Wednesday, November 07, 2007


-- Matthew Swiezynski, at The Art of Memory, has a framegrab post, "trains in cinema, part 3."

-- David Hudson has helpful round-up posts on the new issues of Film Comment and Bright Lights.

-- Two fun collage-posts: Craig Keller's "Entr'acte" and David Pratt-Robson's "Warhol and Pieces".

-- David Bordwell on POV shots.

-- Zach: "Have I written my post yet about how Circles of Confusion is one of the great, largely unsung books on film/photography/art? [...] Some reports peg [Hollis Frampton] as imperious and arrogant. Maybe so. But in Circles of Confusion he mostly comes across as charming, witty, mentally flexible. It's as though you've met someone interesting at a party who knows more than you do about everything, but has either the absentmindedness or good sense to not show they know it."

-- Mubarak on "The Domestic Interiors of Jean-Claude Rousseau": "Here is a chance to discover this filmmaker whom Jean-Marie Straub has called, along with Frans Van de Staak and Peter Nestler, the greatest working in Europe in these times."

-- Dave Kehr on animation in the NYT: "Is the filmed image a flat canvas to be covered with lines and colors, or is it a window that opens onto a pre-existing world? That was a central question for many early film theorists, and with the rise of computer-generated imagery (or CGI, to use the film industry acronym), it has become one again."

-- J. Hoberman in the Voice: "A doom-ridden pulp cabalist with a dark sense of purpose as well as humor, Richard Kelly shoots the moon with his rich, strange, and very funny sci-fi social satire, Southland Tales. [...] Kelly's fever dream premiered at two hours and 45 minutes; now trimmed by 20 minutes—dropping subplots and adding voice-over—it remains a gloriously sprawling and enjoyably unsynopsizeable spectacle. (Indeed, as demonstrated by the Donnie Darko director's cut, Kelly is actually better when his cosmology remains obscure.)"

-- Michael Sicinski at Greencine on the NYFF Views from the Avant-Garde (part 4).

-- Donal Foreman's interview with Marc Siegel, who curated a programme that "brought together and traced the links between several strands of underground cinema from the 1960s: principally, the Zanzibar collective in Paris and, in New York, the work of Jack Smith and the films that came out of Andy Warhol’s Factory."

-- I just ordered a copy of the new Chris Fujiwara-edited, 800-page book, "Defining Moments in Movies: The Greatest Films, Stars, Scenes and Events that Made Movie Magic." Here's a thread at a_film_by.

-- The Siren (who has been nominated for a weblog of the year award) on Joan Fontaine.

-- Acquarello on David Desser's Eros Plus Masscre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave Cinema.

-- Posts from two Los Angeleno pals: Doug Cummings on DVD commentaries by Terence Davies and Charles Burnett; and Michael Smith on Resident Evil: Extinction.

-- Jason Sperb on Thomas Cripps' studies of the history of African-Americans in the cinema.

-- The Slovenian film magazine Ekran has put together a special event on "Independent Cinema" for the Ljubljana Film Festival next week. Presenters will include Gabe Klinger (on Brakhage); Neil Young from Britain; Alexis Tioseco from the Philippines (and proprietor of the blog Concentrated Nonsense); Christoph Huber from Austria; and Adrian Martin.

-- Vertigo magazine on new German film: "In the shadow of these mainstream achievements something aesthetically far more interesting (and commercially far less successful, of course) has developed. The names of directors like Christian Petzold (The State I Am In, 2000), Angela Schanelec (Passing Summer, 2001), Christoph Hochhäusler (Low Profile, 2006) or Valeska Grisebach (Longing, 2006) have only recently begun to be whispered by observers of the international film scene. In France this group of filmmakers has already been dubbed the "Nouvelle Vague Allemande" by Cahiers du Cinéma. In Germany the label "Berliner Schule" ("Berlin School") was coined and readily applied – to some of the rather individualistically-minded directors' dismay."

I'm way behind on my new German film viewing. I haven't even seen The Lives of Others (or anything by Fatih Akin), let alone a single film by the interesting-sounding "Berliner Schule." Any reflections, impressions, or suggestions about new German cinema will certainly be welcome.

pic: The opposite of what I'm seeing right now, a carpet of snow on my back porch.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the 'Lives of Others' was pretty neat. The kind of movie Hollywood should be making, or used to, but doesn't anymore.

