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Bad "2001" experience


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I enjoy seeing older films in theatres again, but sometimes the experience can be painful. Today, I saw one of the newly struck prints of "2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY", and what a disappointment it was!

 

I understand that there are good reasons for not making release prints direct off a 34 year old 65mm negative, and a certain loss of quality is inevitable in such a case. But these new prints are IMHO nothing but a sad distortion and watered-down version of what Kubrick intended and succeeded in giving to audiences back then.

 

I have seen "2001" many times, both in 35mm scope and 70mm Super Panavision.

Never have I seen a print with such bad steadiness - Kubrick's great long shots used to be rock-steady on the screen, almost like large format slide projection. Now the film looks like any average contemporary 35mm release print.

 

Gone is the extreme sharpness that made you see every detail - all the finest structures of the under-construction "ferris-wheel" space station, the whole "clean" look of 2001 space technology is buried under grain.

 

Density constantly fluctuates, in many shots there is no black left (HAL'S fisheye views), the DAWN OF MAN SEQUENCE look murky (although it always was softer because of front projection and more shallow focus).

 

All scenes with bright light surfaces look somehow washed out, the delicate tones of the space station (where Dr. Floyd talks to the Russians) are gone. In many shot, rear-projected screens look washed out (when Floyd does the voice print test), and to make it even worse, and there are numerous badly duped shots (replacing damaged original neg) that look like mediocre Techniscope footage (eating scene at the end of the film).

 

Especially with a filmmaker like Stanley Kubrick, "good enough" is not good enough.

Old films have been reprinted and restored beautifully, and people like Bob Harris prove that it can be done with little loss of quality - the new prints of SPARTACUS are almost as good as the original prints.

 

But I suppose selling DVDs is all "the powers that be" care about. Sometimes it seems that a film has to live on in your memory because it is not available in a decent form any more.

 

 

PS: The print was projected properly and with extreme care. I have checked that projection had nothing to do with the faults I have listed.

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How sad. One of the single most stunningly photographed films of all time destroyed in such a fashion. Let's hope that someday someone can go back and "restore" the "restoration" as happened with Gone With the Wind and others.

 

I remember seeing 2001 projected in 70mm on the side of a large building painted Scotchbrite White for a special festival screening of 70mm movies in Chicago. Days of Heaven was also on the bill, but nothing could compare to the breathtaking clarity of 2001.

 

I hope this bad print doesn't hurt your otherwise very interesting Kubrick exhibit.

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A local multiplex theatre, the Frankfurt Cineplex, will try to play the last surviving (dubbed) vintage 70mm print of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY in late summer. I hope to see the film again with slightly faded color, but sharp and steady...

 

The Kubrick exhibition is quite successful, and the film retrospective is often playing to sold out theatre. Both 2001 screenings were sol out, so was BARRY LYNDON, and there was even great demand for lesser known films like KILLER'S KISS (one of my favourites).

 

This shows that some of Kubrick's films are still exciting to modern audiences, and it is sad that they are seen mostly on DVD or TV.

When SPARTACUS (restored 70mm version) was shown, there was an almost electrifying excitement in the theatre, forget the painted backdrops, forget the dramatic problems, people were absolutely fascinated by the great images and those fine actors. They laughed with Ustinov and Laughton, they cared about the gladiators, and there were tears when Jean Simmons met crucified Kirk Douglas at the end. This is a kind of movie experience that most modern films cannot create any more.

 

AS for 2001, I hope that, as you said, one day someone will "restore the restoration"... :)

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Supposedly the new 70mm prints WERE struck from the original negative...

 

The newest 70mm prints I've seen have been made from a 1980 65mm IN and they look pretty good but have a few shots which look duped, apparently due to damage. But otherwise, they are sharp and fine-grained.

 

The sharpest print I've seen is a 70mm print owned by USC, I believe (or they borrowed it for the screening), struck off of the original negative in 1968 -- but it's mostly pink and faded. So don't count on an original print as being a satisfactory viewing experience.

 

I'm surprised this new print is bad -- many people on the Kubrick newsgroup went out to see it and none of them reported any steadiness problems. Maybe it's been touring too much and now has damaged or stretched perfs.

 

All the 70mm screenings I've seen of "2001" were much more impressive than the 35mm scope prints -- I pretty much stopped seeing the movie in 35mm. I think I've seen it in 70mm about six times in the past twenty years.

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I believe that only three or four prints were struck from original negative, in Europe the BFI has one and Stanley Kubrick himself got another, IIRC.

 

What I saw yesterday was definitely a dupe, the leaders said "IN #1", and I believe that somewhere in the duplication process, there has been slippage between films. Sometimes one can notice that fine details (the open structure of the space station, the "Bell" logo in the first reel or the outline font of HAL's name plate) are "pumping", at least I know no other way of producing such effects except lack of contact in printing.

