422 The Last Emperor

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Jeff
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#176 Post by Jeff » Tue Feb 26, 2008 1:45 am

Jean-Luc Garbo wrote:
Narshty wrote:It's Peter Becker's favourite film? Really?
Evidently he must have been bugged by the OAR as much as Storaro.
I wonder if it actually bugged him to release a film he' s so fond of in a compromised version.

Image and Criterion have to be a little anxious about the fact that a film that was likely a very pricey acquisition and has a very elaborate package is getting quite a bit of bad press and lots of "I'll pass" comments from the film dork community.

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Matt
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#177 Post by Matt » Tue Feb 26, 2008 1:16 pm

Peter Becker sez: so zip it, film dorks.

Props55
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#178 Post by Props55 » Tue Feb 26, 2008 1:36 pm

With regard to cinematographers trumping directors over OAR has anyone noticed that the IMDB (always questionable, I know) listing for Rohmer's PAULINE AT THE BEACH notes that the 1:1.85 ratio is Almendros and 1:1.33 is Rohmer's? I've been viewing the Arrow edition and was surprised to see it was the only title in "widescreen". In the interview featurette however it is open matte and the compositions are much looser and allow the characters to "breathe" in their environment. Also in the supplement on AVIATOR'S WIFE Rohmer specifically addresses the fact that he is generally uncomfortable with close-ups and prefers to see his characters relate to their immediate surroundings. It's nice to see the actors more enclosed by their director selected decor and, as it's a French film, I want to see what's on their plates! As the Arrows are derived from French masters and the R1 MGM is also 1:1.85 it would appear that Almendros had the final word on OAR over Rohmer's original intentions and design. Has it now gotten to the point that the director is merely the "author" of the written text and the cinematographer the "author" (and final arbiter) of the dispostion of the image?

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denti alligator
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#179 Post by denti alligator » Tue Feb 26, 2008 1:40 pm

In the long interview on the Moral Tales box set Rohmer says that for most of his post-Moral films (specifically the Comedies and Proverbs), he shot in 1.33 but made sure they also looked good in 1.66 (which is how they were usually projected).

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arsonfilms
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#180 Post by arsonfilms » Tue Feb 26, 2008 2:05 pm

I've been in many situations where it was clear that the DP simply cared more about the original compositions than the director did. Many films are still shot in an open matte format and then cropped (especially when using super 35, to avoid anamorphic distortion) making fidelity to OAR a bit of a grey area. This flexibility is typically limited to the vertical axis though, and it strikes me as a little fishy that anyone would decide to use an anamorphic lens with the intention of cropping the sides, rather than simply shooting super 35 with the intended horizontal composition an then cropping vertically as necessary. Then again, this was the late 80s, and the only sets, labs and post-houses I've been in had the benefit of 15 more years of technology than Bertolucci and Storaro had, so what do I know?

Props55
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#181 Post by Props55 » Tue Feb 26, 2008 3:21 pm

No question that PAULINE looked quite good at 1:1.85 especially at the beach where the horizontals predominate but as this is Rohmer where dialogue is paramount most of the film would probably look best full frame. As noted Almendros concerms very likely sprung from how the compositions would be compromised in modern multiplexes which is how I saw THE AVIATOR'S WIFE. In nontheatrical 16mm or repertory 35mm(which is how I originally and last saw both CLAIRE and MAUDE) there is usually more consideration for AR and correct aperture plates or curtains and masking valences can be used. Now that PAULINE's predominate exposure is via home video (and rep or festival) it would seem that the original Rohmer choice could take precedence.

The case of LAST EMPEROR (and APOCOLYPSE) is definitely more troubling. As arson suggests it's pretty bizarre to use an anamorphic process and then (OK 20 years later) crop from the sides! The idea is so peversely "retrofitted" it reminds me of those "adapted scope" prints of THE WILD BUNCH and EL CID where the scope image is reduced letterboxed into a 16mm flat print so that you got a widescreen image of about 1:2 or 1:2.10. At least there was a reason behind this: i.e. affording a mostly complete widescreen presentation to non-theatrical venues with no budget for scope lenses. David Hare is probably correct by suggesting that in most theatres the image bled off at the extremeties. But again, as with the Rohmer, we're in a new era of home presentation where commercial exhibition compromises need not apply.

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TheGodfather
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#182 Post by TheGodfather » Tue Feb 26, 2008 3:22 pm


kevyip1
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#183 Post by kevyip1 » Tue Feb 26, 2008 5:58 pm

This may seem trivial, but this is one of two films I know that has an extreme closeup shot of human feces. (The other one is François Ozon's "See the Sea".) And thanks to Storaro's cropping, the crap will appear closer. I always have to look away when crap is in my face. But apparently, some directors and/or cinematographers have no such problem.

