Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia (mostly) the way it was meant to be seen

Jo and I went to the theatre to see my all-time movie today, Lawrence of Arabia. For its 50th birthday the film has been given a remarkable facelift, and leading up to its Blu Ray release it has come to movie theatres, what is supposed to be a four hour and seventeen minute event, including the intermission.

I own the movie on DVD, and even though it came out one year before I was born, I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen once before. As noted in the article linked to above, though, the version I saw was not that optimal. Still and all, I felt very lucky to have seen it in a movie theatre at all, and was delighted to be able to again.

There were a couple of issues to note in an otherwise perfect day (aside from the fact that sitting for that long, even with an intermission, apparently gets harder the older I get. Go figure). First of all, the quality of the digital "print" was indeed spectacular, but like pretty much every other digitally-projected movie, it did seem a little dimmer, a little more washed-out than it should have been. Still gorgeous, but not as good as it would have been on film. That said, it wouldn't look anything near as good if it had been on film, so that's a push.

Also, a couple of times in the second half of the movie, there was a slight jump of lost information or else a problem with the projector, a stutter, if you will. I will assume that it might have been a fault with the download process, and that the Blu Ray will be just fine.

When I last saw the movie in a theatre, the screen was the old-style big screen, with a much wider aspect ratio, and with a deep concave curve. The advantage to this, besides getting that immersion that a David Lean epic filmed with 65mm stock deserves, is that wide horizon shots tend to follow the curve (if I recall correctly, and I have to remind you this was a long time ago). On this screen, with no or little curve, the result is the horizon curves instead, making a slight smile of a line. I suspect most people don't even think anything of that, but to me it was a tad disconcerting.

The final problem is the funniest, and also the saddest. When the movie starts (and the same after the intermission) there is a five minute overture with a black screen and music playing. No surprise, the people who work at the theatre had no idea that this was the case, and a couple of times tried to start it and then stopped it so they could fix the "problem." Finally, someone pointed out the error to the young employee who came in to explain the situation to us and we actually got to watch the movie.

Problems aside, this is still a great movie, one that deserves to be seen on as big a screen as you can find. I know it plays once more here in Saskatoon, on November 14, and if you can spare the time and can manage to lengthy sit-down, I strongly recommend it. The bonus for that is it should end a few minutes sooner than it did today, since the staff are hopefully all going to be aware of how the movie starts.

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