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September 19, 2012

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David Ehrenstein

70mm makes for a rich, dense handsome image. But of what? The Master" is first and foremost a "two-hander" -- the hands in questin belonging Hoffman and Phonix. 70mm makes i tall look "important"-- which is very much in keeping with the character of "Lancaster Dodd" -a con-man.

It would be nice to see 70mm devoted to a visually appropriate subject.

As for digital, the jury is still out, IMO.

Tom Elrod

i can't get over that line about about "home-video close-ups." What on Earth is White getting at? There are two things I can imagine which distinguish "home-video close-ups" from other kinds of close-ups. 1) The handheld shaky-cam aesthetic. Although this HAS become incorporated in mainstream films in the last few years, I am comfortable in assuming, based on reviews, the trailer, and his previous work, that this is not how P.T. Anderson has chosen to shoot his film. 2) The video aesthetic, i.e., that interlaced, 60fps "soap opera" look that characterized the early Dogma 95 films. Since White is talking about 70mm, indeed mentioning it in the same sentence, this would of course be gibberish if that's what he meant.

So, if the two hallmarks of "home-video close-ups" are not in fact, the hallmarks of Anderson's close-ups, then what does he mean? Does White just hate close-ups? I mean, if he does, okay I guess. I certainly understand how the poor use of close-ups in covering a scene in many modern Hollywood products can be frustrating, but that's different than saying that close-ups are just inherently un-cinematic or lazy or whatever. At any rate, it's certainly not a home video problem.

Sorry, I know it's a minor point, but it's sloppy writing and it betrays a real lack of understanding of film grammar, technique, technology, and so on.

Petey

They give us those, those nice bright colors
Gives those greens of summers
They make you think that all the world's a sunny day

Mama don't take my Kodachrome
Mama don't take my Kodachrome
Well, Mama don't take my Kodachrome away

-----

FWIW, my personal religious beliefs are that God threw the wondrous element of silver into the periodic table for the specific divine purposes of letting humans most exquisitely mechanically reproduce visual imagery for human delight and edification. Further, I believe the infidels are committing a mortal sin by throwing away this wondrous bequest of God just to try to save a few shekels.

Brian

Honestly, White's babbling isn't even worth discussing anymore. Anyone who sees The Master in proper 70mm will notice the difference right at that first shot of the ocean wake. If PWS had used 70mm for the new Resident Evil it would just be "Anderson uses the amazing format for renewed tactility, sense of depth and space" blah blah blah. As you said, White hates digital except when someone he likes uses it. It's all so tiresome at this point

JC

I might be going off on a limb here, but...maybe PTA wanted to use a format used in the time portrayed in the movie?

xego

Well in the Some Came Running tradition I will begin by rebutting what was written by another poster (That's you David E), the first poster in fact wrote,

"It would be nice to see 70mm devoted to a visually appropriate subject."

Really? I saw the film in glorious 70mm at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood and anyone that could come away from an experience like that and say that the film wasn't "cinematic enough" is smoking a crack of unknown origin?

The opening of the film on the beach with that blown out kodachrome look giving it that distinct period feel was marvelous. The shot of the steam ship going down the river with just the fading light of sunset and the warm incandescent light from the wedding party under the white canopies was a stunning image; a masterful bit of cinematography. Who could not have enjoyed a vicarious thrill as the Norton raced across the desert floor? Just for me personally the shot that really transported me back in time was when Freddie was working as a photographer in the department store. The insert shots of the brothers posing for their picture or the uncomfortable family; the image on the Arclight Theater's huge screen was crystal clear; that is why 70mm. Would we tell Sergio Leone that he isn't cinematically appropriate to use 70mm?

David Ehrenstein

The origin of my "crack" is Yasujiro Ozu, Robert Bresson and Carl Th. Dreyer -- on the on hand -- and David Lean, Stanley Kubrick and Jacques Tati on the other. And yes Sergio Leone would have been great in 70mm had he used it in any of his major works.

And speaking of "crack" have you seen "Keep the Lights On"?

Oliver_C

Schrader's very title 'Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer' has a lot to answer for. Am I the only one who feels Ozu -- who loved cartoons (both newspaper and animated), toilet humour and hard liquor -- wouldn't have been seen dead with those two?

David Ehrenstein

I think he and Bresson would have gotten along. Les sure about Dreyer.

