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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:17 pm 
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I'd forgotten about Berlin Alexanderplatz at the moment. Well, that's another example of Criterion relegating an important full-length film to a special feature. However, in that case, the Fassbinder is so immense that a split release would have seemed a little awkward. As for Lady Vanishes, does anyone really care about Crook's Tour as a film that merits its own status?

Anyway, let's get back to the aspect ratio discussion, although there's nothing really new on the table here. And I see Bob Furmanek chose not to address the vast majority of the points I made in my post, including my effort to re-frame the debate in terms of what we know of Sirk's mise-en-scene. Oh well, at least we have the Gaumont set from France, although it's still eye-wateringly expensive.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:17 pm 
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Only one way to settle this: an IMDb poll!


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:30 pm 
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Gregory: I'm not going to debate your personal feeling of what looks good on screen. I'm sticking to the documented, primary source materials indicating how the film was originally photographed and theatrically presented to first-run audiences.

By the start of principal photography in September, widescreen was not considered a fad: it was the future. "The Robe" had just premiered and thousands of theaters were installing new screens, masking, lenses, etc. Widescreen was not going away. Sirk and Metty knew this fact.

You think second run engagements and television meant more to the filmmakers than the prime, first run presentations which would be seen by hundreds of thousands?

I doubt it.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 3:44 pm 
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Bob Furmanek wrote:
Gregory: I'm not going to debate your personal feeling of what looks good on screen. I'm sticking to the documented, primary source materials indicating how the film was originally photographed and theatrically presented to first-run audiences.

Discussions of Sirk's mise-en-scène don't have to be about personal feelings, although I think they are important in the broader critical discussion in which mise-en-scène is interpreted -- no shame in that. There is primary evidence involved here as well, namely the Sirk films themselves, and it's elaborated in a body of critical literature on the subject.
The evidence you've presented is essentially about the act of masking, right? Well, if you're going to go a step further and talk about how the filmmakers composed and photographed the film, not just how it was presented, then you need to provide some sources for that, as well. You clearly have access to a huge amount of source materials that I do not. Does any of it deal specifically with Sirk and Metty's creative process? Without that, I don't think you can explain away the possibility that they accommodated the switch to widescreen but still preferred 1.37 for MO. This is a plausible suggestion because there are clearly not drastic effects of heads being chopped off, but there is important information missing when it is masked to 2:1. Examples have already been given in the other thread. There is also reason to believe that it was important to Sirk and Metty to have some open space in the frame, which is ruined in 2:1. These kinds of things are subtle enough that they only come out when does a careful comparison of the kind Via_Chicago eloquently calls for.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 4:16 pm 

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I think both Bob F. and I have been very liberal with our sources so far. If there's something that isn't clear to you, please ask.

I haven't seen the overseas DVD of the 2:1 transfer, but what important information is missing? I seem to recall seeing that all of the caps were well composed quite nicely, with a balance at both top and bottom.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 4:43 pm 
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Bob Furmanek wrote:
By the start of principal photography in September, widescreen was not considered a fad: it was the future. "The Robe" had just premiered and thousands of theaters were installing new screens, masking, lenses, etc. Widescreen was not going away. Sirk and Metty knew this fact.

You think second run engagements and television meant more to the filmmakers than the prime, first run presentations which would be seen by hundreds of thousands?

I doubt it.

That's an interesting statement coming from a guy who's working in one of the prime examples of the cinema's unending search for Bigger & Better to insure the "future" of the cinema-- 3D!

The only future the cinema has is one where consumers are buying tickets.. and a seasoned director like Sirk had seen em come and go.

First off, what was it that was causing the chains and the studios to feel it necessary to sensationalize exhibition by broadening the image? Television. There were those who were pronouncing cinema on it's potential last legs at this point in time, specifically because of the fact of television. So in answer to your question, which would Metty and Sirk have granted primacy to? I can't say for sure, but looking at the caps I'm led to think they created a "functional" 2.1 image yet rolled their dice with the stronger image based on the one to be seen on into the future, on the image for posterity, and the way it would look for years in future screenings in the cinema and on television. We're not talking Hitchcock pictures, or Ben-Hur. we're talking about the cinematic equivalent of a soap opera, attended primarily by housewives. These were not mega blockbusters being held over forever... so I don't know that those premieres held all that much wieght.

Just because industry is "gearing up" to make way for a trend doesn't mean it's the future, and any seasoned professional had seen em come and ago. Where is 3D today? Where is SENSURROUND today? Where is hand painting of film frames (dresses, explosions, flames, etc), frame by frame, as was done in the early silents? Where is tinting & toning of the b&w image? Where is the b&w image, for that matter? Where is Grandeur/0ther 70mm's, which was deemed to be the "big future" for the cinema at the dawn of sound? (A process which Sirk had seen come and go already). Where is 2-strip, 3-strip, where is technicolor? Where is dye-transfer IB printing? For that matter where is 2.0:1 aspect ratio today, which you said above was "the future"? Nowhere.. beyond the twinkle in the eye of a mad Italian cinematographer!

