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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 7:15 pm 
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Narshty wrote:
Lino wrote:

Saw this in HMV today - no extras listed on the packaging (which seems to be another foldout 7-disc digipak disaster), but the aspect ratios break down as follows:

HAS ANYBODY SEEN MY GAL? / ALL I DESIRE - 1.33:1
WRITTEN ON THE WIND / IMITATION OF LIFE - 1.85:1 anamorphic
MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION / ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS - 2.00:1 anamorphic
THE TARNISHED ANGELS - 2.35:1 anamorphic

I've no idea what they're playing at by listing the Wyman/Hudson films at 2.00:1, and if they've actually matted them to this ratio on the discs then that's ludicrous. WRITTEN ON THE WIND was also listed as 2.0 surround, whereas all the rest are mono.

In the great tradition of Universal totally fucking up 1.37 titles to "update" or in some way "improve" them (Touch of Evil, Jet Pilot, etc.), Magnificent Obsession is most definitely masked/cropped to 2.00:1 - this advice from a poster at beaverlistserv. When will they ever learn? I'd rather keep the old VHS (or my TV copy.) Certainly not forking out money for this, much as I want Tarnished Angels.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 8:37 pm 

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davidhare wrote:
In the great tradition of Universal totally fucking up 1.37 titles to "update" or in some way "improve" them (Touch of Evil, Jet Pilot, etc.), Magnificent Obsession is most definitely masked/cropped to 2.00:1.

Magnificent Obsession was shot in 2.00:1 superscope, a common aspect ratio for Universal-International films in the 50s and 60s. link


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 9:18 pm 
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No it wasn't

The key phrase on page 1 is "In fact a number of films were released in Superscope that had not been planned and photographed with the requisite framing in mind. I strongly suspect that this may be the case with the first film in the process, Vera Cruz".

More often than not Supercsope was adpated as a process to make pre-existing movies shot in Academy Ratio "widescreen friendly" and the negative was put through the Technicolor labs as described in the attachment to create a "new" widescreen version. Indeed the Superscope process was even utilized "after the event" by Howard Hughes on titles like Jet Pilot (which was shot in 1950 and clearly only ever intended for 1.37: 1 exhibition) for subsequent reissue post 1953 (It was released in 1957) in faux widescreen. Caps are already available elsewhere here comparing the cropped Universal Superscope version of Jet Pilot with the full frame Laserdisc. In short Superscope during the 50s was almost always an "applied" process" rather than one actually chosen by the filmmaker for shooting. It was in essence a studio concoction which the Director and DP may or may not have been aware of.

I suggest anyone interested takes a look at the photocap from the Sirk provided by Clifford Groves on the Beaver listserv to get an idea of the compositional reference.

I have a directair copy of Magnificent Obsession and there is no credit for "Superscope", nor is there one on the NTSC VHS which was released in the 90s. When it comes to All that Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind (1956) it's clear by this time that Sirk and Metty were shotting in full frame as open matte for probable widescreen masking as more and more theatres became equipped for 1.66 and wider displays. I notice All that Heaven Allows is also cropped into 2.00 in this new Sirk box - this is way too wide. Only Imitation of Life (1959) was shot hard matted for 1.85.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 12:00 am 

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I haven't seen the comparison caps, but I did see a nice print of the film at LACMA last year and it looked to us well-composed in widescreen.

davidhare is right: superscope was an applied process - extraction and squeeze in the lab, then unsqueeze in the theater. It was certainly wrong of me to say Magnificent Obsession was "shot" in superscope. Sirk and Metty surely "shot" the full negative on Magnificent Obsession. But that doesn't mean they weren't composing with an eye toward what probably seemed the inevitable widescreen release. Metty's 1954 Naked Alibi was released widescreen, and his 1954 Four Guns to the Border was released 2.00:1 superscope. Sirk's own 1954 Sign of the Pagan, which Metty shot, was a widescreen pic, though I believe SotP was shot anamorphic, from which an alternative 'flat' version was extracted optically. All three, plus Magnificent Obsession, were released in fall or early winter.

That only one of them was imagined as 1.33:1 is certainly possible, but I'm not (yet) convinced.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 12:51 am 
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Yoshi, certainly by 1956 both Sirk and Metty were conscious of the expansion of retrofitted cinemas with widescreen facilities and were undoubtedly filming open matte All that Heaven and Written with the knowledge that some (but not all) theatres would project it masked. The most common widescreen ratio however for non-Scope or Non-Vistavision movies was 1.66. In the mid to late fities by the way Paramount's preferred Vistavison mask for the 35mm reduction prints was 1.75 (not 1.85 as so often stated). BTW White Xmas - the first Vistavision title went out with instructions to be masked at 1.66.

