Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lost in Translation

Okay, this blog doesn't deal with the film Lost in Translation, another movie on my pile of shame, but it does have to do with film in general.

I just finished watching Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo; a film often claimed to be considered his masterpiece. It is an extremely well-directed, well-acted, well-written movie but there's something missing. After the film, I watched a featurette on the DVD about the restoration and these film scholars talking about how they were jealous about people watching the film for the first time, and being amazed with the film. I was not blown away by the film, I was drawn into the film and the last moments are truly emotional but like I said there is something missing. The restoration team talked about transferring the film onto 70 mm to give it the feel that Hitchcock was looking for and the shots to emulate the dizziness Jimmy Stewart is feeling. This cinematic masterpiece for some reason did not blow me away.

I realized what was missing. It was the loss of the cinematic feel that happens when watching a film on your television. In the past couple of weeks, I've watched All the King's Men, In the Heat of the Night, The King of Comedy, and Miller's Crossing. All are fantastically shot pieces of film but they lose a bit of the wonder about them when you're watching it on a TV that is so small in comparison to a movie theater screen. There is something lost in translation from movie theatre to home television that makes the films feel incomplete. Of the films I listed off, I think Miller's Crossing came off the best as the majority of this film was shot with a long lens as opposed to a wide-angle one. The beauty of Miller's Crossing is not in it's breadth but it's depth.

When watching a film like Vertigo, All the King's Men, or In the Heat of the Night, there's something about the size of screen and the scope of the images projected onto the screen. Willy Stark in All the King's Men is a giant, and we get that with the shots and the angles chosen. The close-ups of him during his speeches, the shot of him from the balcony of the governor's mansion but the overwhelming feel is confined to a screen that is no bigger across than I am tall. I think that can be seen with a film like Citizen Kane, where the angles do very much the same and give it a grandiose feel. Quite of few of my friends took a history of film class and had to watch Citizen Kane as it is one of the most influential and greatest films of all time...some of them were underwhelmed, others hated it. I have not seen Citizen Kane but when I hear people like Siskel and Ebert talk about it, saying they have watched it at least fifty times, there has to be something about it.

I don't believe that this lose of wonder in translation from one medium to another is exclusive for film but most media. When I perform in a show, I often get a DVD of the performance of that show and I rarely ever watch it. There is something boring about it, a loss of the adrenaline a staged play can have or the personal feel that it can have. It's like reading a book on a movie screen or looking a Van Gogh painting feels incomplete or not all there.

It may be that I'm discovering that I'm a purist when it comes to entertainment and I don't like to see things in any way other than the way they are intended to be seen but I know that cannot always be possible. I know that I will never get to see Michael Moorehead's A Piece of My Heart on anything except a home video copy of it. I know the chances of seeing a re-release of Lawrence of Arabia in a movie theatre are incredibly slim. I know that listening to new music off an LP is pretty much an extinct practice. That does not stop me from wanting and wishing to do all three anyway