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70MM Film Festival Returns to the Music Box
The Festival Finally Makes it Return Following a Pandemic Shortened Run
The last time I attended the Music Box’s 70mm film festival was in the winter of 2020. There I watched the theater’s splendid print of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And while I’ve seen the Music Box’s copy of the Stanley Kubrick classic a few times, I’m always struck by its clarity, the richness of color, the vibrancy of the sun in the opening ape scene, and the evocative sound quality too. It’s the nearest I’ve had to a religious experience in a theater.
Little did I know: That 2020 watch of the print would have to hold me over for nearly two years. It was the last film I watched before the world shut down (fitting, if you ask me), and the final moment of normalcy I can remember.
The festival—which runs from June 17-30 (tickets are on sale now)—returns this week with an incredible display of classic selections and new choices. Here are some of the movies I’m most looking forward to taking in.
2001: A Space Odyssey
I probably jumped the gun in my intro, but you can never praise 2001: A Space Odyssey enough. A perennial favorite at the Music Box (and everywhere else), I just can’t wait to sit back with some popcorn and a pop and let the energy of the theater wash over me. There’s no better feeling than hearing Also sprach Zarathustra during the dawn of man of scene and literally seeing everyone lose their collection shit.
Lord knows I love a disaster movie. I’ve never wanted to travel back in time, but if I could, I wish I could see all of those 1970s disaster flicks, a golden era for the subgenre, during their first run. Movies like The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, The China Syndrome, The Omega Man, and so forth, are stone cold classics that deserve their recent reappraisals. George Seaton’s Airport, concerning a plane that takes a bad turn on an icy Chicago runway during a snowstorm, is probably at the top of the class. A Best Picture nominee starring Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Helen Hayes and Maureen Stapleton (it received an astounding 10 nods in totals), this edge of your seat picture will have a brand new, never-before-seen print at the festival. Unless you’re stuck on a tarmac somewhere, I suggest making some time to see it.
There are two musicals playing at 70mm fest this year. One is the original West Side Story. The other is Gene Kelly’s Hello, Dolly! Kelly’s film was originally supposed to play at the 2020 iteration of the festival, but COVID cut the run short. In it, Streisand plays a matchmaker trying to find a prospective partner for the curmudgeonly Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau with one of his best performances). The last major musical directed by Kelly, the critical consensus has often lagged behind the movie’s public enthusiasm. Nevertheless, Barbra Streisand is incredible, here. As is the “So Long Dearie” number and the maximalist performance of the film’s title track, featuring the last on screen performance by Louis Armstrong.
Here’s Chicago! City of Dreams
Playing before Douglas Trumbull’s Brainstorm, Here’s Chicago! City of Dreams is a film I know little about. The 13-minute 70mm travelog screened everyday at the Water Tower Pumping Station from 1983-1993. Faithfully restored by the Chicago Film Society, this film, put simply, is a journey back to a Chicago that only exists in fragments today. No matter what age you are, this promises to be a stunning time capsule of a lost era.
Lawrence of Arabia
I have four all-time favorite filmmakers: Federico Fellini, Peter Weir, Max Ophüls —and David Lean. I love the funny Lean (Hobson’s Choice, one of my dad’s favorites). I love the melodramatic Lean (Brief Encounter and The Passionate Friends). But I especially LOVE the epic Lean (Bridge on the River Kwai — another one of my dad’s favorites — and Dr Zhivago). There isn’t a more epic Lean than Lawrence of Arabia. I will spare a plot summary because like 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film’s place in the public consciousness doesn’t demand one. Nor does the immense talent of Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, and Omar Sharif. But I’ll just say that I’ve never seen it on the big screen before. So for me, this is my most anticipated title of the entire fest.