Friday, February 19, 2010

Projector Failure

I finally got to see Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon today - which I completely dug - but it was in spite of some serious technical issues on the part of the Angelika, one of the three art-house theaters in Dallas.

The movie started on time, previews played nice and fine, audible, discernible, etc. Then the previews ceased and the lights dimmed and thus, the abomination began. The Angelika always plays a slightly amusing pre-show piece about keeping your cell phone turned off, and seeing as how often I see stuff there, I could damn-near recite it to anyone, but I immediately noticed something was off.

The picture was essentially squashed - everything was compressed and compacted like a car at a junkyard - faces disfigured, squatty, oompa-loompa like. Nevertheless, I figured that the pre-show stuff was on a different reel and thus, wouldn't affect the film. I was wrong.

Now, the opening credits to The White Ribbon are white titles on a black background and, like the film itself, they are very deliberate and sterile and long. I couldn't tell if the picture had been corrected, so I waited. The first shot comes into focus and nope, it wasn't fixed. This is a film shot in glorious black-and-white in 1:85 to 1 aspect ratio and what we got was closer to anamorphic 2:75 to 1. It was like the projectionist had it rigged for Ben-Hur or something.

(Here is a replication of pretty much what it looked like):
Now normally when there is a technical problem in a theater, I play the guy who waits for someone else to get up and say something. So I waited a couple minutes, one more minute, another...and...nothing. Nobody batted an eye. So I looked around, got up and told them that there was a problem with the projector in theater #3 and 2-3 minutes later it was fixed. Bravo.
So I practically missed the first 10 minutes, which is a shame, but I got over it. I was just shocked that in a theater full of, say 15-20 people, that nobody noticed that something was off-kilter. Amazing.

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