D

I agree that the images were beautiful, but no I received no "vicarious thrill as the Norton raced across the desert" (but recognize that such a spectoral response is possible). For me, all these images -- primly conscientious in their deployment of beauty -- seemed aimless and folded in upon themselves as opposed to those in COSMOPOLIS where each shot opened up to multiple/contradicting meanings.

I think asking how an art work's form relates to its content is a valid question. By using 70mm as part of the film’s visual scheme, Anderson invites the question as to why he has chosen to do so. Avedon's use of large format for the subjects he chose is understandable, but why 70mm for THE MASTER? The movie is about a fraud and a bully -- two time-honored American types, but is the use of 70mm (and what its use brings to the image) meant to bestow some type of eminence or grandeur upon them? In my own life I have had to deal with both frauds (in the form of those who would cure homosexuality or otherwise pathologize it) and bullies (in the form of gay bashers), but those types seems hardly worthy of the deluxe treatment. Unless, of course, Anderson is aiming for some sort of satire, but THE MASTER seems as satire free as a movie can get; in fact, its dead earnestness is one of its charms – there is a precise, pleasing sureness to each image that even their predictability cannot tarnish.

The film seems intent on conveying something, but its stale dysfunctional-father-son dynamic seems too small an object of contemplation for the heroic mise en scene conjured up. As I said earlier, maybe as a queer viewer I am excluded from the frequency that the film operates on, but the choice of 70mm seems intentional beyond just being done for the sake of having done it.

Zach

Actually, as Schrader discovered, they all took vacations in Tahiti together. Ozu and Bresson were always trying to get Dreyer to take off his suit and skinny dip with them, but he was too shy.

PaulJBis

I believe that the expression "home video close-ups" refers to the idea that stuff shot for TV tend to have more close-ups, both because of the smaller budgets (less production value) and because TVs are smaller than film screens, so you'd better shot whatever you want to show in close-up.

It's a bit hard to remember, now that everybody has 40 inch flatscreens, but it's an argument I heard quite a few times back in the 80s, in the beginning of the home video era.

CB

Paul (Not W.S.) Anderson showed up at the doorstep of the Church of Cinema 16 years ago and announced: I am the next great American filmmaker. He has spent the last 16 years, and six films, proving it, evolving from film to film, learning his craft. He has, pace DFW, "done the reading." I detect in a lot of the naysayers a refusal to acknowledge the obvious for reasons that go no further than sheer pettiness, because here is a man who decided that he didn't just want to be a legend in his own mind. He made it happen. And for his efforts, PTA has entered the pantheon and will remain there for the foreseeable future. Apparently that's just too much for some critics to take. That this bratty, well-connected, upper class kid from the Valley really is as good as he said he was. Anyone who has ever had even the slightest notion of making movies wants to be what Paul Thomas Anderson has actually become. I understand that it hurts. Just count to ten.

Zach

CB - I can dig what you're saying, although I maintain that TWBB was a disappointment. To me, that film seemed like the most self-conscious iteration of the announcement you mention; it was the first time Anderson seemed to be following something besides his own obsessions. It felt like he was looking over his shoulder, and of the two quasi-Western myth-making/unmaking movies that year (the other being Andrew Dominik's Assassination...Jesse James), it was the lesser film.

That being said, I remain an admirer of his work, and am eagerly anticipating seeing The Master.

Tom Elrod

PaulJBis: Yeah, maybe, but then White should have called it the "TV close-up" or something. "Home-video close-up" just makes me imagine some Dad filming his kid's birthday party. The point is that White choose his words poorly and didn't "define his terms," as they say in Freshman Composition courses. It's bad writing, and since bad writing often results from bad thinking...well, Glenn has dismantled the rest of his argument anyway.

Jack Gibbs

Petey, nice of you to choose High Holiday season for this analogy: "I believe the infidels are committing a mortal sin by throwing away this wondrous bequest of God just to try to save a few shekels.". Might want to rethink that one.

CB- Give me a fucking break. Are you 12? The church of cinema? Accusations of jealousy and pettiness? That is the most tired, empty rhetorical gesture around and has been for years. Way to say nothing while blustering like an enraged sycophant. Not just a legend in his own mind but yours too (unless your a petty schmuck who stubbornly refuses to admit what you deep down really think)! Ugh. Trust me, I don't want to be the type of idiot who writes anything as ridiculous as all that falling frog bullshit.

Henry Holland

From the RF interview:

"he does seem to enjoy friendly relations with Virgin, which now owns EG's record catalog"

As you are no doubt aware, that's sadly not true, Virgin > Universal Music Group have been exponentially worse than EG. The 40th Anniversary remasters of ITCOTCK and SABB sound amazing, hopefully you have them.

