Shakespeare lives on movie screens

Columns
European Update

As a film buff and reporter, if you receive a nine-page media release about “Shakespeare on Screen,” you’d better hit the breaks or move to London. Your monthly columnist is doing neither and decided to carry on instead with his own selections as the British Film Institute (BFI: Film Forever) is launching the “biggest ever programme... in the U.K. and across the world” and exploring “on an epic scale how filmmakers have adapted, been inspired by and interpreted Shakespeare’s work for the big screen.”

The series incorporates screenings and events at BFI Southbank and U.K.-wide, including 4K restorations of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet and Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, newly digitized content on BFI Player, new DVD/Blu-ray releases and film education activity. Furthermore, the BFI curated a touring program with 18 key films that will travel to 110 countries with help from the British Council.

Also onboard–and not just on the double-decker bus taking trips across London locations of his Richard III –is Ian McKellen. “Four hundred years on, Shakespeare’s plays continue to dominate stages worldwide,” the actor says, calling the series more than timely. “It is a glimpse of the matchless collection of brilliant endeavor from world-beating Shakespeare experts like Laurence Olivier, Peter Brook and Kenneth Branagh, whose films have popularized Shakespeare over the years. Their theatre roots are evident. They have respect for the text and cut lines with regret.” Other directors like Luhrmann, Taymor, Welles and Kurosawa, he opines, “have successfully translated the stage plays for the screen, aiming perhaps to make great cinema more than great Shakespeare.”

McKellen’s co-adaptation of Richard III (1995) will be simulcast in partnership with Park Circus across U.K. cinemas on April 28, with a special post-film onstage discussion between McKellen and director Richard Loncraine live from BFI Southbank. McKellen will also head to the opening night of the Shanghai Film Festival and additional travel plans will be confirmed. Global activities range from single films shown in embassies, schools and English-language teaching centers, to programs in partner cinemas, film festivals and in “grand-scale” outdoor events. Here are some of my personal highlights:

* Cinemas and outdoor locations in Iraq, including a refugee camp in the Kurdistan region, will use the universal themes of Shakespeare to highlight the humanitarian situation.

* On Midsummer Night in June, Russia will present a large-scale summer festival dedicated to Shakespeare in one of Moscow’s parks.

* Italy will be exploring the connection between Shakespeare’s plays and Italian locations with films and events in 20 cities.

* Greece will present “Shakespeare in the City” in partnership with the Athens International Film Festival, including open-air screenings in archaeological sites, squares and parks.

Berlinale Kamera Zooms in on Three

For 30 years, the Berlin International Film Festival has presented the Berlinale Kamera to film personalities or institutions “to which it feels particularly indebted and wishes to express its thanks.” In this anniversary year, Tim Robbins made the list, alongside two icons from the worlds of theatrical distribution and exhibition. In their honor, we ask you to check out the 2016 venues of the Berlinale.

Producer, cinema operator and film distributor Ben Barenholtz is being honored in the presence of the Coen Brothers, whose first film Blood Simple he helped distribute at Circle Releasing (FJI May 2012) before joining them in a production capacity. The onstage conversation will be conducted by Sony Pictures Classics’ Michael Barker. Starting out as an assistant manager at RKO Bushwick in 1959 and managing the legendary Village Theater music and counterculture venue in Manhattan for a couple of years, Barenholtz opened the equally legendary Elgin Cinema in 1968 (now Joyce Theater). As a home for independent filmmakers and repertory cinema, he showed works by Warhol, Demme, Scorsese and spearheaded the revival of Buster Keaton. With showings of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo, Barenholtz pretty much invented the “midnight movie” in Manhattan and for the rest of the world.

In Munich, Germany, Marlies Kirchner has dedicated herself to film for more than 40 years. She worked for distributor Neue Filmkunst at Cannes, before becoming co-owner of Theatiner Filmkunst with her husband, the equally legendary Walter Kirchner. Since 1957, in the words of Berlinale organizers, Theatiner has remained a “mecca for movie devotees,” programming a “diverse and sophisticated selection of films.”

ISE Integrates 8K Raw and Pro-Ribbons

Known for many years as the host location of Cinema Expo International and CineEurope, Amsterdam RAI hosted the 2016 edition of Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) at the beginning of February. Looking for potential applications in cinema technology, Austria’s AV Stumpfl and Alcons AV from The Netherlands seemed like a noteworthy match. Even if the thought of an “ultra-high-performance super media server” that delivers “four streams of full 4K uncompressed content at 60hz plus media overlays, text generation and show control on top” is somewhat overwhelming.

“It is ideal for media-based installations requiring high-resolution content such as themed attractions, cinematic presentation, theatres, live events, or even planetariums,” noted company head Tobias Stumpfl. His Wings Engine Raw 8K server can “manage content over a virtually unlimited amount of LED screens or to drive a 4 by 4K projection system with soft edge blending, mapping and geometry correction” in addition to multiple parallel HD, 4K, 5K or even 6K streams in real time.

Alcons Pro-Ribbon’s claim of bringing “hi-fi at concert sound-pressure levels in any size application” sounds equally powerful and promising. To prove its point at the show, Alcons set up a 13.1-channel pro-ribbon surround system. “The system is based on the new CRMS Cinema Reference Monitor System, with CRMSCompact surrounds.” Alcons’ Tom Back adds that both utilize the company’s patented transducers. Some of the recent Alcons “ambassadors” include Hamilton: The Musical and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (New York City), Walt Disney Germany, Lucasfilm Singapore, Jazz at the Lincoln Center Doha (Qatar) and NBC Universal Pictures (United Kingdom).

Barco and NEC are Gold and Silver sponsors at ISE, as some of Dolby’s consumer-centric partners hosted a Dolby Atmos Immersive Theatre with hour-long demos. There is a Drone Arena, too.