BIFF Live-Blog #2 – Friday

Morning all, I’m just heading in for a third consecutive day at this years Bradford film festival. Today marks the first day of the Widescreen Weekend, which is a real personal favourite of mine. This year marks the THIRTEENTH that I’ve been coming to Widescreen Weekend, with a special line-up marking 60 years of Cinerama promising a lot. Stay tuned for updates throughout the day.

10:05 – Russian Adventure. A 1966 Cinerama flick is kicking things off.

11:29 – Intermission time for Russian Adventure. And its pretty welcome too (see my twitter feed for further details). I’m fairly certain the following sentence sums up the oddness nicely though- Four lions ride four horses while a chimpanzee applauds.

12:55 – Full report on Russian Adventure coming up*, things are running late so there hasn’t been chance to do it just yet. Film number two, The Windjammer Voyage is just about to start now.

*So, Russian Adventure, where does one begin? It was certainly interesting, and I say that as someone who isn’t a particularly great fan of the Travelogue genre. An extensive introduction from reconstructors supreme David Strohmaier and Randy Gitsch, in which the complicated path the film has taken to reach the screen preceded the screening, placing the film in perfect context. Which, based on the nature of the film, as we were about to discover, was kind of necessary.

Russian Adventure is certainly an interesting picture. The length and breadth of the country is charted, with that staple statement of the travelogue video, “XXX is a land of contrasts and extremes” both ringing true and even being declared in Bing Crosby’s opening introduction. The film itself, though much of it achieved utilising actors and dramatised situations captures a fascinating period in Russian history, in which the old world met the new. Alas Soviet Russia was hardly the most glamourous of locale’s even when presented with the spectacle afforded by Cinerama.

Whereas traditional Hollywood spectacle might be a world away from that of the Russian answer to it, the film does however present some genuinely awe-inspiring events and occurrences. The most prominent of these would probably be the sequence involving a whale hunt, the latter half of which details the “processing” of the beast on a mobile factory at sea. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, lest not in Cinerama to boot! Similarly is a presentation by the Moscow State Circus, which at one point presents four lions riding on the back of four horses while a chimpanzee cheers them on.

13:55 – The Windjammer Voyage was a really great little documentary, charting the making of the film The Windjammer. Frustratingly, I’ve never actually seen The Windjammer, but I don’t think that that actually took too much away from the success of this retrospective making-of.

14:07 – This Is Cinerama is up next, which is a film I’ve seen a great number of times. It’s probably the most widely screened Cinerama film in the UK too, given that it’s shown every month here at the Pictureville cinema.

14:40 – Said opening sequence is over with now, so I’ve left. There’s only so much Cinerama dance sequences one can take in one day! I would certainly urge anyone who hasn’t to really get themselves up to one of the Pictureville’s monthly screenings of This Is Cinerama though, it really is a sight to behold. 

Tonight’s film is How The West Was Won, which is another Cinerama staple that I’ve sat through countless times (well, maybe 5 times), so I decided to skip it. I will be doing a fuller piece on the film in the next two weeks though, as a part of the Cinerama special that we’re putting together. Interestingly enough, How The West Was Won is the only way one can *almost* experience Cinerama on home video, thanks to the impressive “smile-boxing” technique employed by Warners on their Blu-ray issue of the film. Smile-boxing is a little bit like letter-boxing, albeit one suited to the curved nature of a Cinerama screen. I’d recommend the disc to anyone interested in the format, not least because it includes David Strohmaier’s landmark documentary Cinerama Adventure as a bonus feature.

And that’s that for day one of the Widescreen Weekend. Stay tuned for 12 whole hours of coverage tomorrow (although, if I’m being entirely honest, the screening of Ryan’s Daughter isn’t hugely appealing to me right now!).

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