Re: Are 1.85:1 films "pan 'n' scanned"? (was: Re: NxNW/The Birds on Laserdisc)

From: David P. Hayes
Date: 1997/10/24
Newsgroups: alt.movies.hitchcock, rec.arts.movies.past-films,

In article <>, (FilmGene) wrote:
> <<Not every director & cameraman team think in terms of 1:33 when composing an
>  image that will be projected 1:85 in the first place.>>
> Are you seriously saying that films that cost millions of dollars and are made
>  by skilled professionals are not aware of how their films will wind up being
>  shown?
> With the proliferation of multiple aspect ratios, it is inevitable that some
>  cropping will occur, but the people who make the films are a hell of a lot
>  more knowledgable about that than Bill Warren is!
> Gene Stavis, School of Visual Arts - NYC

Information in defense of Bill Warren's position was presented in my previous postings on this subject, which I excerpt here:

It's easy for purists to say that the theatrical presentation reveals the artist's intent, but this may not be so.  Elia Kazan likened scope to "shooting through a keyhole," and I've seen widescreen films where all the important action is confined to a slightly-wider-than-square portion of the frame, with the remaining side or sides used to show a door or other superfluous matter.  Obviously someone was planning ahead.  The video version of "True Lies," in the scene of Schwartzenegger saving his daughter by pulling her into his helicopter, shows us Arnie's head as his arm reaches out to her.  In the widescreen edition, only the arm and the top hair remain, leaving theater audiences (but not TV viewers) to wonder whether a stand-in had been substituted.

A friend of mine who is a fan of Albert Brooks's "Lost in America" remembers that in the theater, the framing seemed awkward.  When he saw the movie on television, he realized that when the 1.33:1 framing restored the tops and bottoms that what was there was much better composition.  You can say that the director and the director of photography gypped the ticket-buyers, but that doesn't alter the conclusion that with those particular creators on that particular project, 1.33:1 is better.

I'll add here the delimiter I made last time: Please don't gripe that I don't appreciate widescreen.  My previous [first] posting indicated my strong preferences for the widescreen editions of "Once Upon a Time in America" (mostly soft-matted) and "Gigi" (anamorphic).

I'll add here that screenshots of the same frame from both editions of "True Lies" were published in "Video Watchdog" at the time that the videos were released, and the magazine may be available to you in a well-stocked library.

David Hayes


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