Filmmaker William Friedkin was recently interviewed for a piece in The Telegraph titled “Superhero movies are ruining cinema, says Exorcist director William Friedkin.”
I agree with Friedkin’s sentiment and I would take it one step further and say that it’s not “Superhero movies” that are ruining cinema, but that those films are a product of what has so dramatically changed since the 70’s.
The corporate greed and the paint-by-numbers mentality that has now driven cinema for many decades is, in itself, a product of a state of mind that has been vigorously taught, conditioned, indoctrinated and embraced in the U.S. Its impact is reflected in all aspects of our lives socially, culturally, politically and, yes, artistically…
Continue reading “Observations on Cinema vs. the Capitalist Feeding Frenzy”
Anyone who knows me knows I find digital alterations of older films sacrilege. While I fully support director’s cuts of films and the opportunity for a filmmaker to finally show the world the work he or she intended, I am equally adamant that once a film is out there, once it has been consumed by the public, become a part of our collective psyches, that it has a right to exist in its original form, as well as its director’s cut.
Thankfully, filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and William Friedkin, to name a few, have honored that very concept by releasing both original and altered versions side by side (E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, BLADE RUNNER, THE EXORCIST respectively). However, filmmakers like George Lucas have gone out of their way to actually destroy original cuts of their films (the original STAR WARS TRILOGY) in the hope that those original versions would disappear from history altogether. Ironic since Lucas himself once argued to the Supreme Court when fighting colorization that once a film is out there it belongs to the public and should not be altered or manipulated. Since those coherent days, Lucas has become the poster-child for film alteration and history re-writing. Much to the dismay and anger of many of his once loyal fans (this writer included–for me the original STAR WARS TRILOGY films are dead, never to be watched again).
Luckily for us, director Steven Spielberg stated recently his desire to allow his films, warts and all, to remain as they were presented to the world in their original forms out of respect for the films themselves and the history they represent.
“There’s going to be no more digital enhancements or digital additions to anything based on any film I direct. I’m not going to do any corrections digitally to even wires that show… If 1941 comes on Blu-ray I’m not going to go back and take the wires out because the Blu-ray will bring the wires out that are guiding the airplane down Hollywood Blvd. At this point right now I think letting movies exist in the era, with all the flaws and all of the flourishes, is a wonderful way to mark time and mark history.”
Now if only he could talk some sense into his long-time pal Lucas and convince him to follow suit and respect the films, the history they represent, and their loyal fans.
Renowned cinematographer Owen Roizman (THE EXORCIST; THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE; NETWORK) has openly called director William Friedkin’s new Blu-ray transfer of the Roizman-shot THE FRENCH CONNECTION “atroscious”, “emasculated” and “horrifying.” According to Roizman:
“Billy [Friedkin] for some reason decided to do this on his own. I wasn’t consulted. I was appalled by it. I don’t know what Billy was thinking. It’s not the film that I shot, and I certainly want to wash my hands of having had anything to do with this transfer, which I feel is atrocious.”
He then added:
“It would be a travesty to see The Exorcist [which Roizman also shot] transferred in this fashion.”
According to Leonard Norwitz at DVDBeaver:
Friedkin wanted a new look for his film for this Blu-ray release. He doesn’t go so far as to say that this the look he always wanted but never was able to achieve… Think of it as something like the color we see on Fox’s Five Star DVD, then desaturate it some and make it cooler, and you have some idea of how this new video looks. Pretty much gone is the noise inherent in the dark scenes like the club Doyle and Russo visit in the beginning of the movie, but don’t expect all that grain to magically disappear – which is a good thing, considering it was intentional to start with. Of course, the usual benefits of Blu-ray – dimensionality and resolution still pertain. But keep in mind this was never a high-resolution film to begin with. Friedkin insists this is better than his movie has ever looked, and once you accept its alternating film stocks, tight and heavy film grain, high and moderate contrast as all being in keeping its faux-documentary look, you’ll be just fine.
Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere had this to say about the new Blu-ray:
I don’t care if this makes me sound unhip — it’s awful, a rip-off, a desecration and a five-alarm burn. The original film (i.e., the version that played in theatres in ’71 and which was captured for the 2005 standard DVD) is plenty gritty and muddy-looking on its own without Friedkin futzing around. Please, I’m telling you — don’t buy this friggin’ thing. Unless you’re a purist monk it’ll just piss you off. Trust me on this one.
Added: Glenn Erickson, the DVD Savant over at DVDTalk.com observes:
Fox’s new Blu-ray of The French Connection is already raising a controversy on the web, for William Friedkin’s personally supervised transfer. The original movie had a purposely ugly look; release prints were slimy, grainy and colorless. (I can see the Fox people in 1971 approving any mess that came from Deluxe as ready for the screen: “Looks terrible! Good Work! Ship it!”) The previous DVD release worked digital magic to bring out all the color and detail in Owen Roizman’s cinematography, reducing the grain and boosting the colors to the point where some of the mid-winter scenes looked downright cheerful.
In a new HD featurette, , Friedkin demonstrates his revisionist rationale. He wanted to mute the colors and retain a lot more grain, yet not lose the sharpness of Roizman’s images. To that end he had his colorist create an element that oversaturated and de-focused the color. This smeary color image was very lightly superimposed over a B&W rendering of the film, resulting in a sharp, grainy movie with pastel colors. Because the colors are de-focused, they don’t stay strictly “within the lines” of objects. Gene Hackman is as sharp as a tack, but his red Santa Claus suit bleeds softly all around him. Blacks clog up at night with almost a hi-con look. New York appears cold and inhospitable. It’s an interesting effect that indeed achieves Friedkin’s stated goal of creating a degraded color image. And he makes no bones about stating that it’ll stay that way because that’s the way he likes it!