However in 54, if any movie (including Vera Cruz) ended up screening in Superscope it was entirely a producer/studio determined outcome.

Also always look at the compositions. In Magnificent Obsession, towards the end of the picture Sirks shoots Wyman, still apparently blind, stumbling through an interior, crashing into furniture and knocking over a flower pot, which Sirk bathes in pools of colored light. The composition and rhythm throughout the scene is designed in verticals, and cropping this to anything more than 1.66 would simply totally destroy Sirk's mise en scene.


Bear in mind Superscope was a cheapie process almost always applied after filming, to attract audiences. In prestige projects like Ross Hunter's at Universal, or Hitch's Wrong Man at Warner the producers would never have entertained the notion of using Superscope (with its pushed grain and general visual shoddiness) .

As a friend of mine over at beaver commented, 50s ratios are one of the biggest minefields in American film history. Proceed at your peril.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 2:11 am 

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davidhare wrote:
As a friend of mine over at beaver commented, 50s ratios are one of the biggest minefields in American film history. Proceed at your peril.

I step lightly. I think it's a little strange, though, if we don't consider the possibility (likelihood, I'd think) that filmmakers, especially tech geeks like cinematographers, knew in 1954 that non-scope widescreen was upon them and that they adjusted their thinking (and shooting) accordingly. I'd be stunned if Metty didn't become fully aware of how prints of Magnificent Obsession, Four Guns, etc. were screening until 1956.

I'll look forward to comparisons of the scene you mentioned, but even so, I'm not sure a comparison will settle it. [Anybody got a copy of American Cinematographer September 1954? It's a touch before my time. Is there nothing in Sirk on Sirk?]

We didn't notice anything odd about that scene (or any other) at the LACMA screening. Maybe because the movie was so whackily thrilling.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 3:58 am 
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Quote:
I'll look forward to comparisons of the scene you mentioned, but even so, I'm not sure a comparison will settle it. [Anybody got a copy of American Cinematographer September 1954? It's a touch before my time. Is there nothing in Sirk on Sirk?]

No there isn't. It never occured to them in the sxities (when Sirk was still alive this would even be expected). Yoshi I wouldnt even respond to the slight (I was born in 1949) but this biz of incorrect ratios is far more vexing than your imbecile prof at college would ever begin to know.

Here are some caps from the 1.37 TV broadcast version with explantories for those who cant see (in keeping with Jane's role in the picture:)

Image

the hieght of the verticals for two shot numero 2
Image

Jane blind
Image
Image

basic composition before decoupage in three shot.

There is plenty of head height throughout the movie, in charcter with Academy Ratio shooting but that's not a reason to excuse either misframing or extremely poor teaching and DVD mastering practice.

BTW Forty Guns (not Four Guns) was shot in 'Scope licenced from Fox as were several Fuller pictures because he Asked Zanuck to do them this way. They were also (the color ones in any case) printed in IB even though necessarily shot in Eastman stock.

Honestly! Where do you kids learn this bogus shit!! At fucking University??


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 4:20 am 
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This is a serious letdown after being so thrilled that Magnificent Obsession was finally coming. And now it's going to be difficult to pay out so much money to get The Tarnished Angels. I will probably keep waiting rather than buy this, on practical grounds and on principle.
Universal has scheduled an individual release of Magnificent Obsession for March 5. If solid evidence of the correct aspect ratio can be put in front of the right person, and if enough people e-mail the company as soon as possible to ask them not to repeat the mistake, maybe they could be persuaded to postpone that release and do it over. It might sound like a longshot, but it worked with MGM's big Bergman set.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 4:50 am 
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Greg Im trying to do that RIGHT NOW.

Unforutntely they dont reply very often, viz. Touch of Evil, which was their commercial decision, and one that's been argued long and often thru cinephile routes.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 2:18 pm 
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Please post contact information for their home video division. I looked around on www.universalpictures.co.uk and a few other sites and couldn't find anything.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 6:50 pm 

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davidhare wrote:
There is plenty of head height throughout the movie, in charcter with Academy Ratio shooting but that's not a reason to excuse either misframing or extremely poor teaching and DVD mastering practice.

BTW Forty Guns (not Four Guns) was shot in 'Scope licenced from Fox as were several Fuller pictures because he Asked Zanuck to do them this way. They were also (the color ones in any case) printed in IB even though necessarily shot in Eastman stock.

Honestly! Where do you kids learn this bogus shit!! At fucking University??

