They don't make 'em like that any more

James Bond, not the actor but one of the projectionists for Roger Ebert's Film Festival at the Virginia Theater, said working in film has become a luxury for most filmmakers.

"It's almost to the point now where there's not even a choice," Bond said Thursday between films. "People have to work in the digital domain, at least the young, independent market."

And most contemporary filmmakers who shoot with film do the postproduction work in the digital domain as Tom DiCillo did with "Delirious," which opened Ebertfest's second day on Thursday.

"That allows them access to a stylized color space," Bond said. "It's an artistic decision. Not everybody is looking for realism. I think the edginess that that director chose for that film is appropriate."

Because of its high contrast and saturated colors, "Delirious" appears to have been shot in digital video. But Bond said it was shot on film and then posted in the digital domain.

Most films now, even when shot on film, are cut, colored and timed in the digital domain. Most directors love the power it gives them, said Bond, who acknowledged that he's a prima donna about preferring movies shot and postproduced in film.

"The honesty required in performance and directing is forsaken when you open up the options of digital postproduction," he said. "With film, you're relying on exquisite talent on the set and of the actors, and the director has to nail as close as possible the first take."

There's an economic reason for doing that as well, as film is 10 or more times more expensive than videotape, Bond said.

Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet," which opened Ebertfest on Wednesday evening, was shot and postproduced in film, and it shows in the detail, Bond said. It's a film – a 70mm print was shown – that viewers feel they could dive into, Bond said.

He said the reason many Ebertfest-goers could not discern some of the dialoque while watching "Hamlet" could have been due to the fact that it has a magnetic rather than traditional soundtrack.

"We had to bring in special coding equipment for 'Hamlet,'" said Bond, who Ebert calls the best projectionist in the world. "The magnetic track on a film print is an obsolete format. It's no longer produced."

"Hamlet" was released in 1996.

Jonesing for Dusty

Besides missing Roger Ebert who is in Chicago recovering from surgery for a hip fracture, Bond is missing perennial VIP guest Dusty Cohl, who died earlier this year of liver cancer.

"He added real color to the festival that I really miss," Bond said. "He was approachable, warm, smart and always on. He was never depressed and always had a smile and a laugh. I miss the guy so much."

Before "Canvas" was shown Thursday night, a short film tribute to Mr. Cohl produced by Barry Avrich was screened. Mr. Cohl had been a real-estate lawyer in Toronto before getting into show business, co-founding the Toronto Film Festival in 1976 and the Floating Film Festival in 1991, among other show-business endeavors.

"No matter what state of mind he was in, no matter what state of health he was in, coming to Roger's and Chaz's film festival was essential," Avrich said from the stage. "He loved it here. Like his Floating Film Festival, he called this the least pretentious film festival in the world. It drove him crazy what the Toronto Film Festival had become."

Avrich and Chaz Ebert said Mr. Cohl's presence is still felt. Avrich said he and another Ebertfest guest encountered students who said they would love to attend some Ebertfest movies but couldn't afford to. Avrich said he left tickets at the box office for them. He said that is something Dusty Cohl would have done.

Wheeling and dealing

Ebertfest guest Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, said that after his business partner saw Eran Kolirin's "The Band's Visit" at the Cannes Film Festival, he called Barker and told him they had to buy the movie. Barker got a DVD and watched it that night. He immediately contacted a producer and negotiated with him from 11 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. the next morning.

"I wouldn't let him leave until he looked me in the eyes and said, 'The movie is yours,'" Barker said.

They sealed the deal the next day, while other distributors were circling. "It's been such a great experience," Barker said of the movie, which has Eyptians and Israelis relating tenderly to each other as human beings.

Barker said the Iranian graphic-novelist Marjane Satrapi, whose animated movie "Persepolis" was distributed by Sony Pictures, also loved the "The Band's Visit" and began promoting it herself whenever she was on television.

News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli can be reached at 351-5367 or mmerli@news-gazette.com.

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