When it was announced that The Hateful Eight, the newest film from auteur Quentin Tarantino, would be released for a limited run in 70mm, I thought, “that’s awesome. Wish I could see that.” I was overjoyed to learn a few weeks ago that my city, Orlando, would be a host to the roadshow at the AMC Disney Springs 24 and made plans immediately. I’m here to tell you that not only was I not disappointed, seeing The Hateful Eight in 70mm was one of the best cinematic experiences I’ve had in a year full of them.
Even going to a screening at an off-time (a Sunday morning), seeing The Hateful Eight in its roadshow presentation felt like an event. As I gave the dude at the door my ticket, I was handed a handsome 12″ souvenir program with films stills, a blurb and a poster. A lot of the other folks there to see Star Wars saw the program and were curious, I felt pretty cool. At my screening there were no previews; at the scheduled time the digital projector running previews turned off, the film projector turned on and displayed a title card with the word “OVERTURE,” we were off to the races immediately.
Roadshow presentations of epic films were fairly common in the 60’s, but a proper 70mm roadshow presentation of a new film has not taken place in decades. Certain home releases of 2001: A Space Odyssey include the overture and intermission, but that will be most filmgoers’ closest encounter to the format. With these elements in place, along with the souvenir program (and the vibe of a clearly passionate audience), my perfectly ordinary screening of the film felt like something special and unique.
But let’s stop talking about the ancillary stuff- what does seeing The Hateful Eight in 70mm actually look like? The answer is both more and less different than you might expect.
When big productions like Ben-Hur went on the road, they didn’t go to multiplexes as we picture today. They screened at big, iconic movie houses like the Cinerama Dome. The grand, single-screen movie theatre is no longer really a thing, and most multiplex auditoriums retrofitted with 70mm projectors simply can’t replicate the experience of seeing a film in a huge, ornate auditorium with a massive screen (this isn’t The Dark Knight in IMAX, calm down). However, simply seeing a film projected on celluloid in a modern multiplex is a pleasure enough in and of itself. It feels tangible. It’s also great to see an actual human projectionist watching over your screening!
Super Panavision 70, the film’s native format, simply looks different from what you’re used to. The field of view is super-wide (imagine playing Minecraft in Quake Pro FOV), and every frame is gorgeous and beautifully framed by DP Robert Richardson. In my presentation (and I expect most), the mattes at the top and bottom of the screen were blurry, an inevitable consequence of the fact that Hateful Eight‘s aspect ratio is wider than conventional films and the adjustable curtain mattes simply don’t go that far. Were you to watch the film on a standard TV, the black bars at the top and bottom of the image would be bigger to support the more extreme height-to-width ratio. This wider aspect ratio looks uniquely stunning and presents huge western landscapes in truly breathtaking fashion, but most of the film is not composed of landscapes.
In fact, The Hateful Eight takes place mostly in one setting: a one-room haberdashery snowed in by a massive blizzard. The 70mm photography may seem suited more to expansive landscapes but brings a whole new dimension to the claustophobic cabin in which the bulk of the film takes place. At any given moment, a good portion of the whole set is in frame and characters not directly involved in the dialogue are still very present in the one-room set. Like Ex Machina from earlier this year, The Hateful Eight would feel like a play if it weren’t so damn cinematic. The wide field-of-view provided by the vintage 65mm Panavision lenses encompasses a much broader range than traditional camera equipment, and while making landscapes most expansive makes the cottage set feel much more claustrophobic and unescapable.
Besides the technical aspects and aesthetics, how is the film? Definitely worth seeing. The Hateful Eight may not be Tarantino’s best work, but it may be his best-looking and most mature as a filmmaker. The film is peppered with the salty, politically-incorrect language and horrifying violence you’d expect from a Tarantino film but refrains from some of his most egregious excesses:
The film may be Tarantino’s most aggressive film in terms of pure shock value, it’s more restrained in terms of B-movie exploitation and crudity than some of the director’s earlier works. The film feels grown-up, and the purest distillation yet of Tarantino’s love of the projected moving image. It’s clear that every frame of The Hateful Eight was crafted with love.
There’s plenty more to discuss about the film proper, but for now it’s safe to say you’d be doing a disservice to yourself to see the new film from Quentin Tarantino in any other than its desired 70mm format. Even at an odd time, I felt a connection to the film and the format that felt different and special, and I hope to see it in 7mm again before the run ends. It’s the most delicious film-school porn and I can’t get enough.