I've heard that "The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover" has it, too. But I haven't seen the film and can't confirm.

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Darth Lavender
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#184 Post by Darth Lavender » Tue Feb 26, 2008 6:13 pm

kevyip1 wrote:I've heard that "The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover" has it, too. But I haven't seen the film and can't confirm.
I think there was a "bodily functions" thread elsewhere with a few lists, etc.

I do recall The Cook, The Thief... beginning with someone beaten by gangsters and force-fed dog excrement (actually, chocolate mousse)

The trick with watching scenes like that is just to know what's actually being used. (And, reportedly, the mixture of orange-marmalade & chocolate used in 'Salo' was actually quite delicious. I've seriously thought of preparing such a desert as a joke-gift next time I'm invited to a 'pot luck' type dinner :twisted: )

Bertolucci does seem to have a penchant for depicting such things in his movies. I'll advise* you to stay away from his "Novecento" which involves the peasants pelting Donald Sutherland with horse-manure, running out manure, then (in a surprisingly graphic close-up) massaging the horse's anus to produce some-more.
*That is, of course, unless you happen to have a particular dislike of Donald Sutherland.

I've read it's a particularly prominent theme in medieval Italy (especially in depictions of Hell; just look at Dante) Which would account for it being so unusually common in Italian films (and films by Italian directors)

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domino harvey
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#185 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:26 pm

jaredsap wrote:Becker throws down on THE LAST EMPEROR.
Bull.Shit. I think the caps as shown in this thread prove that the filmmakers are indulging in revisionism, not staying true to their original intents. If they just added extra space for the 2.35:1, we wouldn't have drastically recomposed shots in the 2:1.

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miless
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#186 Post by miless » Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:33 pm

added extra space for 2.35:1?

Isn't the framing with Anamorphic lenses pretty rigid (making it difficult to "add" to the image).

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domino harvey
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#187 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:36 pm

miless wrote:added extra space for 2.35:1?

Isn't the framing with Anamorphic lenses pretty rigid (making it difficult to "add" to the image).
I can't tell if you're objecting to what I said, which was right from the blog post:
Becker wrote:Thomas said Storaro and Bertolucci filled the wider frame knowing that there would be 2.35:1 prints in circulation as well, but that they always knew they were shooting a format wider than what they hoped to release.

Senya
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#188 Post by Senya » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:14 am

Matt wrote:Peter Becker sez: so zip it, film dorks.
If "Storaro and Bertolucci filled the wider frame knowing that there would be 2.35:1 prints in circulation as well, but that they always knew they were shooting a format wider than what they hoped to release"
then how the following happened?

Good (IMO) composition with all required people on both sides:
Image

"Filmmaker's" version(s) (which one?):
Image
Image

I am still confused. Even after the explanation :)

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arsonfilms
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#189 Post by arsonfilms » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:22 am

If the original intention argument is to be believed, then the top capture is what was achieved with the anamorphic lens, and the bottom capture is what was "originally intended." The middle capture seems to me to be a mistake, as it was incorrectly shifted to the wrong side to achieve the intended ratio. Am I correct in assuming that the mistaken framing is from the television version and not the director's cut?

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miless
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#190 Post by miless » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:51 am

domino harvey wrote:
miless wrote:added extra space for 2.35:1?

Isn't the framing with Anamorphic lenses pretty rigid (making it difficult to "add" to the image).
I can't tell if you're objecting to what I said, which was right from the blog post:
Becker wrote:Thomas said Storaro and Bertolucci filled the wider frame knowing that there would be 2.35:1 prints in circulation as well, but that they always knew they were shooting a format wider than what they hoped to release.
I was confused by what you had written. I thought you were saying that if they wanted to present the material at 2:1 that they should have opened up the framing of the 2.35:1 (the top and bottom to accommodate the 'taller' aspect of 2:1) as could be done with shooting something with an open matte.

Senya
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#191 Post by Senya » Wed Feb 27, 2008 1:07 am

arsonfilms wrote:If the original intention argument is to be believed, then the top capture is what was achieved with the anamorphic lens, and the bottom capture is what was "originally intended." The middle capture seems to me to be a mistake, as it was incorrectly shifted to the wrong side to achieve the intended ratio. Am I correct in assuming that the mistaken framing is from the television version and not the director's cut?
No, you are not correct. :( The middle picture is from the theatrical cut.

And one more thing... Same video aspect ratio, same filmmaker, different movie, different explanation.