 

There is quite strong graininess in the whole film, not only in the obviously replacement dupe shots. The 70mm print itself was in very mechanical good condition, and when the aperture plate in the projector was readjusted, it could be seen that the perf holes were steady, the image including frame line was unsteady.

 

At best, this 70mm print looked like good 35mm scope prints of the past, but the whole 70mm look that has been often decribed as "velvety" is definitely gone. Although an audience used to today's average release prints may think 2001 looks good that way, I think a new print (we are not talking about restoration work here!) should not be that far removed from the original prints, especially when you know how good modern duplication stocks can be).

 

There are only few films that really need perfection in presentation, and this is one of them. But be glad you didn't see what Warner Bros. claims to be a good 35mm print of BARRY LYNDON... :blink:

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I believe that only three or four prints were struck from original negative, in Europe the BFI has one and Stanley Kubrick himself got another, IIRC.

In 2001 I saw a new print and I don't remember any of the problems you described. But that was

a premier screening by Warner bros, where Kubricks family were present (and Terry Gilliam as well, who is a big fan), so presumably that was one of the prints struck from the original neg.

 

'2001' is great date movie as well by the way...

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Mitch, i would hardly call a film "destroyed" just because some 35mm print of it is bad. The original negative is still somewhere out there in some vault, there are

separations and good IP's allso. The film will survive, you may one day see it

in 6K digital cinema clear as ever.

It would be nice if every modern presentation of 2001 was top qualitty projection of a perfect 70mm print struck from the original negative, but it is not a catastophy is there are few bad prints. It is not like they are going to consider this 35mm print

as archival material.

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I've not seen a 70mm print in years. No local theatre supports it here. Last one I saw I was in Michigan for, absolutely marvelous experience. 800 seat theatre, filled to capacity.

 

Something about 70mm, especially when combined with it's remarkable 6-track audio, gave the performance a super-real quality that I have not heard surpassed.

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windman wrote:

It would be nice if every modern presentation of 2001 was top qualitty projection of a perfect 70mm print struck from the original negative, but it is not a catastophy is there are few bad prints.

 

I agree with you from an archival point of view, but when 2001 is shown a at film museum, when Warner Bros. has assured that they will supply the best possible prints (which they did not, like in the case of BARRY LYNDON), and when today's audience learn this is a 70mm screening of 2001, they will think it's just the way it was intended by Stanley Kubrick. :angry:

 

This print is about as accurate as a 12 dollar note, and while it is not like a catastrophe where people get harmed, it is still a sad thing because the film cannot - at least today - be seen the way it was during its initial release and in many re-runs.

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Like i said in the other topic, MGM has started to create digital archive filmes

of their older films. 2001 is allso owned by them. I think the worse thing that

can happen to this film is that it gets scanned and archived at 4K. (for such older 65mm title, 8K would be the lower limit, and not to mention that it would have to be the best possible 8k, downsampled from a larger resolution which is imposible today)

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Digital archiving, what an oxymoron. Digital copies are more likely to suffer long term damage, the devices stored on are not designed to survive more than a decade or two. (case in Denmark where their master copy CD's disintegrated after 20 years in ideal conditions) Unless you want to set up a massive system for re-copying every digital copy to new media every 6 months or so, as a backup, digital is not the best method for archiving a movie.

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Recently I've read an article-interview (with some preservation executives from major studios) about preservation. It seems that studios are not planing to switch to digital archiving for now, allthough the man at MGM said that they are testing

and experimenting with digital formats because they are preparing for the time when the archiving could be digital. (I guess these 4K copies of James Bond films

are a part of this experiment).

He said that MGM will not turn their archieves to digital until there is a whole network of digital cinema distribution. As for Fox, they are keeping some DI files,

but other than that they don't seem to be very interested in digitizing their archives. The greatest thing today is that all major studios by now have

YCM's of all their titles.

 

The idea of digital archiving brings some complications. There is a lot of talk about it on Amia conferences and similar meetings. The idea seems to maintain the images by converting them to new file-formats when the old ones are outdated.

Archives do not need to be dependant on commercial software. They can writte

their own little converter software.

 

I think there is no need for digital archiving today, since you would probably be

spending more money on it than on film archiving. First of all,there is the initial cost of scanning everything frame by frame. Then of course you would have to store the digital media in the similar temperature and humidity controled vaults as you do with film (so you wouldn't cut cost on that). And the additional money spent on migrating the digital data and reconverting it to new standards etc.

 

But you must agree that there are true benefits. You can make as many identical copies as you like, and you can access the data more easily in the future.

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