Sorry to pile on more bogus shit. A simple question, if you don't mind. I assume that you've seen equivalent stills from the 2.00:1 matte and can assure us the stills above are not cropped left and right. Right? These are the frames from which the 2.00:1 release prints were extracted?

I didn't mention 40 Guns, btw. Four Guns was my abbreviation for the 2.00:1 superscope release of Four Guns to the Border Metty shot, together with Magnificent Obsession, Naked Alibi, and Sign of the Pagan, in 1954. Those are the films I mentioned in my post a couple of posts up. Sorry for the confusing abbreviation.

I'm also not sure what "learned shit" you're referring to, but the 2.00:1 Los Angeles screening of Magnificent Obsession was not part of any university course I know of. My skepticism about the definitiveness of the purely 1.33:1 intentions of Sirk/Metty re Magnificent Obsession derive mainly from having seen the film at 2.00:1 and enjoyed it. Apologies if a faulty sense of composition has mislead me.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 8:13 pm 
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My mistake on Forty Guns - I should have realized you meant the Metty- shot Four Guns to the Border which does provide a reference point for Universal widescreen. But once again I have no knowledge that Uni ever uitilized the Superscope process for either first release or reissues, and in fact Metty shot this open matte (as he did All that Heaven and Written on.)

I did intend to comment on the fact you (and obviously others) have seen M.O. in this format. Obviously Universal has produced the print (is it 35mm?) for exhibition but that doesn't make it correct. Clearly I've not seen it (or the DVD) but you're certainly welcome to post caps if you can, at least if Gary Tooze doesn't get there first. I completely stand by my opinion of its ideal framing and the caps I posted are intended to illustrate that. When you're analyzing this issue it's essential to address the entire intention and design of the director's mise en scene. As M.O. progresses with the onset of Jane's blindness Sirk and Metty increasingly rely on Medium or Close 2 and 3 shots which are structured and lit in vertical axes, providing among other things a visual corellative to Wyman's powerlessness and a sens of enclosure (my second last cap.) Even Hudson's position in frames switches from a vertically dominant position to a "subservient" one as he proceeds to conceal his identity and - again - "pretend" he's someone else. It's a real shame this whole discussion has focussed on the framing, even if it provides an entree to discussion of Sirk's mise en scene because the meanings of this great movie are so central. The way Sirk twists around the Llloyd C Douglas crypto-religious faith and sacrifice theme into a recit on a woman who is phsycially and metaphyscially blind and a man who has to lie about what he is. This such a stark and fascinating contrast to another LC Douglas adapatation, Borzage's Green Light from 1937 which also centres on a woman who rejects the man over a perceived breach of decency but plays out the self self sacrificing male and the woman coming to enlightenment narrative relatively straight.

This has also provoked discussion at the Beaver listserv. Im not to going to repeat myself over and over with points Ive made above but this whole area of 50s widescreen ratios and the reissue of these titles 50 odd years later is now one of the most vexing when it comes to authenticity. There IS a resource for confriming projection masking regimes and that's to pore through the archives of the relevant studio for the press and exhibitor kits which were routinely issued during the period 1953 to 1960. These ultimately became superfluous by the early 60s with the wide scale adoption of Scope and licencing of it beyond Fox, and the replacement of Vistavision with Technirama and then Super Technirama which had relatively fixed ratios of 2.0 to 2.2 and 2.35 respectively. And it was at this point that "regular" US widescreen ratio settled into 1.85 after a decade of varying formats which were often left to the whim of the projectionist, or simply the capacity of the theatre's masking apparatus. There's a ton of information about this out there.

Im not sorry you enjoyed it even in a compromised form like a 2.00 crop. Maybe when you do see the movie in full frame you might find it even more meaningful than just "whackily thrilling".

FOOTNOTE: Somone isw sending me a rip of M.O. next week so I'll do the requisite caps then.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 2:40 am 
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My review of the M.O. disc for amazon.uk:

Quote:
Directed by Douglas Sirk, 7 Feb 2007
Reviewer: David Hare (Sydney) - See all my reviews

This SHOULD have been one of the most eagerly greeted director's boxes since Sternberg or Ozu, containing as it does the bulk of Sirk's 50s work and two titles previously unavailable on DVD, Tarnished Angels and Magnificent Obsession.

Sadly Universal have cruelled the box with a transfer of Magnificent Obsession in a cropped matted format of 2.00:1. The original shooting ratio was 1.37:1(Academy) and although released in 1954 it is highly unlikely, even in the post 53 Widescreen/Scope era that Sirk and DP Russell Metty would have shot and composed it for any masking greater than 1.66:1. By 1956 Sirk and Metty were composing All that Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind to accomodate widescreen masking, in which format those titles appear in the boxset (and on the earlier Criterion DVDs.)