November 07, 2007 9:16 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Girish - I don't know all the filmmakers that Vertigo mentioned (I'm seeing my first Petzold film tonight). Grisebach is definitely hot stuff: I personally like her first film, Mein Stern (Be My Star), more than Longing, which was her breakthrough with the art-film critics. (The year that Mein Stern was in Toronto, people kept spotting Grisebach at screenings of other international art films - I guess no one told her about the parties.)

Maria Speth is another favorite of mine. The same year that Grisebach put Mein Stern on the festival circuit, Speth was screening her film school thesis The Days Between, which was visually stunning. This year she's back with Madonnen, which didn't make it into Toronto for some reason, but just screened at MOMA: it's really good also, a little less beautiful in a plastic sense, maybe closer to the kind of digressive narrative play that Nanouk Leopold likes to do.

I don't know much about Stefan Krohmer, who did Sommer '04 an der Schlei (Summer '04), but I think he's worth watching as well. Funny that the last six letter of his last name are "rohmer," because Summer's subject matter was totally in Rohmer territory.

Some of the most interesting German directors are Turks working in Germany: not only Akin, but also Yilmaz Arslan, a Kurd who did the fascinating Passages 15 years ago, and re-emerged recently with Fratricide.

November 07, 2007 10:22 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Yes. See Lives of Others. :-)

November 07, 2007 11:06 AM  
Blogger Gareth said...

Unlike others, I'm not a huge fan of The Lives of Others, though I do like Fatih Akin's work, including his more lightweight Im Juli, which is an interesting complement to Head On.

Christian Petzold's The State I Am In is a really top-notch bit of work (the English title is very awkward, to my mind). I also very much like, from around the same time, Hans-Christian Schmid's Crazy, a very sensitive and well-told coming-of-age story that shows there's still life in an old format (I haven't seen his subsequent work, though he has been busy; one of his films was well-reviewed in the US last year).

There's also Sebastian Schipper's tremendous Absolute Giganten, one of my favourite German movies of the last ten years, a wonderfully nostalgic and intelligent film that carefully skirts sentimentality. (Schmid and Schipper are both from the mid-1960s generation).

And for another perspective, Andreas Dresen has carved out an interesting body of work focused on eastern Germany; his TV film Die Polizistin, which I saw on a big screen at a festival, is a good look at "how the other half lives".

November 07, 2007 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Girish, I too don't have much experience with the new German cinema, but I can echo Dan's sentiment about Stefan Krohmer. His Summer 04, which I saw at last year's TIFF, was one of my favorite films of the festival and left quite an impression (both emotionally and also in terms of my sense of his artistry). I was suspicious about the film at first because it explores a very time-worn topic (the European bourgeois family) and thought it might not be that interesting. But it turned out to be an intelligent, nuanced, and in some ways devastating look both at social and familial relations and also at issues of moral responsibility. I now want to see more of his work (and there is indeed a connection to Rohmer), but it has me curious as well about the larger state of German filmmaking.

On another note, thanks very much for the link. And the snow? I think I might have mentioned this before, but that's an experience I'd like to have one of these days -- to see the first snowfall of the season. Though I imagine it brings with it a number of things we Californians are entirely ill-equipped to deal with. :)

November 07, 2007 5:29 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Not a fan of Lives of Others either.

Hope you enjoy the book. There's an entry on Insiang.

November 07, 2007 11:17 PM  
Blogger girish said...

I much appreciate all these suggestions!

Dan -- I didn't get clued into Grisebach at TIFF, but I remember the reviews for Speth's The Days Between in the alt-press festival round-ups. I was disappointed that Madonnas never made it to TIFF this year.

Gareth -- I've seen none of the filmmakers/films you mention. Absolute Giganten sounds esp. great, although I notice it isn't on dvd here.

Michael -- The first snowfall of the season is always thrilling, esp. because my first contact with snow didn't occur until I came to the US in my early 20s. I remember a family vacation to Kashmir when I was a kid; there was a great view of the snow-capped Himalayas but only from a distance.

November 08, 2007 7:05 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Another vote for Head On. Did you see Goodbye, Lenin?