Examples abound of cinemas and chains investing in millions of dollars worth of equipment to support this or that piece of gimmicky hoo-ha which had a run for a decade or two. Metty & Sirk where smack dab in the middle of that period of time where they'd seen lots of this stuff come and go...

...but one thing that's always remained is the 1.37 image. Since nearly the dawn of the era, 1.37 has remained fairly consistent as the crux of the 35mm biscuit. And a wise filmmaker like Sirk, feeling like he was in the middle of what was the technological ballyhooing of a flagging industry (versus television), probably wisely composed for the one stable image-element in 35mm filmmaking... also knowing that TV was the repository for his films after their run.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 4:55 pm 
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The 3-D Film Preservation Fund is an organization dedicated to preserving the stereoscopic material from the pre-1960 Golden Age. Thankfully, we have nothing to do with the current product.

Regarding your other statements, it's pure conjecture on your part as to what Sirk and Metty were thinking on the set. I have no interest in debating that topic.

My intent in this thread was to provide original documentation of how the film was presented theatrically.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 5:10 pm 
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Bob Furmanek wrote:
Regarding your other statements, it's pure conjecture on your part as to what Sirk and Metty were thinking on the set. I have no interest in debating that topic.

My intent in this thread was to provide original documentation of how the film was presented theatrically.

Then why did you yourself make similar claims: "Widescreen was not going away. Sirk and Metty knew this fact."? Each post of yours has gone beyond mere theatrical presentation, with references to how the film was composed and photographed.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 5:10 pm 
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bob furmanek wrote:
Regarding your other statements, it's pure conjecture on your part as to what Sirk and Metty were thinking on the set. I have no interest in debating that topic.

Well, to be fair I thought that's what it sounded like you were specifically debating me--and expressing an opinion-- on when you stated:

bob furmanek wrote:
You think second run engagements and television meant more to the filmmakers than the prime, first run presentations which would be seen by hundreds of thousands?

I doubt it.

But it's impossible to discuss what the filmmakers intentions were for the film, without getting into, er, what they were thinking about when they made the film. Or at least trying one's best to ascertain this.

Obviously most of us know what the studio/industrial dictates were viz projection, yet grant other factors a primacy in decoding the ultimate visual disposition of MO.

I think we may be in more agreement than we know. I don't doubt that the film was composed in 2.0:1... but I think it was a sub or secondary composure... and that the primary AR was the one they-- the craftsmen, not the marketers-- believed would survive: 1.37.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 5:14 pm 
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Bob Furmanek wrote:
Regarding your other statements, it's pure conjecture on your part as to what Sirk and Metty were thinking on the set. I have no interest in debating that topic.

My intent in this thread was to provide original documentation of how the film was presented theatrically.

But that's really the crux of the issue, and it's also what people here have been arguing with you about. I doubt many here would dispute that the film was originally shown in a wider AR. Instead, what's important is really contextualizing the film beyond "this is what was going on then." The real issue is not how the film was presented theatrically, but about how the presentation of the film affects its intended aesthetic. Therefore, what Sirk and Metty intended and thought is important, maybe the most important thing. That's why I propose basing a decision on the film itself and not on some historical documentation that is mostly tangential to the real question at hand.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 5:19 pm 

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If either men did not want their film to be seen wide-screen, at that point it would have been as simple as that.

I've got an article somewhere talking about MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION going into production as wide-screen. Will that convince you people?


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 5:21 pm 
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Bob Furmanek wrote:
Dave: I'm "the kid" who posted that information on the HTF. (At the age of 47, I'm flattered with your nickname.)

I'm Jeff. There's too many Daves here already.

Don't be offended by my comment. I refer to everybody as "kids." It's a silly affectation of mine, not an insult. I'm 15 years younger than you, and not nearly as knowledgeable about cinema technology, so I certainly wouldn't talk down to you.

I appreciate your insight here. I'll be buying Magnificent Obsession regardless of what aspect ratio Criterion prints it in, but I'll continue to play the heathen and say I think it looks infinitely better at 1.33.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 5:34 pm 

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Via_Chicago wrote:
Bob Furmanek wrote:
Regarding your other statements, it's pure conjecture on your part as to what Sirk and Metty were thinking on the set. I have no interest in debating that topic.

My intent in this thread was to provide original documentation of how the film was presented theatrically.

But that's really the crux of the issue, and it's also what people here have been arguing with you about. I doubt many here would dispute that the film was originally shown in a wider AR. Instead, what's important is really contextualizing the film beyond "this is what was going on then." The real issue is not how the film was presented theatrically, but about how the presentation of the film affects its intended aesthetic. Therefore, what Sirk and Metty intended and thought is important, maybe the most important thing. That's why I propose basing a decision on the film itself and not on some historical documentation that is mostly tangential to the real question at hand.

