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 Fidelitous Highs: A VistaVision Adventure 
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 Fidelitous Highs: A VistaVision Adventure

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The expansive, blue-brown panorama of John Ford's The Searchers; a low sun casting long shadows across a landscape distorted by waves of stifling desert heat. Cary Grant, crashing through a dry cornfield or else scampering over terracotta rooftops in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest and To Catch a Thief respectively. The enthusiastic, celebratory use of pink towards the beginning of Stanley Donen's Funny Face; has pink ever looked so undeniably pink? Has pink ever transformed the silver screen in such a manner? Despite having been employed in the creation of some of fifties Hollywood's most iconic moments, VistaVision is a name that is all but forgotten today. Yet, its presence as a format lingers on, preserved at the very least in the minds of a generation of filmmakers it irrevocably touched. In 1975, the special effects group that would later become ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) would resuscitate VistaVision for some of the more complex process shots in Star Wars. And it has cropped up many times since, used similarly in everything from Back to the Future and RoboCop to The Dark Knight and Inception. Meanwhile, a VistaVision camera (or several) must have also made its way across the North Pacific to Japan, and was ultimately responsible for the fantastic colours seen in Nagisa Ôshima's In The Realm of the Senses, Empire of Passion and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - among the last films shot entirely in the format.

In many ways, VistaVision can be seen as a product of the film industry lull caused by the rising popularity of television. Hollywood studios turned to larger formats so as to regain their audience, the first of these was Cinerama which debuted in 1952, followed shortly by CinemaScope. VistaVision arrived not long after, created by engineers at Paramount, the difference being that it ran the film through the camera horizontally rather than vertically, exposing twice as much area and creating a much sharper image. The idea lives on in IMAX, which is also oriented sideways for maximum exposure. It is little wonder, then, that VistaVision seems such a perfect fit with today's high definition video formats. Revisiting the aforementioned Hitchcock films on Blu-ray has been little short of a revelation: finally, the high fidelity of VistaVision restored and presented in a way that does it some kind of justice. There is a short documentary included in Warner's Collector's Edition DVD of The Searchers, in which Martin Scorsese expounds: "I cannot tell you what that VistaVision looked like projected - there's nothing today that can equal that ... I've never seen figures in a landscape that wide to have such an emotional resonance, and the poetry in his language, the visual language." Such means are beyond this humble thread, but at least we can have our own dusty adventure through the annals of VistaVision and the legendary films it houses.
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WCoF I II IIIL'EtàL'Eau한국88ShadowsBerlin thırd ISOLATIONVistaVision


Mon Apr 07, 2014 1:42 pm
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nope

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 1:52 pm
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My iPhone shoots in VistaVision. I'll shoot some cat videos for your to take on your a adventure.

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 1:59 pm
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dat banner


Mon Apr 07, 2014 2:14 pm
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LEAVES wrote:
My iPhone shoots in VistaVision. I'll shoot some cat videos for your to take on your a adventure.

Yes, but does it support Flash?

The "V" is between the "a" and the "Adventure", and you know it.

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 2:15 pm
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oh shit


Mon Apr 07, 2014 2:39 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Yes, but does it support Flash?

The "V" is between the "a" and the "Adventure", and you know it.
Upon first read I thought you were making a amazing thread. But now it's just an absolutely average thread. But you can still change the title to make it a absolutely amazing thread.

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 3:11 pm
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Like a long-legged beast whose considerable bulk throws an alarming shadow over some sleepy rural locale, William Wyler's camera and its slow, introductory procession through the leafy suburban surroundings of The Desperate Hours holds a looming, non-specific malaise: doors are locked and windows are shuttered. Even the small dog that runs out and across the road during the opening credits, whether its presence is planned or unplanned, seems to be doing so with tail stuck firmly between legs in anticipation of some impending doom. And impend this doom does - better yet, it permeates, all the way to the unfortunate abandoned bicycle that sets the narrative wheels in perpetual motion. The sombre, suspicious nature of The Desperate Hours reflects not only Wyler's mood at the time but also that of a suburban America veiled in a haze of paranoia. And in an era in which Hitchcock reigned as the king of suspense, one of Wyler's overlooked attributes is his ability to create tension. Like Detective Story, most of the scenes here are confined to a single interior, but one that is not quite as used to hosting criminals. At one point, we see the wife dismiss a radio broadcast about the escape convicts that later invade her perfect home, as though its security renders such a threat worlds, rather than mere streets away. Once introduced, Wyler often squashes both his outsiders and insiders into the frame together, further developing this feeling of confined paranoia.
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Mon Apr 07, 2014 3:37 pm
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Saw that recently. There is staging that takes place simultaneously on the first and second floors of the house, which of course Wyler shoots using deep focus and little cutting.

