I originally wanted this to be an entry in The Professor's "What Did You Watch Today" thread, but I bumped into the character limit for replies, so I'm giving it its own thread. Given the magnitude of this, it is perhaps more fitting after all.
Yesterday I had the great pleasure of attending the U.S. Premiere of the latest Kevin Brownlow restoration of Abel Gance's silent epic Napoleon, a 5 1/2 hour beast of a movie, that is characterized by its spectacular finale, a "triptych" that consists of three regular movie screens side-by-side with images being projected onto all three screens at once (by three separate projectors, that have to be synchronized with each other), resulting in a massive widescreen that dwarfs pretty much anything ever made (regular widescreen today has an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, Napoleon ends with an aspect ratio of 4:1, almost twice as wide as what is standard today). One of the reasons this is not out on DVD is this insane finale that simply has to be seen to be believed! At times it has one image across all three screens, at other times it displays three different images, giving it an intensity that, combined with the immersive effect of the large screens, surpasses anything I've ever experienced! This was without a doubt the greatest cinematic experience I have ever had...
It was a dark and stormy night... Okay, so it was just a rainy day in Oakland (welcome to NorCal!)Napoleon plays at The Paramount Theatre, a place which I shamefully admit I'd never been to before. It's a beautiful place with absolutely stunning interiors.
This is what you see, coming in:
I didn't take any pictures during the movie (I didn't want to risk getting kicked out, that's for sure!), so instead I'll give you the trailer and a couple of pictures taken after the movie:
The trailer actually shows what the triptych looks like, only in a very small format that doesn't even come close to the actual experience. Even this still, taken from the finale, doesn't really give you a fair idea of just how massive the triptych is because it gets shrunk so much to fit the computer screen:
The silent movie was accompanied by the Oakland East Bay Symphony, conducted by Carl Davis who also composed the score (the music you hear in the trailer is the "Napoleon theme") and it is an outstanding score, using elements from La Marseillaise, Eroica, Rule Britannia and more.
Before the movie started I took a picture of the orchestral pit:
As you can see there isn't much room - and there are no drums of any kind. After the movie was over I briefly chatted with the audio engineer and he told me that they had 5 musicians located on the stage, behind the screens, who had video feeds of the conductor, audio feeds of the orchestra and could see the movie on a 42 inch display, so everything was live. The movie has a scene where there's a hurdy gurdy player, and the engineer told me that they had a miked-up real hurdy gurdy player who mimicked the finger movements of the person on the screen.
Here's a picture of the triptych as it looked from my seat after the showing was over:
Another pic of the triptych, taken from further away:
And a third view of the triptych from the balcony, posted onto Twitter(not by me):
As you can see in the pictures above, the two extra screens are angled, and they are actually "fed" by projectors that are on the opposite side of the room, so the blue image on the left, comes from the right-most of the three projectors and the red image on the right comes from the left-most projector, while the (main) screen in the middle comes from the central projector (so the three image "beams" cross each other on the way from the projector to the screen).
The projection booths for this showing were custom built. In the image of the Paramount interiors above you can see how there's a projection room near the roof, but for this movie, they built a central projection booth on the ground level, with 2 smaller projection booths on the sides:
Napoleon is a movie that goes from being very good to being out-of-this-world spectacular! with the triptych ending. If you are in the SF Bay Area, if you are in California, YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!!! There are 2 showings remaining: March 30th and April 1st, 2012 and that's it! Read more and buy your tickets here.
Cool story, Knalds!
Here's the L.A. Times review of it, along with some additional background info on what's added compared to the 1981 version - and the cost of putting together this show! The screen: 85 feet wide!
Here's the San Francisco Chronicle's review, which pretty closely reflects my inability to really put this experience into words. It's still, three days later, too big an experience for me to really create a coherent review. It's just that big.
Leonard Maltin has a very enthusiastic review as well (with more triptych pictures!).
Here's a picture from the triptych climax shot Saturday evening: