• Natassia Kinski in Tess

I was satisfied to see how well the DCP (Digital Cinema Package) restoration of Roman Polanski’s Tess, which screens next weekend at the Gene Siskel Film Center, preserves the texture of the film’s cinematography. Shot on Panavision equipment at a time when it yielded particularly grainy images (think of Robert Altman’s Nashville or Polanski’s own Chinatown), Tess has a rough and speckled beauty like that of an old stone. The look is a perfect fit for Polanski’s portrait of late-19th-century England, which avoids the pageantlike splendor of traditional historical epics and offers the spectator a plausible abundance of dirt, faded clothes, and asymmetrical compositions. As is often the case in the director’s work, the movie’s tied to the perspective of a social outcast who regards brutish conditions as a fact of life and proper society as alien. The granular images, which sometimes appear to be crumbling from within, reinforce this point of view; by contrast, the photography of latter-day Polanski films, no matter how good, seems a little too solid.