I just spoke to the ghost of Douglas Sirk and he told me exactly what aspect ratio he wanted. It'll cost you $10 to find out.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 5:39 pm 
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thephotoplayer wrote:
If either men did not want their film to be seen wide-screen, at that point it would have been as simple as that.

I've got an article somewhere talking about MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION going into production as wide-screen. Will that convince you people?

Oh that's right, I forgot big hollywood studio front offices/execs and their directors never clash over projects, and those clashes are never about "art" v "commerce". There have never been, for example, 58 page memos, studio dictates overriding the wishes of the director, etc.

A director simply need say "Jump!" and the execs will revise their advertising sheets, supplement budgets, chuck sheet metal production of aperture plates, etc. Because directors are their own kingmakers!


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 10:32 pm 
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Gregory wrote:
And I see Bob Furmanek chose not to address the vast majority of the points I made in my post, including my effort to re-frame the debate in terms of what we know of Sirk's mise-en-scene.

I know this much about Sirk's mise-en-scene- there's never been as much clumsy head room in his films as in a 1.37 Magnificent Obsession.

Actually, the claim that a 1.37 Magnificent Obsession is more "Sirksian" in mise-en-scene than the 2.1 has never been backed up on this board. People have made the general claim, but nobody's gone into the details.

The historical record and common sense would suggest that Sirk composed for widescreen while keeping in mind that many theaters would still be screening it open-matted.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:15 pm 

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Via_Chicago wrote:
My biggest problem with this other, "historical," approach to the issue of AR (as is the case with the Touch of Evil debate as well), is that it neglects the importance of the film itself. Where are the rigorous comparisons - the willingness to sit through multiples reels in multiple ARs (as Fred Camper and I did with All That Heaven Allows) and make an informed aesthetic decision?

This is undoubtedly a valuable exercise for those who undertake it, but isn't the resulting analysis too subjective to be of any real value in this kind of discussion? As you go on to note:

Via_Chicago wrote:
Yes, that opens up the possibility of human error. (That is, what is good to one person's eye might not be to another). Nevertheless, there are serious limitations to the other approach, not least of which is that it assumes that the filmmakers made the picture in some kind of historical vacuum - that they made the film with a firm and clear vision based on historical circumstance and not based on their own aesthetic convictions, convictions that have only been muddled, not clarified, by our knowledge of historical circumstances.

But if you're charged with presenting a film on DVD, don't you pretty much have to go with the historical record unless you unearth unambiguous evidence that the artists' wishes were overruled by the studio? I mean, wouldn't it be irresponsible for Criterion to select an aspect ratio because they watched it both ways, and Jon Mulvaney thinks it looks better in 1.33?

(The other option is to present it in both ARs, of course, which I would've liked in the case of Touch of Evil, but I don't think I'd pay an extra $10 just to see for myself how Sirk and Universal might've differed on how they wanted Magnificent Obsession to look.)


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:41 pm 
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Perkins Cobb wrote:
But if you're charged with presenting a film on DVD, don't you pretty much have to go with the historical record unless you unearth unambiguous evidence that the artists' wishes were overruled by the studio? I mean, wouldn't it be irresponsible for Criterion to select an aspect ratio because they watched it both ways, and Jon Mulvaney thinks it looks better in 1.33?

(The other option is to present it in both ARs, of course, which I would've liked in the case of Touch of Evil, but I don't think I'd pay an extra $10 just to see for myself how Sirk and Universal might've differed on how they wanted Magnificent Obsession to look.)

My problem isn't with the ultimate decision though, it's about methodology. For example, 1.85 could very well be the best AR in which to view Touch of Evil, but the film itself suggests another possibility. Does this make 1.85 absolutely wrong? Not necessarily, but to suggest that the alternative is wrong for so-called "historical reasons" is equally ignorant. Again, whatever Criterion or Universal decide is fine by me so long as they acknowledge that there is an actual debate over the issue of AR. A decision should be based on more than just the "historical record" while it should also be based on more than just a gut feeling. In other words, the issue of AR is a much more complicated situation than some would have us believe. It is not simply black or white, this or that.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 3:39 am 
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I'm all for original aspect ratios and discussion on what the original intent of the director was, but really, is this going to turn into another Touch of Evil thread? My head was about to explode with that one but I let it go just so everyone could get it out of their system (plus, yes, there was some good stuff in there.) I don't know if my head could take another one because this can go on and on and on because the studios/restorers are going to use whatever available documents they can find to restore it as properly as they can (if they're pros they're not going to be subjective about it) and it's going to be that way unless someone knows how to contact Sirk or Welles directly and they say different... ](*,)


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 7:50 am 

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cdnchris wrote:
...because the studios/restorers are going to use whatever available documents they can find to restore it as properly as they can (if they're pros they're not going to be subjective about it)

Well, Vittorio Storaro is a "pro," so there goes that argument.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 8:30 am 
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What's all this about only having seen Touch of Evil on TV? Some of us saw it in film clubs and theatres in Academy ratio before these fellows at HTF were born.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 10:11 am 
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tojoed wrote:
What's all this about only having seen Touch of Evil on TV? Some of us saw it in film clubs and theatres in Academy ratio before these fellows at HTF were born.

