Edinburgh International Film Festival's 70/70 Vision brings 70mm cinema back to the big screen

Edinburgh International Film Festival's 70/70 Vision brings 70mm cinema back to the big screen

Classic cinema from four visionary directors mark a rare 70mm feast for cinephiles, says Artistic Director Mark Adams

When Quentin Tarantino decided to shoot his epic western The Hateful Eight in Ultra Panavision 70mm, nobody predicted the industry stir it created. That was mainly due to the difficulties UK cinemas faced in not only obtaining a print, but also the means to present it. Today, precious few cinemas have both the equipment and the technical expertise to project a 70mm film. Fortunately for Edinburgh’s cinephiles, the Filmhouse is one such theatre, and in a nod to Edinburgh International Film Festival’s 70th anniversary, the 2016 programme features four classics from four visionary directors, all shot and presented on 70mm film as part of the 70/70 Vision strand.

‘We always planned to do it,’ explains Artistic Director Mark Adams. ‘Quentin and the 70mm story reminded us of how popular 70mm is and how people are aware it’s a rare opportunity.’ The four films playing as part of 70/70 are: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968), Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa, 1975), Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962), and Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967).

‘There are films out there which were blown up into 70mm but these were shot on 70mm and that’s the original format for these films,’ continues Adams. ‘People have been in touch with us at the Filmhouse saying they are waiting for us to show Lawrence on 70mm because they want that to be their first experience. And it is a different physical experience seeing it on 70mm.’

Sourcing these films was a challenge in its own right. The print of Desru Uzala is owned by a private collector who places considerable trust in the festival to care for it during the transportation (a logistical challenge itself) and screening process. Playtime comes from the Jacques Tati estate, the coordinator of which will come in person with the print because it is so rarely lended out.

With the films screened across both weekends of the festival, it will also be once-in-a-lifetime chance to compare in close proximity the cinematic language of four visionary filmmakers working in the 70mm format. Adams says, ‘Kurosawa didn’t make 70mm and Tati I think only made that one film in 70mm. So it is a unique visual experience and what people take away from it is what great filmmakers they were to use that scale of cinema.

‘The truth is we don’t know how long these prints are going to be available. The more you run a film the more it damages it, that’s the simple truth of celluloid. There aren’t many prints available. We had a massive list until we paired it down to just the pure 70mm. There are materials in LA but the studios hold on to their original ones now because they are finite.’

Tarantino has described digital projection as ‘the death of cinema as I know it’. Thanks to EIFF, 70/70 Vision offers the possibility to see what we’ll be losing, in all its glorious, celluloid imperfection.

2001: A Space Odyssey, Sat 18 June; Playtime, Sun 19 Jun; Dersu Uzala, Sat 25 June; Lawrence of Arabia, Sun 26 Jun; all screenings at Filmhouse, Edinburgh.