November 08, 2007 9:41 AM  
Blogger Gareth said...

The only place I've encountered Absolute Giganten with English subtitles was at a Goethe Institute, but their holdings can be quite variable in different locations; I saw the film when first released in Germany, and again a couple of years later, and really must get my hands on a DVD copy. Since Peter mentions Good Bye, Lenin. I'll recommend Wolfgang Becker's previous film, Das Leben ist eine Baustelle. Again, it was not released on DVD in the US (you can get a British version, though it may now be out of print). I think it's a better film, not least because it does such a great job of capturing the "feel" of what it was like to be young in Berlin in the late 1990s.

November 08, 2007 10:26 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Girish - not only did TIFF skip Madonnen (and Petzold's Yella, which wasn't really my cup of tea) this year, but it also skipped Grisebach's Sehnsucht (Longing) last year. And both Grisebach and Speth got much more attention from the critical community for the recent films than for the debuts, which TIFF screened in 2001. Of course, there may be complicated reasons for TIFF passing on the new films - but I wonder whether arty German films without pedigree were more welcome at TIFF in 2001 than in 2006-07.

November 08, 2007 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the opportunity to see some films (and videos) in a program dedicated to new german cinema, post-fassbinder, curated by Olaf Moller this year.

Most of them were from people who went to the Berlin school and had for professors the guys from the Filmkritik group/mag.

I think the film that impressed me the most was Navy Cut (1992) by Wolfgang Schmidt. Unfortunately there was a problem with the copy (or 16mm projector, cant recall) and it was shown in DVD. A shame really since I’ll probably never have the opportunity to see it again. Navy Cut was the graduation film and it happened to be his last. Schmidt is now an architect. Other film I liked was “A Chronicle of Rain” (Freerix 91). From the more known filmmakers I didn’ care much for Petzold; Hochhausler seemed half interesting; “Windowns on Monday” by Ulrich Kohler was magnificent.
Missed the first film by Angela Schanelec but saw Marseille later on video and can also recommend it. The film I most regret missing was “Nightsongs” by Romuald Karmakar. “Hamburg Lectures” is very powerful in the end, it’s curious how a film with such a simple dispositive really stays with you. Perfectly judged but certainly a difficult viewing.


November 08, 2007 12:10 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I second the recommendation for Sommer '04, Sehnsucht/Longing, and would add Matthias Luthardt's great Pingpong, Christian Petzold's Gespenster and Hans-Christian Schmid's Requiem.

Fatih Akin's The Edge of Heaven is nicely done, but relies too much on an improbable "network narrative" (as Bordwell says) and mainstream drama.

November 09, 2007 6:09 AM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

I also like PINGPONG, GESPENSTER and REQUIEM very much.

Unfortunately the Goethe Institute in Bangkok has stopped showing films regularly since early 2000’s, so I have little knowledge about German films nowadays.

Some of my favorite recent German films may not be available as DVDs yet, but I hope they will be in the near future.

My favorite ones include:

1.THE CHAMPIONS (2003, Christoph Huebner, Documentary)
2.COLD HOMELAND (1995, Volker Koepp, Documentary)
3.FORGIVENESS (1994, Andreas Hoentsch)
4.GETTING MY BROTHER LAID (2001, Sven Taddicken)
5.THE HOUSEWIFE’S FLOWERS (1999, Dominik Wessely, Documentary, DVD available)
6.NIGHTFALL (ABENDLAND) (1999, Fred Kelemen)
Tony McKibbin wrote about this film in an article in Sense of Cinema’s website. The article is called “Cinema of Damnation: Negative Capabilities in Central and Eastern European Film”
7.NO PLACE TO GO (2000, Oskar Roehler, DVD available)
8.OUT OF TIME (1995, Andreas Kleinert)
9.SCHULTZE GETS THE BLUES (2003, Michael Schorr, DVD available)
10.TIRED COMPANIONS (1997, Zoran Solomun)

I also would like to add that I love recent German short films and animations very much. My favorite ones include:

