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September 16, 2008

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Mike De Luca

Home theater crowd. Let's scrub out the grain with a Brillo pad! Assholes.

Mark

Who wants to see digital perfection in gleamy, shiny, tacky close-up?

I want to see the brushstrokes on the actual canvas, the fingerprints of the artist. '300' vs 'The Godfather'? I'll take the cannoli everytime.

Looking forward to a more in-depth discussion of this from you Glenn.

Owain Wilson

The 'home theatre crowd' with their shiny machines seem to think that all Blu-Ray releases should look as crisp and fine as a Pixar movie, and those that don't should be considered failures.

What a stupid pile of tits.

Tony Dayoub

The irony is, in a few years, unless I've overlooked it already, there will be new filmmakers adding "fake" grain to their otherwise crisp digital film because they think it's "cool".

We've seen this in the music world where we get bands like The Strokes faking their hollow garage band timbre despite. How many of us who were excited by the aural possibilities of CD-quality sound, then became nostalgic, longing for the skips and pops we memorized in specific spots in our records?

The major difference in this is that while the skips and pops personalized each record for us, the grain level in films has always been intentionally created by an artist. And when it hasn't been, they've always had a second chance to remaster it on video.

"The Godfather" films without the darkness nor the grain would actually be robbed of its voyeuristic family "home movie" feel.

Dan

Anybody who whines about film grain should have their face put through their HDTV.

Ryland Walker Knight

I haven't seen _2001_ on home video in I don't know how long but something (like stray screen grabs) that they really scrub that image. I'd like a Blu Ray of that some day, yes, but, while Kubrick lends himself to squeak and sheen, there's something about the beat up 70mm print at the Castro that makes the depths of that black that much more menacing in the second half. Where is that monolith?

So, with G-Will and the G-father, I'm terribly happy about your report. FFC is a smart dude, as his last picture reminded some people, and I appreciate his preservationalist 'tude (as opposed to a restorative 'tude) here. It's almost the opposite as with _Apocalypse Now_, whose "redux" is mostly a waste of time, despite being really well edited and, at the least, a fascinating objet maudit.

@Tony: that impulse by current musical artists to add digital versions of analog hiss and pop is one of the weirdest, coolest things that is mostly misused; one of the few things I still think of as "right" is that cut chemist & dj shadow one off, _Brainfreeze_, cuz it was actually playing old records; the strokes are silly but I heard "Under Control" in a car the other day and I thought Raphael Saddiq should cover it with his new soul vibe, which is another weird, cool nostalgic impulse.

Glenn Kenny

I think the "2001" Blu-ray looks great, RWK. The effects stuff is bright and shiny, but not unduly so, and the "Dawn of Man" sequence is very true. I think all the Warner Hi-Def Kubricks are pretty great—they don't cop out on the grain he got with his low-lighting/wide open lenses combos. Good stuff.

Andy Brodie

I applaud the new Godfather restorations, and love, love, love the grain of the original film canvas. I'm in Iowa, but if I'm lucky I'll get a chance to see the restored prints.

We may have to cherish what we've got from the past, since there's not much hope for greatness in a world where filmmakers are all shooting digital and releasing films on the Internet. Art film in America, especially, seems to be an endangered thing.

Matt Noller

Got this in the mail yesterday. Am looking forward to checking it out; love that the original look of the film was maintained.

Ryland Walker Knight

That's cool, GK. Maybe I'll get to look at it some rainy night on my imaginary 42" HD screen (hooked up to a PS3 and a stereo with the volume past 11).

Paul T.

"They do not live up to the expectations set by the home theater crowd"? Dude, even if "the home theater crowd" actually existed as a uniform thinking collective, you would not speak for them.

Glenn Kenny

I feel a concern-troll assault coming on. Dude.

Mark

Haha, snappy comeback Glenn.

Justin

I think the "fake grain" has already come into play in another manner with Robert Rodriguez' digitally shot/distressed reel-appearing "Planet Terror".

JJ

To be fair, a lot of the folks running out buying Blu Ray players (I am not one of them) and wide screen tvs either have'nt seen film grain in a long time or have NEVER seen it. Think about it. If they're in their late 20s / early 30s and have'nt ever watched films from the early to mid 70s (or even early to mid 80s Texas wheatfields like ALIENS) projected in a theater, and their knowledge of pre-90s cinema largely comes via home video and early DVD, accurately reproduced grain is obviously going to be a bit of a surprise. (There are exceptions, like EYES WIDE SHUT, in terms of grainy recent films, but again, most of these folks probably did'nt see that in it's theatrical run either.) Movies did get exceptionally grainy from 70 to about 76, even more so then many films from the 30s, partly from the new freedom to do location shooting in low light levels. So you have to take that into consideration too.

I think that we just have to educate folks that this is both a historical element of older films and often a deliberate part of the visual aesthetic, and they'll soon come to accept it.

Then you have the people who just want everything to look like BAD BOYS II (like the guy on DVDbeaver who said in a review that HEARTS OF DARKNESS was filmed with "inferior equipment like 16mm cameras) and thus looked like garbage) and demand movies be digitally revamped and completely visually altered for their sake. (This is called the DIRTY HARRY DVD syndrome.) They can go to hell.

Tony Dayoub

JJ, I think you have made some really huge assumptions about Blu-ray buyers based on a few immature twits you may have run into on the blogosphere.

