John Bailey, ASC, will serve as the artist-in-residence at the
, which is presented by the
. The festival runs September 17-21 at the Carpenter Center Theater. Bailey will preside over a diverse selection of film screenings from different genres, cultures and periods, including “Sunrise,” “The Rules of the Game,” “The Wages of Fear,” “Aguirre: The Wrath of God,” “Battle of Algiers,” “Mademoiselle,” “Contempt” (“Le Mepris”), “La Haine” (“Hate”), “Silverado,” “In the Line of Fire” and “China Moon.”
“From ‘Sunrise’ to ‘La Haine,’ there is a full spectrum of camera style and dramatic narrative working hand in hand to create compelling, emotional experiences,” said Bailey of his film choices. “It is the nature of this blending that I hope to explore with the audiences.”
The festival was launched in 1986 by Gary Prebula. He and Rory Kelly are co-artistic directors of the five-day event. Prebula initially envisioned a festival that would focus on the aesthetics of widescreen filmmaking and provide a platform for discussing creative issues. The festival broke the mold last year when artist-in-residence Steven Spielberg selected several films to screen that weren’t produced in widescreen format. This year, Bailey chose “Sunrise” and several other films composed in narrower gauges.
“It was a difficult decision narrowing the field to 11 films,” Bailey said. “There were many other films I would have liked to include, such as ‘Samuri,’ ‘The Conformist’ and ‘Night of the Hunter,’ to name a few. I chose some films that I feel are historically important in terms of cinematography that were produced before widescreen formats were an option. If it were up to me, most — if not all — contemporary films would be produced in anamorphic (2.4:1 aspect ratio) format.”
The opening night screening of “Aguirre: The Wrath of God” will be preceded by a presentation of the Kodak Vision Award to Bailey as well as a discussion led by professor Kelly with Bailey regarding the films in the festival and their significance at 7 p.m. The Kodak Vision Award recognizes vision, imagination and leadership in filmmaking and has been given to cinematographers, producers and filmmakers whose work embodies artistic achievement and a commitment to excellence. Kodak has been a major sponsor of the Widescreen Film Festival from its beginning.
On Thursday, September 18, “The Battle of Algiers” will be shown at 10 a.m. and “China Moon” at 7:30 p.m. Bailey directed “China Moon” in 1994; the film was photographed by Willy Kurant, ASC, AFC in the anamorphic aspect ratio. Prebula will lead a discussion with Bailey about the making of the movie following the screening.
Friday’s screenings include “Rules of the Game” at 2 p.m. “Mademoiselle” at 4:30 p.m. and “Sunrise” at 8 p.m. Karl Struss and Charles Rosher shared the first Oscar for cinematography for their work on “Sunrise” in 1929. Preservationists Schawn Belston (20th Century Fox) and Mike Pogorzelske (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) will discuss the restoration of “Sunrise” following the screening.
Regarding the day’s screenings, Bailey added, “‘Rules of the Game’ is a film that looms so large in film history that it is amazing it is not seen more often. It is the template for any film that presumes to explore social strata and multiple relationships. Its chameleon-like blending of humor and sadness makes it amazingly contemporary. “The Big Chill,” the first film I did with (director) Larry Kasdan, which explores friendship and reunion, is deeply indebted to it.”
On Saturday, “The Wages of Fear” will screen at noon. “La Haine” will show at 4 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer conversation between director Mathieu Kassovitz and Bailey. “In the Line of Fire,” which Bailey photographed, is slated for 8 p.m., with executive producer Gail Katz joining the ensuing discussion.
The final day of the festival will close with “Contempt” at noon and “Silverado,” also photographed by Bailey, at 3 p.m.
Bailey traces his interest in cinema to 1962, when he spent his junior year at Loyola University studying in Europe, mainly in Innsbruck and Vienna. That experience sparked his interest in the “New Wave” films by Bergman, Fellini, Godard and others. He subsequently enrolled in the graduate program at USC, where he focused mainly on film theory. His first real-world jobs were in post-production, cutting negative and reversal films for dailies. His first camera job was as a loader on a low-budget horror film. By the early 1970s, Bailey was an assistant cameraman and occasional shooter of low-budget and student films.
Bailey earned his first mainstream cinematography credit in 1979 for “Boulevard Nights.” He has subsequently compiled an eclectic body of work, including “American Gigolo,” “Ordinary People,” “Continental Divide,” “The Big Chill,” “The Pope of Greenwich Village,” “Mishima,” “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “The Accidental Tourist,” “A Brief History of Time,” “Groundhog Day,” “As Good As It Gets,” “The Anniversary Party,” “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” and “The Kid Stays in the Picture.” During recent years, he has authored a number of scholarly articles about film theory and the influence of motion pictures on contemporary culture in addition to lecturing and delivering keynote addresses at film schools and conferences.
Bailey will also conduct lighting and directing workshops for CSULB students to round out the event.
A full-access pass to all screenings costs $50; $35 for students. Tickets for individual screenings are priced at $8 each and $6 for students and seniors.