Unfortunately the damage done to Magnificent Obsession by this is a travesty. A carefully composed progression of design and layout leads to key 2 shots and 3 shots which are lit and structured on vertical axes to show Wyman increasingly overpowered by faces and objects after she becomes blind, for instance. These sequences are completely ruined by the masking. Similarly Rock Hudson's character developes into a man literally hiding his true identity (an underlying subtext in Sirk's work with Hudson) and the mise en scene gradually alters Hudson's dominant position in framing to a subservient one, again in vertical composition and again ruined by the 2.00 masking.

This set should have been a real prize for what it promised but unless Universal were moved to recall Magnificent Obsession and re-issue it in a correct ratio, the Collection is quite literally tarnished.

Screencaps:

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 11:23 am 

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Thanks so much for your work in providing these caps, Mr dh.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 8:01 pm 
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Im delighted to do so - I was going to label each cap as an example of this or that but it became obvious the cropping of not only objects, faces, decor but particularly space around the actors and the use of decor and space as virtual protagonists in Sirk's mise en scene really become clear when you see the full frame picture. For essays on Sirk and his use of space and movement contained within space Bordwell is essential reading, as Ive just been reminded by Peter Henne at a_f_b.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 2:45 am 

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davidhare wrote:
For essays on Sirk and his use of space and movement contained within space Bordwell is essential reading, as Ive just been reminded by Peter Henne at a_f_b.

I wonder what Bordwell you mean. I have Classical Hollywood Cinema, Narration in Fiction Film, Film History, Film Art, Post-Theory, Making Meaning, On the History of Film Style, Figures Traced in Light, and the (obviously irrelevant to the discussion) Planet Hong Kong, Eisenstein, Ozu, and Dreyer books, but none of them treats Sirk in any more-than-passing way.

I'd dissent from your reaction to the 2.00:1 frames. Each looks quite good to me. The compositions in the three stills for which you gave us comparison 1.33:1 frames (on the previous page) look more than fine in 2.00:1. The two shot with the background shelving is obviously much "tighter" in 2.00:1, but in a profitable way, in my opinion. The "three shot" is now, like the camera lens, more clearly focused on Wyman. And the dark optometrist shot is, for me, way more chilling in widescreen. It really is about that light in her eye! In the more open 1.33:1 composition, the tonal contrast between the back wall and her shadowed face is very distracting.

The bigger thing, as far as I'm concerned, is that the 2.00:1's perfectly reasonably composed (even "well" composed) images are highly highly unlikely to have been a "happy accident". Try clipping - as I just did to scenes from Singin' in the Rain - fully 1/3 of any other 1.33:1 movie down to 2.00:1 and see if such nice compositions result.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 5:25 am 
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Peter Henne references Bordwell and Thompson's "Film Art: an Introduction."

Im not using it as a reference - never read it - but I would refer you further to a_f_b posts from Peter and Fred Camper over Sirk's use of space and framing. Among a thousand issues that arise here - which are all to do with Sirk's mise en scene and Academy Ratio composition - not the least is the completely committed way in which Sirk embraces melodrama and "classic" movie/narrative forms and then structures his movies and composes his frames and the entirely commercially acceptable but subversive way then he formally projects melodrama. THere is no greater director working in the color and widescreen era who did this in American cinema. Any individual frame from Sirk in true composition reveals a whole history and a transformation of movies and form. The notion of space for a start can be looked at from the point of view of Murnau, or the Soviets, or the avant grade for that matter. "Classic " American movies managed to arrive at some sort of ideal "air" to "figurative" compositional ideal within the 1.37 frame by the late 1930s (as did other national cinemas) but it's frankly a requirement of watching Sirk that you observe the image in this last gasp of Academy ratio filming to understand what (and how great it is) he's doing.

E.G. what's the point of the space around figures with minimal setting, or why so much decor within a seemingly non essential WS. Or why does the CU block the actors in a position that seems to lead to either opening or enclosing decoupage ( and the deconstruction of the scene.?) I would argue that Sirk's filmmaking, not to even get into his emplyoment of melodrama, is only equalled by Lang as a metteur en scene afer the war.

If you want a copy of any of these Ross Hunter Sirks in full frame for youself, holler. It simply bugs the shit out of me that the movies are being put out these days in a completely bogus form that entirely dumbs down and corrupts their original beauty.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2007 1:29 pm 

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I couldn't resist the box in the end - as the Criterions were the only Sirk I had. Now (improper AR tarnished) I've been fascinated by Magnificent Obsession. I've watched it over and over. Right from the first shot of the speed-boat cutting through the dark blue to send up that spume of water.

