For the generation that makes no distinction between seeing a film in a theater and at home on DVD (or on an iPhone) the promise of seeing Hitchcock's Vertigo in a 70mm film print might seem like a minor additional enticement at best. (What's film?) But for cinephiles and especially those old enough to remember the age of Cinemascope, Cinerama, VistaVision and the like the opportunity to see any film in a 70mm print is an increasingly rare treat. In response to dwindling audiences in the early 1950s due to the proliferation of television and other factors, Hollywood began to release films in formats that produced bigger, wider, and for a time three-dimensional images in an effort to lure people away from their TV sets. 70mm is a remnant of that era and few films are ever shot on a format larger than 35mm these days.
Simply put, a 70mm frame is twice as big as the standard 35mm image one encounters when viewing a typical film at a typical theater. This doesn't mean that the projected image is necessarily twice as big but it does mean that the image quality is substantially crisper, richer and more vibrant. (Think of the difference between a small digital image file and a large digital image file). While there are IMAX theaters in the area, the Wexner Center is, to the best of my knowledge, the only theater in the region that can project 70mm prints and we like to present the gauge every once in awhile (we screened Jacques Tati's Playtime in 2004) for the novelty and to keep our incomparable projectionist Bruce Bartoo on his toes. The prints are unwieldy and very expensive to ship and Bruce must convert our 35mm projectors over to 70mm for the screenings. Other than, perhaps, Lawrence of Arabia, I can think of few films that I would rather see in 70mm than Vertigo. Vertigo is one of the greatest films ever made and this is perhaps your only chance to see it in the best manner possible. -- Dave Filipi, Curator, Film/Video
Vertigo screens tonight, Valentine's Day, at the Wexner Center. Click here for complete details.