46 years, and if it hadn’t been for the French subtitles (which helped here and there) I would’ve been totally lost about some of the plot particulars.

You’d expect that for an event like this Tarantino would’ve gotten hold of a decent print, or relaxed his purist 35mm aesthetic (I know…heresy!) and shown a DCP. I’m sorry but I haven’t watched a film in this kind of ghastly condition in ages. We’re all accustomed to old films being restored or upgraded these days. Rolling Thunder is streaming on Amazon Prime.

QT’s affection for this Vietnam War-era revenge film is genuine, and the last thing I want to do is rain on his parade. I was really looking forward to a Thunder session but if you can’t hear a good portion of the dialogue what’s the point?