A couple of people have said on this thread that it's a masterpiece, I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts on it. David Hare speaks of the vertical space - where character's bodies & faces appear in the frame as the tale progresses.

-Spoilers-

I've noticed that the scene often highlighted from this is a moment of almost total rising despair in the dark, Helen feeling her way out of the hotel room onto the balcony. In fact, out of all the eye-popping colour this time round, it's black that stuck to my eyes. When the European doctors all wear black suits to tell Helen the bad news, it seemed like the blackest, inkiest thing I'd seen.

I note that the speed-boat is red - a typical colour of course - but in another "moral" film Claire's Knee, Rohmer gives Jerome a similiarly red speedboat, - this is the Christian test of the hollow man! Another arbitrary comparison that arose in my mind is absent Dr Phillips/then present Randolph as a God figure, compared to Colpeper in Canterbury Tale. Both a little creepy, though one ostensibly lauded while the other must seek penance, yet for the other characters in the films, becoming-more-like-the God figure is their pilgrimage.

"Throughout my pictures there are these recurring signs — the plane, those goddamned cars, and the pond to which they all want to return, all these victims." Michael Stern interview with Sirk

Getting as far away from that lake as possible & NOT wanting to return - this is a success, it seems as if in the hospital in Mexico we've flown out out of the previous artificial world into a whole new level of artifice, with that specially built operating theatre and the held shot of the reflection in the glass. It seems like a film about accepting / achieving heaven not on earth but in heaven.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2007 6:00 pm 
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In this UK print the red color of the speeedboat looks more like cerise on acid. In other prints I've seen (in 1.37) it's more like scarlet.

Im pleased to see a non narrative reading of it. One of the texts that fascinates me (and is related to All that Heaven Allows' key scene in the car with Jane and Rock in which he talks about what it is to be a man) is the characterization of Jane necessarily becoming blind in order to force Hudson to pretend he's someone he isn't, so that they can both reach "acceptance" of each other. These texts are both gay specific, and metaphysical to me. Incredibly beautiful.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 1:35 am 
Take a chance you stupid ho
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According to Amazon UK, the single release Magnificent Obsession, due this week, has been withdrawn. With hope it is because of the AR, but I doubt it.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 3:36 am 
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As the kids might say: UNEVANO.

I just wish Gary would carry this a bit further for any proposed R1.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 2:44 am 

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Just got back from the American Cinematheque here in LA where there's a Sirk retro this weekend. Tonight's films were Magnificent Obsession and A Weekend with Father. The former was projected at 2:1. The latter, from 1951, was a 1.33:1 film, and we couldn't help but notice that if it had been cropped to 2:1 three out of every four shots would've been ruined - full heads of speaking characters cut off in medium wide shots, titles completely cut off, etc. This was NEVER the case with Magnificent Obsession - no missing heads or titles.

The only conclusion I can draw from this state of affairs is that the makers of Magnificent Obsession were aware that their film would be matted on projection and composed to create beautiful images in those widescreen frames.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 2:56 am 
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I wont argue any further on this. You can have it 2.00 I'll have it Academy thanks. Has all the dialogue, and the references to authors who talk meaningfully about space and air in the frame meant nothing? I am now with Peter Henne in thinking Written is also dead wrong in 1.78 and should have been pushed to nothing more than 1.66. To see Sirk really working in widescreen get out Tarnished Anegls and see how he organizes internal dynamics within a scene horizontally. This is a world away from post facto overmasking of a now imperilled title like Magnificent Obsession.

You don't have to agree obviously. But you have to acknowledge 53-55 is a transition point for aspect ratios in the USA, and whatever the DPs and directors may anticipate, there is still an aestthetic which - if youre a serious cinephile - you can discern in a director's composition and past and future work. It's not just a case of heads not being cropped off or such. I don't assume you mean by this post you completely deny anyone the chance to see M.O. in 1.37 Or that 2.00 is the "official" format?


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 3:11 am 

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davidhare wrote:
I don't assume you mean by this post you completely deny anyone the chance to see M.O. in 1.37

Correct! I'm still perfectly happy to entertain evidence - something from Sirk or Metty or someone connected with the film or some discussion of technical stuff from the time period - suggesting that the preferred aspect ratio was Academy. But it's now very clear to me that the 2:1 ratio (or something very close to it) was consciously in the minds of the filmmakers. These compositions can't have been a lucky accident. No?


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 5:22 am 
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Total waste of time. Never again.

Post deleted.


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