I am a blogger, I ran out to buy a Blu-ray specifically for this "Godfather" release, and have seen many pre and post-90s cinema with grain when they've screened in theaters.

There are many of us out there, even younger bloggers, that are conscious of film preservation. I can think of two right off the top of my head, whose blogs I follow, Screen Savour and The Dancing Image.

Owain Wilson

JJ, I am 33 years old, have been a lifelong cinemagoer, and eagerly hunt down showings of old favourites at any cinema in my near vicinity.

I attended a digital presentation of Goldfinger on the big screen last year, and it had absolutely none of the charm that the vintage print of The Spy Who Loved Me had when I saw on a huge screen a couple of years ago.

My favourite old print of the ones I saw recently has to be Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. The film had been run so many times the print had faded to a hazy pink, and the reel change-overs were fucked. But it worked! It was magical.

Anyway, I want Blu-Ray DVDs to look as good as they possibly can, but not at the expense of what has always been right there in the frame from the beginning - grain or no grain.

JJ

Sigh...

I think it's safe to ASSUME that the majority of people out there are NOT conscious of film grain, just like they did'nt understand aspect ratios at first (they COULD have letterboxed home videos right from the very beginning, but did'nt because people complained), just like people wanted black and white films colorized for a while.

"Film grain" is not something that the average American is really all that well versed in. I can speak as someone who works in both the movie industry on the production side and part-time at a repetory theater that shows almost exclusively older films. Mr. and Mrs. Smith in Winnetka are'nt buying a Blu-Ray player for it's fidelity to the DP's original intentions, they're buying it because they've seen commercials or showroom displays or something and they can't beleive how good that clip from CARS looked.

Owain Wilson

I wasn't disagreeing with you, man. Just thought you'd be interested.

vadim

A pink print of CE3K? Ugh. I was lucky enough to see a print twice back when Columbia was peddling a touring 75th-anniversary package of prints (I think) and it was just gorgeous. But I take your point: because I'm increasingly convinced that 35mm rep is more or less in its last decade (is that paranoid?), even pink prints can be kind of charming.

Though I confess that the unexpectedly sharp quality of A Married Woman as digitally projected might win me over. But it still feels unnatural.

Owain Wilson

Well, before I took my seat to watch the digital presentation of Goldfinger, I assumed it would look like a DVD projection. Instead, it just looked like a very sharp, colourful and flawless celluloid print.

But that just didn't look right to me. Even brand new movies projected the old fashioned way have flaws to some degree, so perfection ends up looking 'fake'. I suppose I'm just programmed to see imperfections in a print as 'real'. It's silly, but hey - I'm only human.

Don't get me wrong, I'd have preferred a newer print of Close Encounters, but the faded one I saw had a lovely nostalgic glow to it which really took me back in time. That print was actually rolling in a cinema somewhere on this planet in 1977! My dad and my two older brothers might have been watching the very same print in the Odeon, 31 years ago, while I was at home fast asleep in my cot.

The mind boggles.

JJ

Sorry if I seemed like a touchy bitch-ass punk. I did'nt mean to snap back at anybody. I should have been a lot clearer in my initial post.

I don't know if I could handle a pink print of CE3K, but I agree with Owain's wonderful observations that vintage prints are artifacts of their time. A print from the 70s does have some indefinable, magical quality--just accumulation of time--that new copies don't.

Owain Wilson

Thanks, JJ. I completely agree that High Definition customers do need to be educated about film grain on Blu-Ray discs. I mean, it's incredible how many people still don't know what the hell anamorphic is.

Paul T.

No, you're just too quick to label one comment as "concern trolling." I don't doubt there are home theater fetishists who want every vintage film transfer scrubbed clean for a sterile, video-like look, but it's ridiculous to assume that consumers with a home theater system expected that from this restoration or ANY home video release. When CD sales rose exponentially in the mid-to-late 80's, overtaking vinyl, there was the debate over noise reduction, specifically tape hiss from analog recordings, and how people investing in CD's wouldn't like it. Didn't matter if NR sucked the life out of the music, some made the assumption that a clean recording was the expectation. That proved to be flat out wrong. The same goes for here. There will always be consumers who will complain about grain, but more and more consumers are going to understand what's lost when you filter out something inherent in the original medium.

Glenn Kenny

All interesting points, Paul T., which I wish you would have made in the first place. Joe didn't presume to speak for all home theater owners; he was using shorthand in an e-mail, and you were the only one to take offense.

I do wish I could be as optimistic as you are about consumers coming to greater understanding of the fact that grain is not a "flaw." Whether that ideal is achieved or not, I fear that we're going to see quite a few more digitally over-scrubbed discs before the debate is over.

HL

pray, what is this godfather motion picture y'all talking about?

smg

For anyone who actually bothered to look at the discussions on home theater and audio-video forums, the "home theater crowd" actually decries the removal of film grain and lauds Robert Harris's restoration of the first two Godfather films in the new Blu-ray editions. Gordon Willis consulted on the process, but Harris did the restoration, as he has for other classic films. Harris posts on these and other films at hometheaterforum.com. You'll see thousands of posts on the subject of film grain on that forum, avsforum.com, and other such venues. The vast majority of members favor keeping film grain intact, even though some film industry insiders believe the some grain removal is sometimes necessary to make the picture look like it does in the theater.

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