Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

"But it's a Brian De Palma movie!"

I felt a little geeky hissing that to the slack-jawed manager of the Park Plaza Cinema on Hilton Head Island. Not that it takes a degree in cinematography to understand that if a movie like The Black Dahlia doesn’t fit right on the screen, you do something to rectify it, generally something that takes place in the projection booth (although sometimes it’s as simple as readjusting the curtains on either side of the screen).
“Our screen isn’t big enough,” was the manager’s response when I stormed out of the cubicle known as a “theater” to report that The Black Dahlia wasn’t being shown in its correct aspect ratio.
The screen isn’t BIG ENOUGH? You can watch Lawrence of Arabia on an iPod these days. How about a little anamorphic-lens action?
A full third of the information of the movie was lost, trailing off either end of the screen into raggedy-edged, out-of-focus black wastelands. Only the middle of the opening credits could be read; too bad Jennifer Jason Leigh wasn’t in the movie so at least we’d get one full word to guess by.
What was worse, perhaps, than the theater manager not knowing or caring that this was either annoying or a sin, depending where you stand on the continuum of cinephilia, was that the audience sat there complacently as well, not even noticing that anything was wrong.
What is it that people see and absorb when they see a movie by a thoughtful director where a third of the information is missing? And why don’t they react when TV images are stretched inappropriately to fill the new cinema-wide plasma screens, making everyone look fat and unnatural?
I’m here in South Carolina doing a few book signings at the Hilton Head Health Institute, and Movie Nights are the only times the clientele get off the training wheel and into the “real” world, partly to see a movie, and partly to see if they can do that without buying popcorn. Another of the group came with me to see the DePalma movie, and the minute I sat down, I jumped up to complain about the projection, and when nothing could be done about it, I wandered into The Guardian — or An Officer and a Gentleman in the Coast Guard — figuring that if they cut off part of Ashton Kutcher doing the Richard Gere thing it wouldn’t matter so much. The woman who stayed behind watched The Black Dahlia, or maybe, in this case, The Gray Dahlia.
Afterward, I asked what she thought of it.
“It was okay,” she said, “but I didn’t really understand all of it.”
Because she didn’t really see all of it.

Be Sociable, Share!

One Response to “"But it's a Brian De Palma movie!"”

  1. Cadavra says:

    Back in 1991 when I reissued CITIZEN KANE, a friend in Cincinnati went to see it at the local Loew’s octoplex. Of course, they ran it 1.85 to 1. When she complained, she was told that “those old films can’t run properly on our modern, state-of-the-art equipment.” Now she was really angry at being patronized by some punk-ass kid. He condescendingly gave her passes and she left. This happens all the time, even here in L.A., and is not ever going to change; even when I do complain, as I did two weeks ago when the same thing happened at IDLEWILD, I get a bored, “Yeah, we’ll look into it,” and all I can do is hope that it will indeed be rectified, since nobody else seems to care anymore.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon