A New Schedule and a New Projector at the Pacific Film Archive

I’ve got the new summer schedule for the Pacific Film Archive. And the biggest news is hidden between the lines.

As I looked over the printed schedule, I noticed that the PFA will screen several films off DCPs. As far as I knew, the PFA didn’t have that capability. Last year, Senior Film Curator Susan Oxtoby told me that “we might not have that full capability until we move to our new building in downtown Berkeley. If someone would like to donate funds to the PFA for this purpose this would be greatly appreciated!!” (See The Challenges of Digital Projection, Part 1: The Theaters.)

The donations came through. According to my PFA press contact, the new DCI-compatible, 4K digital projector was funded by “a generous block grant from our control unit on campus.” It can even manage high frame rates–in case Peter Jackson comes to town.

How important is this upgrade? Last November, the PFA screened Children of Paradise, not long after the film’s recent restoration. But since the new restoration has not been released in 35mm (at least not in the USA), they had to screen a six-year-old pre-restoration print. Considering what a great job Pathe did on the restoration, that’s a significant loss.

The PFA isn’t making a big deal about the change, and they haven’t yet announced anything like the New York Film Forum’s This is DCP series. But they’ll be using the new projector when appropriate.

For instance, most of the films in their Sunday matinee From Up on Poppy Hillseries, Castles in the Sky: Masterful Anime from Studio Ghibli, will be screened in 35mm. But Ghibli’s latest, From Up on Poppy Hill (see my comments) will be off a DCP. Of course, the biggest issue with these enchanting tales is whether they’ll be dubbed or subtitled. Four of the films, most of them geared to younger children, will be dubbed; the other eight subtitled.

Ursula Meier’s Sister, the newest film in the series on cinematographer Agnès Godard, will also screen in pixels rather than film grain. This is appropriate, not only because Sister came out only last year, but also because it’s Godard’s first digital work. Godard will be at the PFA for several screenings, and I’m sure she’ll discuss the transition.

The ongoing series A Theater Near You is really an excuse to screen films that don’t fit into any of the other series (or at least that’s what I’ve assumed). On this schedule, the series contains three classics digitally restored and presented on DCP: The Tin Drum, Tristana, and Port of Shadows. The other films playing at A Theater Near You, all in 35mm, are The Man Who Fell to Earth, Kuroneko, and The Mill and the Cross. Curiously, The Mill and the Cross (read my review) was shot digitally.

The Mill and the CrossFans of 35mm shouldn’t feel betrayed. The most entertaining series this summer will almost certainly be A Call to Action: The Films of Raoul Walsh, and all 15 features–including such gems as High Sierra and White Heat–will be screened off 35mm prints. Seven of those prints are vault or archival.

What else will be at the PFA this summer?

That’s what they’ve got through August. I hope they screen Samsara soon (read my review). The filmmakers explicitly stated that it should be screened in 4K, and to my knowledge, no one has done that in the Bay Area.