1.BASE OF REALITY (1998, Olaf Boehme)
2.CHICAGO (1996, Juergen Reble)
3.THE DAY THE MILKMAN DIDN’T COME (1998, Anja Langenbacher)
4.LIVING A BEAUTIFUL LIFE (2003, Corinna Schnitt)
5.THE NUCLEAR FOOTBALL (2004, Korpys/Loeffler)
6.THE PATCHWORK QUEEN (2001, Lars Henkel)
7.PERSUADERS (2003, Peter Simon)
8.SUBURBS OF EMPTINESS (2003, Thomas Koener)
9.THE THIRD WINDOW (1998, Hanna Nordholt + Fritz Steingrobe)
10.VACANCY (1998, Matthias Mueller)

November 09, 2007 1:19 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Peter, Gareth, Dan, jpm, Harry, CelineJulie -- Thank you for taking the time to set down those suggestions.

Dan, a couple more intermittent blind spots for TIFF seem to be Ruiz, Chabrol, Sokurov and Oliveira; over the years, it appears to me they skip some of the films by those directors even if those films play at other festivals around the same time as Toronto.

November 10, 2007 9:46 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Some good reading:
-- A raging critical debate at Jim Emerson's on Jonathan Rosenbaum's review of the Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men.
-- Peter Nellhaus on What's Love Got To Do With It: "As a Buddhist for over thirty years, I have as a matter of course been interested in how Buddhism has been portrayed in film."
-- Jason Sperb on the influence of Gilles Deleuze on cinephile bloggers.

November 10, 2007 9:56 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- Mubarak has a brief quote from Nicole Brenez from a film that sounds fascinating: Fergus Daly's essay-documentary Experimental Conversations: "besides Brenez, there's also Philippe Grandrieux, Raymond Bellour, Jackie Raynal, Vivienne Dick, FJ Ossang, Gerard Byrne, Malcolm Le Grice, Max Le Cain..." More on the film at the Cork Film Festival site.
-- Ed Howard announces a short film blog-a-thon for Dec 4.

November 10, 2007 1:30 PM  
Blogger the art of memory said...

thanks for the link girish,
i hop all is well.

November 10, 2007 7:25 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey, Matthew. Always a pleasure.

November 11, 2007 12:55 AM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

Hi Girish! Thanks for the link. I just added two excerpts from Experimental Conversations to my last post, with encouragement from Fergus and Nicole... Enjoy!

November 11, 2007 6:59 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey, Mubarak--those clips are awesome. Brenez and Grandrieux come across as excellent 'teachers'! Now I'm dying to see the whole film.

November 11, 2007 8:18 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Additions to my Netflix queue this morning: Berlin Alexanderplatz, Killer of Sheep, Mexican filmmaker Emilio Fernandez's Las Islas Marias (a J. Hoberman recommendation in the Voice recently), Johnnie To (Election, Triad Election), Cukor's Rich and Famous, Heddy Honigmann's O Amor Natural, Into Great Silence.

November 11, 2007 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Thanks for the link. I just did my first Denver International Film Festival post - I scored a screener for Hell on Wheels! My Netflix queue will backed up between the fest and Monday's holiday.

November 11, 2007 11:18 AM  
Anonymous jim emerson said...

Hi Girish: I'm also very excited about seeing "Berlin Alexanderplatz" again -- for the first time since it originally played in US theaters in 16 mm. (Never watched it when it was available on VHS.) But that's gonna be a lotta Netflix discs!

Thanks for the link to the "No Country for Old Men" stuff. I've done three posts of others' critical takes on it (and responded to lots of comments), and it's really been fun so far -- though it hasn't done much to clarify the missing leaps of logic in Rosenbaum's opaque article. It's fun to count down the propaganda techniques he employs instead of a coherent argument, though. I'm pretty sure it's not a review of "No Country" at all (it's mostly about his 16-year-old piece about "Silence of the Lambs," without drawing a meaningful comparison between Lecter and Chigurh -- perhaps because they are noticeably different kinds of characters). Supposedly, the film "strokes some ideological impulses." What are they and how does this particular movie stroke them (and what does that phrase even mean)? Nobody's been able to find answers (or even clearly articulated questions) in Rosenbaum's rhetoric -- but several have offered ideological readings of the film that are more coherent (based on actual evidence!) than Rosenbaum's, and that's been a good thing.

