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May 02, 2010

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Owain Wilson

They never make it easy, do they?

Mike Mazurki

1.66:1 may be the reason for all of this, as very few labels actually go the extra mile in presenting this ratio correctly in the current DVD/BD retail & broadcast environment, choosing instead to zoom and crop to fill 16x9 TVs to 1.85:1 or 1.78:1. It's an unfortunate trend that's gone largely unnoticed but has had unfortunate composition consequences on plenty of classic titles made in the late 50's to late 60's (the period in which 1.66:1 was popular), including a high number of titles made in Europe and the UK, where this ratio was widely used during this time.

Miguel Marías

I think Mike Mazurki is right. I have a Portuguese DVD whose ratio is 1.66, and I think that is probably the AR intended by Preminger and Perinal. The French DVD, probably taken from a "flat" for-TV showing print (the Spanish one is the same) cuts the frame, and the Warner 1.85 (which I have not seen, but has better contrast and definition) also cuts it. I think this is frequently the problem, especially since 16x9 TV sets became the rule. And it seems not many people care, unfortunately.
Miguel Marías

Mike Mazurki

Just an addendum that in my experience, films shot to project at 1.66:1 would usually have been shot open-matte (1.33:1) - this is the ratio the neg and likely the finegrain or interpos and interneg would retain this ratio, producing prints that would either be left open-matte (to mask in the projector) or hard-matted (similar to letterboxing).

Like I said, it's unfortunate that the slavish obedience by the studios to the modern 16x9 TV has produced this problem. Okay, when measuring ratio differences it could be argued that the differences between 1.85:1, 1.66:1 and 1.78:1 are pretty slight - and nowhere near as dramatic as, say the cropping from scope to academy. However, they are different. GERTRUD? TOUCH OF EVIL?

The Siren

I didn't realize my post was only "sort of" contra Otto--how very restrained of me. It must be your benign influence, Glenn. Some of these caps are enough to make me watch Saint Joan again, particularly that beauteous one of my true love Jean. Or...almost enough.

I do love how you make technical discussions nice and clear, when they are so deep in the dust of tedium on other blogs.

Tony Dayoub

Rest assured, Siren. There was no "sort of" in your piece. It was contra enough it has delayed me from rushing out to familiarize myself with Preminger's films, one of my cinephilic blind spots.

"I do love how you make technical discussions nice and clear, when they are so deep in the dust of tedium on other blogs."

I second this Glenn, especially as I am decidely NOT technically inclined (especially when it comes to film). I felt sort of sheepish after your recent post where you stated you mostly ignore Blu-ray reviews which avoid technical concerns (rightly so, don't get me wrong); I realize my own attempts at discussing the technical aspects of Blu are rather middling to poor, leaning more to the aesthetics of a film and how the Blu interprets it versus actual tech talk (which you make look so easy).

bill

Tony, you NEED to check out Preminger's noir films. WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS, ANGEL FACE, FALLEN ANGEL, LAURA, WHIRLPOOL, DAISY KENYON (only sorta noir, but it looks the part)...if those represent the apex of his career, so be it. They're magnificent.

Tony Dayoub

I'll start there, Bill. Noir is my favorite genre, and LAURA and DAISY KENYON are two I feel particularly bad admitting I've never seen.

bill

Tony - just as a by the way, while LAURA is easily the most famous of that group of films, and probably Preminger's best-known in general, I would rank pretty much all the others ahead of it. I think my ranking would go:

ANGEL FACE
WHIRLPOOL
DAISY KENYON/FALLEN ANGEL
WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS
LAURA

Keep in mind, I still think LAURA is excellent. But ANGEL FACE is awesome.

lazarus

Don't forget The 13th Letter, which is floating around the internet if you look for it.

MarkVH

The Preminger-Dana Andrews teaming is one of the great unsung actor-director collaborations. Andrews himself is one of the more underappreciated actors of the 40s/50s (at least as good as any other actor chiefly associated with noir), but his work with Preminger is almost on another level entirely.

Ben Sachs

Coincidentally, SAINT JOAN was screened in Chicago last night, at U of C's venerable Doc Films. I attended the screening, though I didn't make note of the aspect ratio. (I want to say 1.66, but it may have been 1.85...) To add to what Glenn wrote in his post, Widmark's performance here is fascinating enough to make the whole thing worth seeing (He seems to be channeling Clifford Pyncheon from Hawthorne's "House of the Seven Gables"), though I think the film has a lot worth recommending.

As for being pro- or contra-Preminger, I remain on the fence myself. He's a tough nut to crack, auteur-wise. The only obvious consistencies I can spot in his work are some brilliant, fluid camerawork and a tendency to keep human beings at an arm's-length. In some cases--ANATOMY OF A MURDER, SUCH GOOD FRIENDS, ANGEL FACE--I think the approach is brilliant; in others--WHIRLPOOL, MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM--just odd. But for the most part his technical mastery was so brilliant that it constantly defines your relationship to the material; he's one of the few directors where such a debate over 1.66 versus 1.85 projection seems crucial to an appreciation of the work.

Kim McGinnis

I really appreciate what it takes to make a film bridge the gap between one consciousness and another, especially since I started my own, with Avenstar Productions and Simple Happy LLC., I have lots of appreciation for what it takes to entertain, capture hearts, motivate change, and spark imaginations! Ours' is a new age movie with a message of how to avoid the evolutionary tipping point. It's called Shamashara, and it is a documentary as well as a drama. So I have been watching a lot of these types of films lately, to see what works and what doesn't. In the end, it has to tell a great story, a simple yet compelling story that the common man (or woman) can relate to on a very personal level. It doesn't hurt to have great actors, some cool special effects and powerfully moving music to go along with that story either.
thanks for listening,
Kim

lazarus

MarkVH: Without denigrating Andrews' work with Preminger, I wouldn't say it's on another level then the rest of the former's noir work, esp. when you look at his Lang collaborations in While the City Sleeps and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. The latter's absence of Lang's typical flourishes puts even more of a focus on the acting and Andrews really carries the thing.

Miguel Marías

Just saw, at the Spanish Film Archive, a good 35mm print of "Saint Joan" projected in 1.66x1, which is clearly its true AR, without any of the problems observed by Glenn in both DVD versions, but with the precision and logic one would expect around 1957 of Preminger, DP Georges Périnal and cameraman Denys Coop. By the way, it's a magnificent, if strange (part-comedy, as Shaw's intelligent play was), film, with an astonishing performance of a cast-against-type Richard Widmark.
Miguel Marías

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