Aspect Ratio discussion for Magnificent Obsession

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Barmy
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Re: Aspect Ratio discussion for Magnificent Obsession

#351 Post by Barmy » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:34 pm

I haven't read any of this thread but I saw this last night in 35mm and it is 1.33 or whatever the term is for a square box. You're welcome.

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Gregory
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Re: Aspect Ratio discussion for Magnificent Obsession

#352 Post by Gregory » Fri Jan 30, 2009 2:12 pm

Barmy wrote:I saw this last night in 35mm and it is 1.33 or whatever the term is for a square box.
You saw it in 1:1?

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Re: Aspect Ratio discussion for Magnificent Obsession

#353 Post by HerrSchreck » Fri Jan 30, 2009 2:18 pm

Barmy wrote: You're welcome.
To giggle again at your rampant strangeness?

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Barmy
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Re: Aspect Ratio discussion for Magnificent Obsession

#354 Post by Barmy » Fri Jan 30, 2009 3:05 pm

Sorry, yes 1:1.

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Hofmeister
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Ratios in Aspic

#355 Post by Hofmeister » Fri Mar 04, 2011 3:33 pm

yoshimori wrote: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.
The new Sign of the Pagan DVD from Germany delivers both the 2.35 and the 1.33 version. Interestingly enough, they display different set-ups and slightly different editing. While this excludes the possibility that the latter was extracted from the former, it's still conceivable that all of it might have been shot with a single camera.

This could be settled if the two transfers were on an equal footing, for then the material shot anamorphically -- if it was the sole source -- would have to be vastly superior. Ironically, the 2.35 version is letterboxed (yes, this is a 2011 release).

(See also my entry on same in the Sirk thread.)

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Re: Aspect Ratio discussion for Magnificent Obsession

#356 Post by Props55 » Sat Mar 05, 2011 12:23 am

they display different set-ups and slightly different editing
If this is the case then it would seem that there were two versions shot - scope and flat - like THE ROBE. Similarly OKLAHOMA was shot in 35mm Scope and 70mm Todd-AO.

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Hofmeister
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Tea for Attila, Man!

#357 Post by Hofmeister » Sat Mar 05, 2011 8:16 pm

Now I've run the two versions on the Koch disc of Sign of the Pagan simultaneously to bring out the differences, and what a fascinating evening it made! The upshot is this: Scope and Academy versions use completely different elements.

Only a handful of shots in the Academy version (or A for short) were optically derived from Scope (S) material; these stood out quite shockingly in A. More numerous but still infrequent are shots of the same performance; in these, the position of camera S was usually to the right of camera A but occasionally this was reversed. Most frequently S and A used different takes AND different angles. This of course entails differences in the rhythm and timing of the performances favouring the respective 'target' format. Variances in performances can be quite striking while variances in dialogue are few, though a word can be plenty ("Kubra is gone" / "Kubra is dead"), and I noticed only one instance of an extra sentence. (It also means that watching them in parallel means constantly aligning the timing of one or the other version.)

Many constraints can be ascribed to logistical causes: Scenes with lots of personnel for example were filmed simultaneously. Conversely, the more intimate the scene, the more dramatic were the differences in the blocking and the angles (and the performances). Some fight scenes, even though they may involve a number of participants, were not filmed simultaneously because the two versions break them up in different ways.

Effects shots were in a league of their own; matte shots were invariably designed for S and did not fare well in the fitment: In one extreme case only the matte painting made it into A, sacrificing the live action; in another only the live element was used for A while the matte painting was left out; one way or another, all effects shots seem to have been done twice. One case that fared extremely poorly was not done over as it combined at least three elements; here an enlargement of S was placed in A and the result is deplorable.

The editing displays the differences that were to be expected - longer takes in S, more cuts in A, more medium shots in A, closer two-shots in S ('dual close-ups'). However, they are less pronounced than in similar, much earlier two-format cases such as Roland West's The Bat Whispers (Magnifilm) or Raoul Walsh's The Big Trail (Grandeur) - two examples where the large format versions already exhibit all the adaptive widescreen 'grammar' that will be re-explored in the 1960s.

As for the quality of the transfers used for this DVD, both seem based on Technicolor show prints (with characteristic Tech changeover marks), with S appearing to be a much older telecine than A. A also fares better in terms of sound quality. It's a shame that on this disc S is not anamorphic but letterboxed; image detail suffers badly (but blows up surprisingly well given its intrinsic limitations). The color palette in A is livelier but a bit too red (the purples pop rather artificially) while S is too green. This judgment is probably overly severe as running the two side by side made their shortcomings more salient than they would have been in separate viewings.

On a personal note, I found the majority of the Scope compositions much more expressive, while the framing in the Academy version was sometimes cramped (with the bridge of Palance's nose at the edge of the frame), sometimes vague (with an emphasis on the middle ground reminiscent of TV).

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Gregory
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Re: Tea for Attila, Man!

#358 Post by Gregory » Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:05 pm

Hofmeister wrote:Only a handful of shots in the Academy version (or A for short) were optically derived from Scope (S) material; these stood out quite shockingly in A. More numerous but still infrequent are shots of the same performance; in these, the position of camera S was usually to the right of camera A but occasionally this was reversed. Most frequently S and A used different takes AND different angles.