November 12, 2007 4:43 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey, Jim--I haven't seen the movie yet, so it was a bit tricky for me to navigate that great discussion you had going at your site. Though it was tempting to read everything, I was trying to skip the specific plot references but catch and follow the arguments. I've bookmarked your posts and want to return to them as soon as I've seen the film.

November 12, 2007 10:38 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- David Bordwell on a few recent releases: "Since I retired, I usually go to matinee shows. It’s cheaper, and the auditorium is depopulated. Sometimes I’m the only person there. I know, movies are supposed to be seen with a big audience; but I’ve seldom liked the experience of a packed house. Does the humble worshipper in the temple need a congregation to confirm his faith? Isn’t it best to commune with the deity alone?"
-- via Walter at Quiet Bubble: James Wolcott on Isabelle Huppert: "She is the master of the non-reactive reaction shot and the concise pause between beats of thought. In Alexandra Leclere’s Les Soeurs Fachees [...] Huppert plays a wife so tired-annoyed with her husband that her first words addressed to him across the breakfast table are a request not to breathe so loudly—"you're always breathing," she complains."
-- At Film Journey:. Reports from the AFI fest in Los Angeles by Doug Cummings and Robert Koehler.
-- Harry Tuttle calls for Contemplative Blogathon 2.

I started writing a post and now it's growing like a weed. Hopefully I can bring it to closure in a couple of days...

November 12, 2007 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Kimberly said...

That quote by David Borwell that you posted is pretty priceless Girish.

November 12, 2007 4:49 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

In reference to Bordwell: I would like to know that one other English speaking person thought that the Thai comedy, The Sperm was as funny as I thought it was. I was totally surprised to find myself alone in the theater that day. I thought it was funnier that Taweewat Wantha's previous film, SARS Wars, which is actually available on DVD with English subtitles.

November 13, 2007 4:10 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi there, Kimberly and Peter. Knowing Bordwell only through his academic writing before he began blogging, it's very interesting to read him in a more 'personal' mode. Also, academic writing often tends to be 'non-evaluative' (at least explicitly--fact is, even something as simple as the choices of films to study involves implicit judgments of what is personally 'worth' studying and writing about), and so it's good to see a scholar's blog show his/her hand and explicitly reveal his/her evaluative judgments (and taste).

November 13, 2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger Ed Howard said...

Thanks for the link, Girish. It looks like the Short Film Day will now be morphing into a Short Film Week around the same time, co-hosted with Culture Snob, so I'll update you when the details get firmed up.

November 13, 2007 11:06 AM  
Blogger girish said...

You're welcome, Ed. Pl. feel free to drop by and post a reminder link when you kick off.

Dave Kehr in the NYT on Berlin Alexanderplatz:

"That epic television production by Fassbinder, in 13 parts with an epilogue, has now been released on DVD by the Criterion Collection. But where Fassbinder’s version still has to get by on a studio simulacrum of Weimar Berlin, the vanished city is very much present in the first film adaptation of Alfred Döblin’s 1929 novel. Directed by Phil Jutzi, that 1931 “Berlin Alexanderplatz” is included here as an extra, though it is a powerful work in its own right that offers a vivid portrait of the metropolis that was about to sink under Nazi rule.

"Döblin himself worked with the writer Hans Wilhelm to adapt his novel, and at 89 minutes, the 1931 film contains most of the major narrative points of Fassbinder’s 15-hour adaptation (which now runs 15 ½ hours, thanks to the slowdown that results when European video is transferred to the American standard)."

Just curious: Does anyone know what this "slowdown" is? I wasn't aware of such a thing...

November 13, 2007 12:28 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Thanks for the plug Girish, I hope to see you all at the Contemplative blogathon, as participants or commentators.

Link : Virginia "The Medium" Heffernan, who is the astute interweb watchdog for the NYT, is doing the dirty job film critics won't do, in her critique of American Gansters. ;)

November 13, 2007 12:50 PM  
Blogger Gareth said...

girish -

The European video standard is 25 frames per second (better change that line, JLG, for the video release), and when converted to NTSC the running time is lengthened as the NTSC standard is 24fps.

It's one of the reasons for discrepancies in running times in various databases: a European video runtime will seem shorter than the theatrical release. It's the video speed rather than editorial snipping/censorship that is the culprit.

