But of course, 70-mm cinema is also overpowering cinema, which to a large degree lives from its visual and audio opulence. And therefore it was even more important than other years to make no concessions in terms of print quality for this Retrospective. This had consequences for the film selection. Through in-depth research in archives and studios throughout the entire world, we discovered that no screenable 70-mm copies currently existed of some key works. And so, for example, a nice and new 35-mm print of Otto Preminger’s Exodus was made available, but all known 70-mm copies were out of the question because of their poor colour. The mechanical condition is also often a problem: Many archived copies might not survive a screening intact.
And so it pleases us, all the more, that the Retrospective provided the impetus for the German Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, at great expense, to produce a new 70-mm print of Flying Clipper. This film – the first to be filmed by the German-developed, relatively lightweight and therefore manoeuvrable MCS-70 camera – could not be shown for years and now we are presenting it in all its former beauty.
Digital data and fearing for our film heritage
Is the choice of theme also a statement about the materiality of film in times in which digitisation is rapidly progressing and when cinemas are more or less deliberately being driven to get used to it?
As in the case of every archive around the world, we naturally are faced with the problems caused by digitisation, and we also know that we have to take a position. There will come a time when we collect digital data instead of polyester film. Perhaps, for the sake of security, we’ll still fall back on acetate or polyester film, but this challenge is real. However, just because we’re doing a 70-mm Retrospective now, does not mean it’s not our primary intention to say film is only that which exists on 35- or 70-mm filmstrips.
This programme is definitely a plea to not neglect to care for historically significant film formats and, in this respect, we are of one mind with countless colleagues and institutions around the world. In our view, the current situation is very favourable for this Retrospective, because several studios in America have recently worked very hard to preserve their own film heritage and we are therefore able to show half of the programme in relatively new, partially restored versions. Five years ago that would have been impossible and naturally it played a role in our decision to devote ourselves to this theme.
The Retrospective 2009 is subtitled “Bigger than life”. Historically speaking, did the new format again raise the issue of the representability of reality or were the images rather fantastically excessive?