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 3:40 pm
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i wana see dat

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:10 pm
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Trip wrote:
Saw that recently. There is staging that takes place simultaneously on the first and second floors of the house, which of course Wyler shoots using deep focus and little cutting.

The best. Did you watch the 720p version, though?

I've no idea how he manages to cram so many figures into the frame at once, but it's truly unnerving:

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:49 pm
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I didn't think it was great overall, tbh.

As for HD...can't remember. I think it may have been a DVD from the library.

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:53 pm
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I liked it a lot; deserves high definition, though. Have you seen Detective Story? I prefer this one to that.

Read a little of Gabriel Miller's book on Wyler over the weekend, too. This passage (on TDH) being topical:

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 5:03 pm
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Detective Story is great.

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 5:28 pm
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this looks beautiful. heard good things about that film, will try to seek out the blu


Mon Apr 07, 2014 6:38 pm
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Here are a few varying lists of VistaVision productions, for those playing along:

http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o ... sion_films
http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/widescreen/vvlist.htm
http://www.passthepopcorn.me/collages.php?id=3535

Any preference in terms of direction?

I'm hoping to look at those on Blu first, but would love suggestions!

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 6:41 pm
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wonderful. also need to see that wyler.

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 6:46 pm
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It should be noted here that the lovely Char is responsible for the push, in the form of her Artists and Models recommendation, that made me start this thread.

So yes, blame her if it sucks.

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:58 pm
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I'll just blame you for all the sucky parts and thank her for all the good parts, does that work?

So will probably have nothing to say to you

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Mon Apr 07, 2014 11:29 pm
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Don't you do that anyway?

How many of the VistaVision films listed above have you seen, Kurz?

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 12:03 am
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Watched that the other night actually too. I did think it was great. Was actually the one thing I've watched in the past few weeks to make me want to start loving cinema again. Not that it's that great, but it surprised me and was quite satisfying.

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 12:09 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
How many of the VistaVision films listed above have you seen, Kurz?

Of the ones you mentioned in the opening text? All, I suppose. Had no idea those later movies used VistaVision. The most recent one being To Catch A Thief, which looks really good but isn't that great otherwise by Hitchcock standards. Still, might see it on the big screen this summer though as there will be a huge Hitchcock retrospective in Amsterdam with all remastered films and more, including a selection of five films that will tour the nation - including the newly restored To Catch A Thief.

Seen none of what's in the index right now though, or the other Wyler mentioned.

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 1:09 am
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I mean, of the ones listed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_VistaVision_films

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 1:34 am
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you're going to be watching some jerry lewis


Tue Apr 08, 2014 2:48 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:

Urhm, besides the one you mentioned, Artists and Models (best), The Man Who Knew Too Much (love), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Tin Star (both good), King Creole (I knew there was something to like here besides Elvis), St. Louis Blues (eh), Vertigo (needs a rewatch, which I'll wait for now for the big screen thing I mentioned above), Last Train from Gun Hill (ok), High Society (only remember Grace Kelly being pretty and Sinatra jamming with Armstrong, no idea about the movie), Death By Hanging (great) and Vengeance Is Mine (good).

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:04 am
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I haven't seen Desperate Hours in many many years, though I remember being quite fond of it due to it's atmosphere and how the interior is framed and shot. I think though Wyler rarely makes "flawless" films, he has an invaluable sense of character and as mentioned in the article snippet you posted, his talent for shooting interiors is incredible. If you think of the best moments in his works like the Desperate Hours, The Heiress, The Best Years of Our Lives, etc. the moments that shine are often characters somehow cut off. They may be very brief, someone stepping into a lonely hallway, a moment of reflection, but there is always this impending sense of doom and paranoia, this powerful emotion of loneliness. For me, the best moment in The Best Years of Lives is that quite brief - however iconic shot - of Fredric March in a mostly darkened hallway, he's in the background but the deep focus keeps him at the centre of our attention as the hallway seems to plunge towards him. His head is bowed, he's smoking and we feel this is a man haunted. The interior spaces become a sort of quasi-metaphor for the body, and a representation of how disconnected we are from each other. The Desperate Hours plays on this in an invasive way, apt in a decade with the red scare and wider immigration, bigger cities, etc. It's interesting.

