I saw the 70mm road show version of The Hateful Eight in Tampa the day after Christmas. It was an enjoyable film. It certainly lived up to the Tarantino level of blood splatter and gratuitous, forced, man-on-man sex.
As far as it living up to its “glorious 70mm” projection, it did not impress me as much as I had hoped. It looked great and it was beautifully shot though. The first thing I noticed when the projectionist switched from the digitally projected ads and theatre notices to be courteous to other film goers by turning off your cell phone, was a bit of light leakage from around the soft borders of the frame when black came up, a tad of dirt in one of the corners of the soft frame border, and gate weave when the “Overture” title came up. The gate weave was not bad but noticeable only in static shots. The next thing I noticed was a thin green line along the right edge of the frame. It looked like it could have been a scratch that was diffracting light so that green was visible. it disappeared about 5 minutes in. There were a few scratches throughout the film and one bad splice. It could have been a reel change but it was in the middle of dialogue and camera movement so I don’t think it was a reel change.
It certainly looked nice and it was cool to see a film projection in a commercial theatre again. The location shots in the snow looked great considering that shooting dark objects against a white background is not the easiest thing to do. The blacks were crushed but the highlights were smooth. The interior shots, which were filmed on a controlled sound stage, looked great. The lighting was high key, despite the fact the film was set in the middle of a blizzard where the light is as diffused as it possibly can be and very low key to boot. The floor of the lodge the travelers ended up in, had beautifully placed pools of bright light. Rays of sunlight shone through cracks in the walls and acted as rim lighting for the characters hair. Artistic license, since there was no motivation for the light other than the surrealism common in a Tarantino film.
Regarding aspect ratio, I don’t think we were seeing a 2.76:1 screening in Tampa. It looked like at best it was 2.4:1. At nearly 3 times as wide as it is tall, this 2.76:1 screening barely looked twice as wide, much less 2.4 times. Is it possible that some of the projectors brought back into service for the road show don’t project that wide? I have a friend who landed a gig projecting the 70mm version in Miami for its 2 week run. I’ll ask him his thoughts.
Regarding overall image quality, it looked great but the digital images I’m so used to looking at on the big screen and in my own work have spoiled me. Digital looks so much cleaner and consistent. Aside from the technical attributes of film and digital movies and how they compare to each other on paper or in lab testing, digital motion pictures are definitely no longer a compromise. It’s now simply another option for a film maker, neither better nor worse than film. When it comes to personal views on aesthetics and nostalgia, as filmmakers we all have our own opinions and preferences, none of which are any more valid or less valid than another’s. Mine is that the general film going public could care less about how the film was made and how it’s projected, as long as it looks good and they enjoy the story. Nor can they tell the difference between film and digital.
I had a great time watching the film and it brought back fond memories of the cinema from my childhood and the magic of the projected image on the silver screen. It reminded me of going to the movies as a kid at the Byrd Theatre where I grew up in Richmond Virginia. I’m also a gear head and have always loved machines since I was a toddler. I’ve always been handy with tools and have an affinity for moving parts connected to each other who’s whole is greater than the sum of the connected parts. So film projectors and cameras are something I will always be fond of. To be fair, my criticisms are most likely due to the theatre, it’s equipment, how well it was setup, how good a print they received, and whether or not they got a perfectly up to spec projector. But that’s film for ya. Even the best prints vary from print to print, equipment tolerances aren’t always optimal, and every time a film is projected it looses quality. I also plan to go see the digital version when it’s in general release.
Film purists like Tarantino and Spielberg will hold on to film as long as they want to (until they are dead and gone), but in the end, it doesn’t matter. What I enjoyed most about the film was the atmosphere surrounding the event and groups of friends and family getting together to enjoy it with one another. I even gave an extra ticket away to someone who needed one standing in line. I watched it with my brother and mom, and despite sitting with my 80 year old mom watching a forced, man-on-man sex scene, we all had a good time together.