Tarantino’s Telluride blood-spilling

20 January 2016

Region: London

Tarantino’s Telluride blood-spilling – a LondonCine Blog

by Mark Percival LRPS

Take the wide open skies of the Colorado Rockies filled with clouds and snow and an opening blizzard sequence that lasts about three minutes with glacial camera movement revealing a distant dot to be a speeding stagecoach and horses.  This might have been dramatic enough – driving snow and colour painting cold so effectively I had to put my gloves on in the cinema.  Dramatic, yes, but projected from 70mm film stock on cameras and historic lenses with texture that makes your throat dry, then the incredible 2.76:1 aspect ratio stretches from one site of the Odeon Leicester Square screen to the other puts this film into another realm.  We are so fortunate in London that the Odeon can still project this rare film format. 

Tarantino wanted the film to hark back to the grand screening tradition that, as an older person I remember were the way epics were once presented: programme, interval (and off course Butterkist popcorn).  This film has embraced these older traditions.  There is a programme.  There is an interval, although the interval is 12 minutes of blank film Tarantino placed into the sequence of six cans that make up the whole projection spool.  The whole package is a sumptuous eyeful even if you overlook the extreme violence at the end that seems to be a Tarantino characteristic where the baddies get their comeuppance despite a lot of collateral damage en route.

For the cine-photo-tech community, this film is a feast too.  The lenses were refurbished anamorphic lenses that were used on the chariot sequence in Ben Hur.  The sharpness, colour and depth of field control was inspirational.  On the whole the camera spent most time locked off rather than moving through the set which shows what you can do with one camera and a dollop of cine skill and imagination.

What can one take away for still photographers?  Sumptuous tonal range in near monochrome exteriors oozing atmosphere.  A reminder that the world looks different from a low camera angle.  Black is a colour and the film makers use dark shades to add depth and tension to the scenes which we might get close to with our modern digital sensors but struggle to present on-screen or with anything less than high-end art print.  The film is a movie version of a panorama print.

Would I recommend this film?  Definitely.  This is a rare event that might not happen again quickly.

Images:  The projection film gate with lenses for different formats (top);   the Odeon projector spooled with the film from horizontal platters (below) © Mark Percival.