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:34 am
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Fist wrote:
Watched that the other night actually too. I did think it was great. Was actually the one thing I've watched in the past few weeks to make me want to start loving cinema again. Not that it's that great, but it surprised me and was quite satisfying.

It is that kind of film though, isn't it? Reassuringly great. Bogie, unshaven; tired-looking at the end, flung from his alpha perch. Brute force losing out to the calm and rational. The gorgeous black and white photography, too, emphasising all those deep shadows that each seem to symbolise a separate creeping threat. I know it would have been impossible, logistically speaking, but I'd have loved to see Wyler confine it exclusively to the house - just as Hitch did with Rear Window the previous year. Those exterior scenes with the policemen, the car crash, they all seem to upset the flow somewhat.

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:36 am
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Perhaps it is the twinkling presence of such revered crooners as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, or even jazz legend Louis Armstrong, but there is a palpable sense of privilege to be felt when rubbing shoulders and clinking glasses with the bright, witty members of Charles Walters' High Society. It is a fair, light-headed feeling, propelled by gilded interiors and silky ballads. We pinch ourselves, yet do not wake but continue to float, through carpeted hallways and wood-paneled ballrooms; across manicured lawns and sun-warmed patios. It is a feeling not unlike love, where everything is witnessed from some unspecified and elevated position; nothing is considered, everything is experienced. On second thoughts, it must be love. A cold, steely exterior and furrowed brow, betrayed by lips that curl slowly towards a knowing grin; a hearty bark, never before heard from such a lithe and winsome frame. Truly, Grace Kelly was a being above such trivialities as mere Hollywood stardom, and indeed so it proved to be. High Society is based on the same Philip Barry play that inspired George Cukor's The Philadelphia Story and honestly, the Grant/Hepburn/Stewart triangle had a much better grasp on such lively and at times ludicrous exchanges. That said, Cole Porter's fetching songs and the bright, saturated hues of VistaVision ensure that Walters' update is a much more affable affair, and one infinitely better-suited to the big screen.
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Tue Apr 08, 2014 6:30 am
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purty


Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:37 am
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Philosophe rouge wrote:
I haven't seen Desperate Hours in many many years, though I remember being quite fond of it due to it's atmosphere and how the interior is framed and shot. I think though Wyler rarely makes "flawless" films, he has an invaluable sense of character and as mentioned in the article snippet you posted, his talent for shooting interiors is incredible. If you think of the best moments in his works like the Desperate Hours, The Heiress, The Best Years of Our Lives, etc. the moments that shine are often characters somehow cut off. They may be very brief, someone stepping into a lonely hallway, a moment of reflection, but there is always this impending sense of doom and paranoia, this powerful emotion of loneliness. For me, the best moment in The Best Years of Lives is that quite brief - however iconic shot - of Fredric March in a mostly darkened hallway, he's in the background but the deep focus keeps him at the centre of our attention as the hallway seems to plunge towards him. His head is bowed, he's smoking and we feel this is a man haunted. The interior spaces become a sort of quasi-metaphor for the body, and a representation of how disconnected we are from each other. The Desperate Hours plays on this in an invasive way, apt in a decade with the red scare and wider immigration, bigger cities, etc. It's interesting.

Yeah, now I really want to go back through his films and look at the use of interior spaces. Aside from the whole contrasting male figures thing, pitching masculine aggression (Bogart) against masculine sensibility (March), I found the way in which Wyler uses interior space to be the most fascinating aspect here. And as you say, the home as an organism becomes a metaphor for other things: the body, but also the concept of family. Despite looking the same as all the other houses on the street (no doubt a conscious decision on Wyler's part), it comes to represent the family that resides within. Something that becomes sadly ironic, given that it is the bicycle left out on the front lawn that causes the convicts to choose this house out of all the identical others. Once the boundaries of the home are breached, it's like the family itself has been dealt some kind of physical harm. It's an invasion; one of physical boundaries but also an invasion of intimacy. As you point out, a topic that must have been hot at the time given the red scare. On a related note, one thing that did get to me - something I found myself contemplating and re-contemplating while watching the film - is that the Hilliard family do not really expect to be confronted with this kind of threat so close at hand, but they are prepared for it. Despite being an idyllic picture of the white-picket-fence family, they do possess a gun. Don't you think this seems to contradict the way Wyler expects us to perceive his family? Are they expecting the worst?