That's because the operator received a full frame print and assumed it should be projected that way.

I was at Blob-Fest last year and asked the projectionist why he was running THE BLOB in 1.37. He said that it was a low budget movie and therefore couldn't possibly be composed for widescreen. When I pointed out the fact that the movie has multiple effects shots which are hard matted to 1.66, he said that I didn't know what I was talking about and walked away.

Ignorance is bliss.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 11:36 am 
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Bob Furmanek wrote:
tojoed wrote:
What's all this about only having seen Touch of Evil on TV? Some of us saw it in film clubs and theatres in Academy ratio before these fellows at HTF were born.

That's because the operator received a full frame print and assumed it should be projected that way.

He's not alone in thinking that. Let's not carry on with this. I'll leave others to discuss Magnificent Obsession , which I have only seen on TV.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 11:39 am 
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Perkins Cobb wrote:
cdnchris wrote:
...because the studios/restorers are going to use whatever available documents they can find to restore it as properly as they can (if they're pros they're not going to be subjective about it)

Well, Vittorio Storaro is a "pro," so there goes that argument.

I have no idea what Storaro's issue is with the original framing of his films but I'm not talking about cinematographers but the people who restore the films for DVD. Paramount (for Apocalypse) and Criterion (for Emperor) wanted to present those films in the way the filmmakers wanted and went to him. That's how he says he likes those films (and since that's how Apocalypse looked on laserdisc it's obviously how he's felt for a while) and that's what they did. I don't agree with it but if that's what he wanted then I'm happy these studios (Criterion probably more so) care enough to present the film as the filmmakers wish.

I'm not saying the framing for Touch of Evil or Magnificent Obsession is wrong in either format, because honestly I don't know what the directors intended for their respective films. But I'm happy that since the advent of DVD the studios or at least the people restoring the film for DVD care enough now to present the film as close as possible to what was intended by the director. And what I meant are the "pros", the people working on the disc that really care about their work, are going to search through available documentation and talk to whoever they can, and if everything points to a specific presentation ratio that's what they're going to go with. While some here may say it doesn't look right, there are plenty that say the same about the other presentation. No one's going to be completely happy and this argument is just going to keep going and going and going...


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 12:26 pm 
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I don't understand what the reason is for anyone to start fuming (and I mean those dudes Over There) over a purely technical/aesthetic discussion based on What A Film Should Look Like. It's what these boards are here for, and some of these discussions are passionate and pull all kinds of people with unusual expertise and rep out of the woodwork-- it drives the life of a cinema message board.

As long as nobody personally insults each other-- calls names, curses, whatever-- and the passion is merely about the film's aesthetics, it's all pretty par for the course. Every once in a while a hotly debated film gets a release, and the volume level goes up. It'll pass, and then we'll go back to rip trading pm's and the usual quiet hum of blu-ray region groaning.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 12:33 pm 
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GringoTex wrote:
Actually, the claim that a 1.37 Magnificent Obsession is more "Sirksian" in mise-en-scene than the 2.1 has never been backed up on this board. People have made the general claim, but nobody's gone into the details.

I'd be happy to take the time to write up a lot of examples if I thought there was the slightest would convince anyone. I obviously can't convince people who think that only studio publicity materials and directives matter in determining which ratio Sirk and Metty preferred and who won't even discuss a comparison of MO to other Sirk films or of the mise-en-scène in the two ratios. I also doubt I could convince anyone who finds the head room in MO clumsy. In short, decor and framing were crucial to Sirk's mise-en-scène, as were having some open space around the actors. Objects matter in the compositions, too, especially those that the actors in the shot are touching or holding, and the losses of these are innumerable. Watching this in widescreen from the UK set, many of the closeups look ridiculously crowded and claustrophobic, with partial heads and faces in the frame. Maybe that transfer was also zoomed in somehow and the Criterion will not look quite so bad, but that's wishful thinking on my part.
I will give some specific examples if people really want to read them, but I don't know how to post screen grabs. Some people are clearly tiring of this discussion, and I am too. Again, there really isn't anything new here to discuss. If people arguing that 1.37:1 is wrong had actually compared the two ratio and thought about them in terms of Sirk's use of the space, I would be more inclined to get into that. I don't really intend to have that discussion all by myself.


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