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Bath Film Festival 2009

The Red Shoes restoration

19 November 2009

Bath was great. I got there early in the afternoon on Thursday so that I had some time to looks around the city. i've been there before, but not for some time. As the time approached when the film was due to start I went to the Little Theatre Cinema and saw that the queue had already started to form, so I got the tickets I'd booked and joined that queue. I was waiting for Charles Doble and his wife Susan. Charles had done some work for and with Thelma, but they'd never met, so I thought this would be a good chance to get them to meet as well as seeing a great film in some very nice company.

While we were waiting in the queue Nick Waller introduced himself to me and I gave him a badge so he should have no problems in being recognised by PaPAS members from now on :)

We waited in the queue, waiting for Thelma to appear and waiting for Charles & Susan.

By the time Thelma turned up the queue had grown quite large. I had already been chatting to some other people in the queue so I asked them to hold my place and went over to say "What ho" to Thelma. She was already surrounded by helpers, her own people and people from the cinema, but she gave a lovely squeal of delight when she spotted me. I gave her a print of one of the paparazzi photos taken at Cannes. It's the one of Thelma and Columba in all of their finery Shame about that bloke in the white jacket lurking in the background, but you can't have everything.

I told her that I was still waiting for Charles and Susan and that we'd catch up after the event, then I went back to the queue. Charles and Susan did turn up - just in time as doors opened and we started to go inside. It's a lovely little theatre which holds a few hundred people (some up in the balcony), a good sized screen and a large stage for events. The seats are very comfortable but it could do with a bit more leg room for the taller people amongst us.

Once everyone had settled down Thelma was introduced and she gave a brief introduction to what was going to happen that evening and why the restoration was necessary. She also introduced Moira's daughter Rachel and her daughter Eleanor who were there as well. Before the film itself was shown Thelma showed a set of slides and clips that she'd prepared to show people the difference. Some of them showed the very poor state of the negatives, complete with mould, scratches, hisses and pops on the soundtrack, misalignement where the three negatives had shrunk at a different rate. It really is very bad. She also showed us the best existing print and then did a screen wipe to compare that with the new restoration. There were gasps from the audience at that comparison. When you see the two side by side the improvement really is made more apparent.

And so onto the film itself. Just as gorgeous as I remembered from Cannes. This was a digital version that was being shown. The digital restoration produced a digital master which is very high resolution, a much higher resolution than is used by any digital process in cinemas and way above DVD or Blu-ray. What we saw at Cannes was a print made from this digital master so that had the full resolution. But the "print" being circulated to film festivals and cinemas like the Film Forum in NY is a digital version but at a slightly lower resolution than the digital master. There is one problem with any digital projection system, they can sometimes freeze! And this one did. But it was quickly fixed and the film was very well received.

Thelma took her place on stage for the Q&A. I had a few questions ready in case nobody else asked any, but they weren't needed. People asked about The Archers method of working, the way the film was regarded in 1948 and about the restoration itself. Thelma did confirm that they've started working on Blimp and that they have already raised the money for the full digital restoration. That one should be faster because a lot of the time, and quite a bit of the expense of the TRS restoration was spent in trying to do it chemically on film before they realised that that just wasn't going to work and that digital was the way to do it.

On the way out I introduced Charles & Susan to Thelma and then introduced Nick as well. I'll be seeing Thelma next week in Canterbury so I let all of the others chat. But eventually we had to draw the proceedings to a close and we all headed off home. I stayed the night with Charles & Susan, always a pleasure. My original plan had been that I'd go from there to see my brother in north Devon. But I'd had a call saying that he and his family were busy with some things and although I could still have a roof for the night they couldn't spare me much time on the Friday. So I went to see my Mum in west Wales and spent Friday night with her. That meant that I could also see my sister and on my way to Devon on the Saturday I could also see my other brother who lives just over the Severn Bridge. Although that did mean that I went from London to Bath to Somerset to west Wales to Devon and then back to London - I clocked up about 900 miles and it would happen to be over the days when the country was getting a big dose of bad weather. So there was some interesting driving involved. But now I'm back home, safe and sound


See my trip to Canterbury a few days later.

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