The subject of vertical height in the frame is fascinating....it was the central theme in the article on WUTHERING HEIGHTS in this month's American Cinematographer. The film-makers decided to go with a 1:33:1 ratio, because the director wanted EVEN MORE height than normal...in order to always keep the sky and weather in frame, and add a distinct tone to the film.
Considering the rave reviews, I'm guessing it worked!
Very cool idea...
Doesn't the Arri-D21 have a 1:33 chip format ? so you can use the full sensor resolution when shooting anamorphic and end up with a 2,6:1 image that only needs to be cropped on the sides.
I once heard a lecture by Jerry Lewis, who made a strong case for about 15 minutes that comedy worked better in 1.85. (I mastered several of Blake Edwards' films, all shot in 2.40, including two Pink Panther movies and S.O.B., and composition was problematic in all of them.) Lewis' theory was that you couldn't get a good close-up in scope, and that comedies depended heavily on close-ups. Hard to argue with that.
I've seen great action films done in 1.85 and also 2.40, and I'm not sure it matters as long as everything is deliberately composed and designed for each format. I do think certain kinds of films, like Westerns and science-fiction battle films, work better in 2.40 -- but there are so many exceptions, you never know.
What does baffle me is when people arbitrarily choose to shoot just an ordinary romance film or intimate human drama in anamorphic 2.40, when nothing in the movie really warrants it. To me, the limitations of anamorphic -- the issues with depth of field, lens weight, slightly lower sharpness (compared to spherical primes), and vignetting -- aren't always an advantage. I concede it's totally an aesthetic choice.
Take a look at an intimate film like "The Paper Chase":
There are many reasons why one might choose 2.40 in these situations:
(1) You can create more modernist off-balance compositions with lots of negative space to suggest isolation, loneliness, etc.
(2) You are playing against convention by presenting an ordinary effort by the character as an epic, heroic struggle
(3) You can surround a figure with more of the room around them (horizontally)
(4) You can compose group shots that are tighter while still holding more people in the frame, for example, at a dinner table you can hold two characters in chest-up shots in one 2.40 frame.
As for shooting with anamorphic lenses, the technical argument would be that in 35mm film, you're going to get less grain for a 2.40 image compared to cropping the same film stock in Super-35. The aesthetic argument would be more if you felt that the shallower focus was dramatically interesting, or the unique flares.
As for the more "modernist" compositional design possible with 2.40, creating a sense of urban angst, isolation, oppression of architecture, etc. look at "The Parallax View" shot by Gordon Willis:
You can also see the effect in a smaller 2.40 movie like "Klute". But in "Parallax View" you have a similar effect of 2.40 as in a western or epic, the smallness of man against the landscape, suggesting a heroic struggle against larger forces.
You also have to remember that it is being distributed in IMAX theaters as well (just saw it last night in IMAX and it was awesome!) IMAX has a higher vertical height than regular theaters, so 1.85 takes up more screen space than 2.40 in IMAX.
I remember watching The Dark Knight in IMAX and I was bothered when the aspect ratio changed from being shot on 65mm back to 35mm. Even if you have to blow up the 35 more it'd still look better than quickly cutting back to widescreen.
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