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:38 am
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Oh, the arrows! :heart:

High Society could never match up to its predecessor, but it's just so likable anyway. Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and VistaVision!

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:29 am
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Philosophe rouge wrote:
I haven't seen Desperate Hours in many many years, though I remember being quite fond of it due to it's atmosphere and how the interior is framed and shot. I think though Wyler rarely makes "flawless" films, he has an invaluable sense of character and as mentioned in the article snippet you posted, his talent for shooting interiors is incredible. If you think of the best moments in his works like the Desperate Hours, The Heiress, The Best Years of Our Lives, etc. the moments that shine are often characters somehow cut off. They may be very brief, someone stepping into a lonely hallway, a moment of reflection, but there is always this impending sense of doom and paranoia, this powerful emotion of loneliness. For me, the best moment in The Best Years of Lives is that quite brief - however iconic shot - of Fredric March in a mostly darkened hallway, he's in the background but the deep focus keeps him at the centre of our attention as the hallway seems to plunge towards him. His head is bowed, he's smoking and we feel this is a man haunted. The interior spaces become a sort of quasi-metaphor for the body, and a representation of how disconnected we are from each other. The Desperate Hours plays on this in an invasive way, apt in a decade with the red scare and wider immigration, bigger cities, etc. It's interesting.

:fresh:

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:36 am
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More of the inimitable Princess Grace:

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 1:57 pm
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Always enjoy your threads, Jedi.


Tue Apr 08, 2014 2:49 pm
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Derninan wrote:
Always enjoy your threads, Jedi.


Ditto, and we could use 'em a lot more often :oops: Family man though, so we should be grateful to get any of 'em.

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:10 pm
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family

more like porn addiction


Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:43 pm
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Addicted to family man porn, though.

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:56 pm
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For those looking to play along, below is a spreadsheet I created to list those VistaVision films that are generally available. The emphasis being placed on the quality of the available copy, ranging from high definition Blu-ray to VHS-rips and old TV-rips. I'm hoping to watch all I can, even the stuff that is more obscure these days, but will probably begin with the better quality copies. The spreadsheet is public, so feel free to add any I've missed or link to places where you can watch them online!

http://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc? ... k9FTGYwVmc

Also, some VistaVision promo material:

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:18 pm
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Trust someone who hates grain to love VistaVision, btw.

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:14 pm
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I wonder how many video transfers are made from the original horizontal negatives and not just from release prints. I mean, I hope they all survive.

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Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:16 pm
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Yeah, I've not read into it in much detail but I doubt it.

Besides, survival is just the first step, right? The condition might render it unusable.

This piece on the restoring Olivier's Richard III is interesting: http://library.creativecow.net/kaufman_ ... chard-III/


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Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:34 pm
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Need to see the original of High Society, but Grace Kelly by the pool is reason enough for it existing.

Lovely thread, btw.


Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:54 pm
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roujin wrote:
you're going to be watching some jerry lewis

Too much Jerry Lewis.

But then, isn't watching one Jerry Lewis film classed as too much Jerry Lewis around here?

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WCoF I II IIIL'EtàL'Eau한국88ShadowsBerlin thırd ISOLATIONVistaVision


Wed Apr 09, 2014 2:49 am
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Post Re: Fidelitous Highs: A VistaVision Adventure

disgusting.


Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:17 am
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Post Re: Fidelitous Highs: A VistaVision Adventure

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In the second volume of his Qu'est-ce que le Cinéma?, André Bazin talks about the evolution of the western, and how - at least in his eyes - the very best examples of the genre tend to be novelistic in nature. Those that leave traditional themes untouched and are instead enriched from within by "the originality of their characters, their psychological flavor, an engaging individuality, which is what we expect from the hero of a novel." Ray's Run for Cover is one that Bazin carefully name-drops here, and it's easy to see why. Clearly present are the traits we have come to associate so readily with westerns: the consequence of violence in a wider social context, for example, which is something of a Ray favourite. But also the idea of navigating the tumultuous phase that is adolescence within such a context, embodied here in its entirety by the character of Davy. Though, while we are left in no doubt that young Davy is in the wrong at the end of Run for Cover, Ray seems much less damning in his indictment of the community's elders as a negative influence than he is in Rebel Without a Cause - released the same year. Then there is the colour! Big-sky blues and railroad reds. Significantly less saturated and less colourful than we have seen and will see from VistaVision - this was an early title, a release title - yet no less satisfying. Fascinating too, in how it all relates to Ray's colour-by-genre approach: typically, black and white for crime and war; colour for westerns and musicals.
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“Bisogna essere molto forti per amare la solitudine.” - P.P. Pasolini

WCoF I II IIIL'EtàL'Eau한국88ShadowsBerlin thırd ISOLATIONVistaVision


Wed Apr 09, 2014 1:29 pm
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Post Re: Fidelitous Highs: A VistaVision Adventure

More from Miller on The Desperate Hours:

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And more VistaVision-oriented opinions from the Corrierino's finest:

"Run for Cover is very much in the vein of Rebel Without a Cause and Bigger Than Life in terms of Ray's oeuvre. Tumultuous father-son dynamic, rebellious and sexually ambiguous young men seeking the approval of a parental figure, etc. Underrated." - B-Side, June 3rd 2012

"Some people have a great deal of esteem for The Trouble with Harry. I for one love its cavalier attitude toward death, although I have mixed feelings about the film as a whole. Still, it's an enjoyable film, and more easily viewed if one tries to distance one's self from Hitchcock as merely a "master of suspense", when clearly he was just as much a comic director." - Macrology, February 16th 2012

"I liked The Trouble With Harry, although its not really a "Hilarious, laugh out loud" type of comedy, its a bit less obvious. Interestingly enough The Trouble With Harry is currently my favorite Hitchcock film-well its more tied with Rear Window-although I feel that "Harry" is merely a solid movie and not one of Hitchcock's best films." - MadMan, February 15th 2012

"The Desperate Hours - The Funny Games of its time? I'm a big fan. Simple but intense, especially come the finale. Also Humphry Bogart's head, which forms directly into his short little body, which is always fun to watch." - ribbon, July 21st 2012

"Artists & Models - Remains my favorite Tashlin. Animation come to life with the most delightful cast and the funnest sketches and songs. Love the way the film establishes it's over-the-top sensibilities right off the bat but does it with this wonderfully moving song sequence that's less about dreams and more about dealing with economic hardship. And there's so much comedy to be mined simply by casting Maclaine as this awkward girl who barely gets noticed by Jerry Lewis. Cinematic Cotton candy <3" - charulata, February 26th 2014

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“Bisogna essere molto forti per amare la solitudine.” - P.P. Pasolini

WCoF I II IIIL'EtàL'Eau한국88ShadowsBerlin thırd ISOLATIONVistaVision


Wed Apr 09, 2014 6:08 pm
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Post Re: Fidelitous Highs: A VistaVision Adventure

Shieldmaiden wrote:
Oh, the arrows! :heart:

Certainly did not steal this idea from anyone. :heart:

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“Bisogna essere molto forti per amare la solitudine.” - P.P. Pasolini

WCoF I II IIIL'EtàL'Eau한국88ShadowsBerlin thırd ISOLATIONVistaVision


Thu Apr 10, 2014 12:48 pm
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Post Re: Fidelitous Highs: A VistaVision Adventure

I just grabbed The Desperate Hours and shall report back soon.

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Thu Apr 10, 2014 2:56 pm
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Post Re: Fidelitous Highs: A VistaVision Adventure

Did you still want that bump?

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Thu Apr 10, 2014 6:28 pm
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Post Re: Fidelitous Highs: A VistaVision Adventure

Should I really have to ask? :x

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“Bisogna essere molto forti per amare la solitudine.” - P.P. Pasolini

WCoF I II IIIL'EtàL'Eau한국88ShadowsBerlin thırd ISOLATIONVistaVision


Thu Apr 10, 2014 10:37 pm
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