Many constraints can be ascribed to logistical causes: Scenes with lots of personnel for example were filmed simultaneously. Conversely, the more intimate the scene, the more dramatic were the differences in the blocking and the angles (and the performances). Some fight scenes, even though they may involve a number of participants, were not filmed simultaneously because the two versions break them up in different ways.
Hofmeister, it's interesting to read this, because what you're describing contradicts what Sirk said in Sirk on Sirk, that both versions were shot with one camera and one lens. Having read this, I had believed the same thing that yoshimori says above, that the academy version was derived from the 'Scope version. I'm not saying you're wrong, by any means, because I haven't had the opportunity to do the comparison that you've done and in fact haven't seen the Academy versions of his Scope films. I guess using one camera and one lens wouldn't in any way preclude doing different takes from different angles with different blocking, picturing how they would appear when converted to the Academy version. Either way, it sounds like he and Metty made a commitment to widescreen composition with Sign of the Pagan, but of course had to comply with the studio's requirement that they produce something that could still be shown in the many theaters that weren't set up for Cinemascope, and so they did something far more sophisticated and elaborate than what I believe they did with MO, which was to film and edit one film, using the whole Academy frame while simply ensuring it would look presentable when projected at 2:1.

So I wonder about Sirk's statement. Perhaps he was misremembering or oversimplifying what was done a great deal, as he made just a passing reference to the process. Also, I'm pretty sure that Halliday wrote the book without relying on any recordings of the interviews. I guess he used shorthand to write down what he though were the essentials of the conversations, and many other things Sirk said were omitted. Throughout, Halliday seems a bit unconcerned with discussing the technical side of making the films, composing shots, etc. so perhaps some of what Sirk said on those topics was not written down and/or included in the book. That's just speculation on my part.

EDIT: Searching for Sign of the Pagan on the forum just now, I see that, pages back, I had quoted the same part of the Sirk interview that I had in mind here, and Schreck later quoted it again. So if you've read this long, rather unpleasant thread, you're likely that you're already familiar with what I'm taking about here. Any thoughts?

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Hofmeister
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Re: Tea for Attila, Man!

#359 Post by Hofmeister » Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:00 am

Gregory wrote:Hofmeister, it's interesting to read this, because what you're describing contradicts what Sirk said in Sirk on Sirk, that both versions were shot with one camera and one lens. Having read this, I had believed the same thing that yoshimori says above, that the academy version was derived from the 'Scope version.
Same here: As I started the two Signs side by side, I fully expected the difference to be "much of a muchness" and not the delightful surprise it turned out to be! If you'd like to try this at home, drop me an e-mail.
Gregory wrote:I guess using one camera and one lens wouldn't in any way preclude doing different takes from different angles with different blocking, picturing how they would appear when converted to the Academy version.
Quite so, that's why I wrote prior to the comparison that "it's still conceivable that all of it might have been shot with a single camera". However, I find the evidence now lies on the other pan of the scales, at least based on this presentation: If all of the Academy version had been extracted from Scope material then I don't see why the bulk of the derivation should look fine, while those shots that are indubitably borrowed from the Scope are a mess.
Gregory wrote: Either way, it sounds like he and Metty made a commitment to widescreen composition with Sign of the Pagan (…), and so they did something far more sophisticated and elaborate than what I believe they did with MO (…).
My feelings exactly. The extent of this divergence (and its attention to detail) is what makes this release worthwhile (in spite of the outdated letterboxing). I've always been a sucker for version films that comment on one another and I'm very happy to find such a rich example long after the peak period for versions (which were the silent-to-sound transition years).
Gregory wrote:So I wonder about Sirk's statement.
I do believe that he remembered his and Metty's work on Sign of the Pagan just the way he told it to Halliday. You stressed that the actual shooting process was not the focus of that passage (pp114-116), and when I think of other interview books done many years after the fact, I'd find it more than odd, almost unique, had he recalled the exact way they shot it.
Gregory wrote:Also, I'm pretty sure that Halliday wrote the book without relying on any recordings of the interviews.
See page 6f. for this, where Halliday quotes Sirk thusly:
"I don't want to do this on tape. I hate that goddam mike you've got there. I'd much prefer to have a conversation with you. And, I'm worried about my English. I haven't spoken it for ten years . . . And I'm not too sure of my memory." (Sirk on Sirk p.6)

In the passage that follows, Halliday relates that Sirk had completely forgotten about All That Heaven Allows ("What's that? I don't remember making any film like that."), adding that the following day, Sirk said:
"I was talking to Hilde [Mrs Sirk] yesterday after you'd gone, and she says I did make a film called All That Heaven Allows. Can you tell me a bit more about it?" (Sirk on Sirk p.7)

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Gregory
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Re: Aspect Ratio discussion for Magnificent Obsession

#360 Post by Gregory » Sun Mar 06, 2011 2:08 pm

Ah yes, I remember that last anecdote. I think when I originally read Sirk on Sirk, I shook my head in literal disbelief at that story and read on. I just don't get it. There's no way he was that far gone when Halliday was doing the conversations (unless perhaps he was on some medication that interfered with his memory at that particular time). Sirk was interviewed years after this and seemed pretty much sharp as a tack (though of course not always in the mood to reminisce), remembering the key films extremely well, demonstrating exactly how he directed Lana Turner etc. etc. There are just a lot of unanswered questions here, I guess. I treasure Sirk on Sirk but it barely scratches the surface in so many ways. It would have been wonderful if someone had written a massive, detailed history of Sirk and his films, similar to McBride's book on Ford or McCarthy's on Hawks -- ideally a decade or two ago when more of the people involved were still around.

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