TroncJag

@ CB - "pace DFW"

Lil Kenny? Plz.

Glenn Kenny

I think he might have meant "per," not "pace." DFW was a fan of PTA.

Zach

@ Glenn - There's a footnote in BIG RED SON that kinda denigrates BOOGIE NIGHTS. I don't have it in front of me, but I think Wallace refers to the characters as being treated with condescension. I hear tell, also, that he thought MAGNOLIA was gradschool-ish. I think that supposedly came up in the biography. So your experience doesn't square with these anecdotes? I'm just curious.

Glenn Kenny

Zach, the footnote doesn't denigrate "Boogie Nights" so much as it expresses bemusement about the fact that it was so eagerly embraced by the porn community. A different thing. And I hardly think DFW was the only viewer in Christendom to have a problem or two with "Magnolia."

CB

Thanks for proving my point, Jack Gibbs. Read your comment again and focus on how upset you are about what I said. That you got that upset should tell you something about yourself. It might not come to you now, but it will, later. Trust me. And calling someone else a 12 year old for expressing enthusiasm about something is about the most juvenile thing you can do. And I used the word "pace" correctly. One of the definitions of the words is: in deference to. Sorry for thinking PTA is a great filmmaker. I didn't know that made me a sycophant. I guess using a name from Gaddis' JR means your a sycophant too, no? You don't want to express your enthusiasm for Gaddis, ever? His work doesn't get you excited? You think the reception to The Recognitions had nothing to with the issues I discussed in my first comment?

David Ehrenstein

There's no "pettiness" in not finding PTA a great American filmmaker.

Incidentally, CB, Patrice Chereau has expressed an interest in making a film version of "The Recognitions."

CB

Yeah, Armond White isn't petty. Not at all.
Are you kidding me, David Ehrenstein?

David Ehrenstein

I was speaking of "pettiness" as a general term re PTA. I think he's a competent director who imagines himself to be a great one. And I don't regard that as an "extreme" position at all.

Armond is the Queen of Petty Girls

Scott

Patrice Chereau adapting William Gaddis? Like both a lot, but I can't see any shared sensibilities there at all.

Meanwhile, Paul Thomas Anderson's next film will reportedly be an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's "Inherent Vice", with Robert Downey Jr. And he also recently revealed that he's working on an adaptation of "Gravity's Rainbow"! He might as well make "Mason & Dixon" while he's at it; that's my favorite Pynchon book.

daniel

I personally like P.T. Anderson a lot, but CB is doing a great job of making him seem a lot less interesting right now.

Will

@Scott,
I checked out the info about PTA doing "Gravity's Rainbow," and it looks like it was basically an interpretive mistake made by one blogger, writing about an interview with him in Empire, that was pounced on by other bloggers, basically without one iota of fact-checking going on in the process.
http://collider.com/paul-thomas-anderson-inherent-vice-gravitys-rainbow/192712/
The correction is at the bottom:
"Since I haven't read either book, I didn't know Empire was referring to Inherent Vice as Pynchon's most accessible work and not Gravity's Rainbow. At this time, it looks like there are no plans to adapt Gravity's Rainbow."

Bum. Er.

Jack Gibbs

Eh, drunken posting---always foolish (on my behalf). But let us not pretend that my vitriol had anything to do with PTA so much as the empty defense you offered. Accusations of jealousy, pettiness and dismissals over the same say nothing, do nothing and are just as reactionary and misguided as that which you analyze in others. Of course the next move is to say "well, it made you angry, I was right," but, come on, that isn't the case. All you have done is make discussion impossible by ascribing to interlocutors false, belittling motivations that make it all the easier to conform any response to that you wish it to be, closing out any discussion by saying things like anyone who ever picked up a camera wants to be PTA whether they know it or not. And thank you for the heads up. I await the moment the murk clears and I gain this self-knowledge you assure me I will obtain.

Scott

@ Will: Well, that's disappointing. Ordinarily, I'd laugh at the idea of anyone trying to adapt "Gravity's Rainbow", but I'd actually be interested to see PTA's take on that material. It seems we've had something of a recent trend of major filmmakers adapting lesser novels by important writers: the Coens with McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men", Cronenberg with DeLillo's "Cosmopolis" and now Anderson with Pynchon's "Inherent Vice". I probably liked "Vice" more than most (it's a fun book), but it's a pretty minor work.

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