2018-10-19 06:47:03 UTC
"Douglas Trumbull celebrates Stanley Kubrick and announces a film revolution"
The special effects genius, hero of the documentary Trumbull Land, explains how he intends to reinvent the language of images.
After making its way through the Cannes Film Festival, a 70mm print of "2001: a space odyssey", taken from the original negative film on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, was screened this week at the Lumière Festival. To present it, after Christopher Nolan on the Croisette last May, Thierry Frémaux this time invited the special effects magician Douglas Trumbull (who was only 23 years old when Stanley Kubrick hired him to work on his chief SF work). Trumbull, who later collaborated on some other monuments of cinema (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner, The Tree of Life) was also in Lyon as a star of "Trumbull Land", a fascinating documentary directed by Gregory Wallet, which will be broadcast on TCM Cinema (France) on December 6, 2018. Wallet went to Trumbull's studios in Massachusetts, where he continues his experiments and seeks to reinvent the cinematographic language. While celebrating the birthday of one of the greatest films ever conceived, Douglas Trumbull has detailed the visual revolution he is fomenting.
Premiere: How many times have you seen 2001 in 2018?
Douglas Trumbull: Oh, I do not stay until the end of each projection, you know... But I would say six times in all.
Premiere: And what was the best projection?
Trumbull: Technically? No doubt at the Sitges festival, last week. They showed the digital conversion in 4K, on a very large screen in a very big theatre. This is probably the best way to see the movie.
Premiere: Better than the "unrestored" 70mm version that Christopher Nolan presented at Cannes?
Trumbull: The 4K is better; there is no grain, no vibration, the brightness is better and the colors too. It is a superior format. In my eyes, film is a thing of the past. I'm beyond it. I'm all digital now.
Premiere: So, to see the film projected in 70mm, it's just a nostalgic trip?
Trumbull: No, no, it's a very valid experience too! And I realize (thanks to that) that many young people have not seen "2001" on the big screen, or have not seen "2001" in any way. They are unfamiliar with the vanished world of celluloid movies, made for the giant screen, which we filmed in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Epic films like "Lawrence of Arabia", which used the capacity of the giant screen to tell a story in a different way. Giving the public, for example, a feeling of being really in the desert. It's beautiful. A television can not provide that feeling.
Premiere: What do you think about the fact that Christopher Nolan was officially named as Kubrick's heir this year?
Trumbull: He has designated that himself! I have no comment to make on that subject. I suggested to Warner that I take care of this restoration, but they refused my proposal. I know the film intimately. But they wanted to do it with Christopher Nolan because they have a deal with him, that's the studio where he makes his films. So, he took control and...I have nothing to add.
Premiere: You could have worked together, right?
Trumbull: He did not ask me.
Premiere: You presented "2001: a space odyssey" at the Lumière Festival, at the same time as Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma", which everyone wonders if it's a shame to view on Netflix instead of in the cinema.
Trumbull: Cinema is in a big phase of transition at the moment, due to the emergence of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. Many low budget movies are now screened on tablets or computers. This way of viewing becomes the norm, especially for young people. But, if many people abandon the cinema, it's also simply because they no longer hope to enjoy that experience. Most theatres are just bad. The projection conditions are not satisfactory, nor the screens. The seats are not comfortable. There are reasons for the decline in cinematic exhibition. I'm trying to change that. Cinema envisioned for the big screen is a lost art. It must again become a mandate.
Premiere: What is your plan?
Trumbull: One of the problems that Kubrick had in "2001" was the projection speed of 24 frames-a-second. If the camera moves too fast, the image blurs. Stanley didn't like it. That's why his camera moves are so slow. There is no blur in "2001". The 24 frames-a-second standard was invented in 1927 and is still used today, 90 years later! We must reconsider it. I've been thinking about it for 35 years and I've finally managed to find a way to make movies at 120 frames-a-second, where the image would remain stable, even in action scenes. I try to make the result cinematic so it doesn't have the "soap opera" look. There are several directors today who are interested in this. Peter Jackson has done "The Hobbit" at 48 frames-a-second, "Ang Lee" did "Billy Lynn's long halftime walk" at 120 frames-a-second and James Cameron is making sequels to "Avatar" at 48 frame-a-second. The revolution is on. And my process is in focus. I will sell the license to the industry. For other filmmakers to seize and make immersive films which are really spectacular. Not for TV but made for the big screen.
Premiere: What obstacles do you have to overcome?
Trumbull: Business questions. I have to convince the industry. I made this wonderful discovery a few years ago: the current digital projectors, which project at 24 frames-a-second, can actually project at the speed that we want. Currently, each frame is actually projected 5 or 6 times. They can actually project at 120 frames-a-second. The equipment does not need to be changed.
Premiere: Then, what must be changed for theaters?
Trumbull: We need bigger, brighter screens and—especially—break this old tradition of rows of armchairs, which forces viewing the screen from abominable angles. Many things are wrong. Now that I understand all that, I'm going to make a movie which will show the industry the way.
Premiere: This movie is "Lightship"? The one you are talking about in "Trumbull Land"?
Trumbull: Yes. The industry will understand that we can bring people back to theaters, and that there is money to be made. Other filmmakers will then jump-on. Cinema can be much more than good stories and close-ups of actors. Something really immersive. Look where we are: in Lyon, where Lumière invented cinema. But it has not changed much since. It's time!
"Trumbull Land" premiered at Lumiere 2018 on October 15, 2018 and will be screened at the Uptopiales Sci-Fi fest in Nantes, France on November 2, 2018.