Image

Corrected later: I was wrong and the middle picture is from the TV cut.
Last edited by Senya on Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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arsonfilms
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#192 Post by arsonfilms » Wed Feb 27, 2008 3:45 am

I thought I remembered that same explanation made with regard to this film as well, but I can't recall where I heard that, or even if I did at all. Even if Storaro is lying and the 1:2 ratio wasn't what was initially intended, the thrust of his argument seems to be that the grandeur and scale of his images should outweigh the contents of the frame. I don't know that I agree with this, but if he would just come out and say THAT at least I would get where he's coming from. I could then at least grant that a 2.35 ratio diminishes the scale of the film a bit, but it's this awkward re-framing that I don't understand. I know that the theatrical cut is "preferred," but now I'm wondering which version to watch. Has anyone delved into this set yet? Any suggestions on how to approach?

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miless
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#193 Post by miless » Wed Feb 27, 2008 4:01 am

in the new blog they did say that this was Storraro's first film composed for 2:1... which means that Apocalypse Now was NOT (although the film was cropped for 70mm projection, then... so it could be argued that Storraro, in that case, released the film in a ratio that it was projected in).

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#194 Post by mogwai » Wed Feb 27, 2008 4:03 am

Senya wrote:No, you are not correct. :( The middle picture is from the theatrical cut.
Firstly, let me state that I have been drinking. Heavily. Yet, Senya, I believe arsonfilms is correct in stating that the mistaken framing is that of the television version. The captures you've posted, from DVDBeaver, clearly state the third grab as being the theatrical version. The middle capture is from the television version.

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david hare
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#195 Post by david hare » Wed Feb 27, 2008 4:40 am

I am fascinated by this but not particularly moved to buy the new dvd because, like zedz, I dont like it enough to bother.

However you all have to remember this was shown on general first release (almost) everywhere in 70mm so - as I was reminded - the ratio for that was 2.20 or slightly less. It looked fabulous.

Moving along, we now have the new ratio of 2.00 which sounds quite close to Apoc Redux. How BAD is this in the sense that it crops further, both vertically and horizontally? It really needs a scene by scene analysis , right down to the CUs, for instance the breast feeding of the now teenage Emperor. I dont know, so maybe someone can fill us in.

Thirdly however, as far as both Berto and Storaro were concerned, they jointly shot more than a few movies in Super35 - This of course is non anamorphic lens fine grain which allows for masking down as far as 2:35 or more likely 1.85, or leaving alone at a "flatter" ratio. It's usually favored by "hacks" like Ridley Scott and many others who want to keep a "Center Cut" for the old TV ratio. But get the grain right, and you have no lens or parallax error problems a la anamorphic lenses for the usual wider aspects.

The ideal masking for Emperor is completely open to me, in any case, and it's a far cry from the absolute butchery done to early 50s artists and DPs like Sirk and Metty where the "revisionist" masking becomes an imposed standard by the studios, no less.

My real problem with this new Storaro rendition of the movie (for which I don't have great deal of affection anyway) is the hideous, plain color timing.

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#196 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:16 am

Glenn Kenny on the debate, with an interesting Wikipedia link that describes Storaro's plans for a 'Univisium' ratio which is the ratio he has filmed his recent projects in. I'm sure none of us would have trouble with those later films but I think we are a bit more concerned about after the fact revisionism - ok, it is nothing like George Lucas with Star Wars but then Last Emperor is arguably a better film (I'd argue for THX-1138 though! :wink: ).

I also picked up on that comment in the blog that seemed to justify Last Emperor while reopening the debate on Apocalypse Now!

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#197 Post by Senya » Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:52 am

mogwai wrote:
Senya wrote:No, you are not correct. :( The middle picture is from the theatrical cut.
Firstly, let me state that I have been drinking. Heavily. Yet, Senya, I believe arsonfilms is correct in stating that the mistaken framing is that of the television version. The captures you've posted, from DVDBeaver, clearly state the third grab as being the theatrical version. The middle capture is from the television version.
My fault. But where are the people onthe left side? :)

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Antoine Doinel
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#198 Post by Antoine Doinel » Wed Feb 27, 2008 1:27 pm

The Onion AV Club doesn't enjoy the extras:
Key features: The theatrical version, the 218-minute extended cut, and supplemental materials are spread out over four discs, but this is the rare case where Criterion goes for quantity over quality. Most of the making-of documentaries are deadly dull.

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colinr0380
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#199 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Feb 27, 2008 7:00 pm

A more positive DVD Talk review.

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Matango
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#200 Post by Matango » Wed Feb 27, 2008 11:03 pm

I'm inclined to agree about the extras. There's way too much about Bertie. Ian Buruma's 45-minute piece on the historical background is quite good, but there could have been some docu stuff on subjects like Pu Yi himself, the Cultural Revolution, Manchuria/Manchukuo, the Kuomintang, Sun Yat Sen, and Reginald Johnston (The Peter O'Toole character, on whose book much of the film was based). That said, I haven't seen all the extras yet, but probably never will anyway.

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