I think one edition of the Time Out Film Guide alerted people to this discrepancy, since there were questions about the runtime data used in that book.

November 13, 2007 1:10 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Gareth, Girish - I believe that the NTSC standard is actually 29.97 frames per second (I used to know the story behind that number, but not now). But films shot at 24 fps go through a "3:2 pulldown" when being converted to NTSC video, whereby every other film frame is placed on 3 NTSC half-frames instead of 2. This brings the speed very close to 24 film frames a second.

November 13, 2007 2:12 PM  
Blogger Gareth said...

Hi Dan: Thanks for the clarification. Does that mean that the net effect is the same in terms of how this impacts running time, as in the Dave Kehr example?

November 13, 2007 3:14 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Gareth - yeah, the 3:2 pulldown makes the speed of NTSC video very close to 24 frames per second. (I think the actual speed is 29.97, multiplied by 4, then divided by 5.) So one doesn't notice NTSC changing the running time of a movie much.

To go from 24 fps movie to PAL, you have to speed the movie up to 25 fps. This is marginally noticeable, and cuts minutes off of running time.

To go from PAL to NTSC, there's a slowdown in the opposite direction, as well as the pulldown. I believe that's what Dave was talking about: 15 hours for the PAL video, 15.5 for the NTSC one.

November 13, 2007 4:36 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Dan, Gareth, and Harry--Thank you. That was educational for me. Sometimes I feel like I neglect (without thinking) the technical aspects of cinema a little bit at the expense of the overtly aesthetic aspects, which I regret because they are so tightly connected...

November 14, 2007 9:05 AM  
Anonymous jim emerson said...

Hi Girish -- I've been dealing with a lot of this PAL/NTSC 3:2 pulldown, interlacing, telecine, progressive stuff recently (all those terms are inter-related when it comes to film on video/DVD), while converting DVD clips of films into iMovie and iDVD (via HandBrake). All I can say is: Yikes. There's a lot of math to remember.

You may notice that some DVD players have a "progressive" mode which, if you have a TV that will accommodate it, will de-interlace/de-telecine film-sourced material to show it at 24 fps.

Wikipedia's article on Telecine offers good illustration of a lot of these principles:

November 14, 2007 5:09 PM  
Anonymous a4 said...

Ulrich Köhler's Bungalow (2002) - Facets, 11/27

Maren Ade's The Forest for the Trees (2003) - Film Movement

November 14, 2007 8:11 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Jim, I don't know most of those terms! And that "telecine" entry is terrific. Thank you.

November 15, 2007 9:13 PM  
Blogger craig keller. said...

The only reason slowdown is occurring on Criterion's Berlin Alexanderplatz release is because the film itself was shot, in-camera, at 25 frames per second, to accommodate the 25-frames-per-second rate of the PAL video standard and, therefore, the television broadcasts via which Fassbinder's film was originally intended to be shown. The same applies to Rivette's Out 1.

Peter Becker at Criterion explained everything that went behind their decision to slow the film down on a blog posting at the Criterion site, here.

What everyone needs to understand here, if it's not already clear, is that the instance of a European movie coming out on an NTSC DVD release does NOT mean that the running time of the film will, a priori, be slowed down 4%. If any standard has a problem, it's PAL — a complete mess, even though the format accommodates a marginally higher resolution than NTSC. But big deal — all it's meant is that 99.6% of the films in existence, which have been shot at 24 frames per second, "playback" 4% faster once converted to PAL video. Needless to say, the pitch of the soundtrack also leaps — and if anyone thinks only someone with perfect pitch would be able to detect this 1/25th of an octave (or whatever it is) increase, take an NTSC edition of F for Fake and play it side by side with a PAL edition, and then wince as Orson Welles's voice suddenly loses a good patch of its native, splendid resonance.

On Blu-ray and HD-DVD, with "progressive" (non-interlaced) as the uniform standard, the whole PAL/NTSC divide goes out the window and, theoretically, all native, new HD telecine transfers of any film will playback at their original speed.

That said, with regard to standard-def (still the medium of primary importance, as I don't see anyone rushing to put out Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble in HD just yet), the following has to be kept in mind:

-The only North American labels who have consistently released European films, or any other films whose distribution source lies within a "PAL region," at their correct speed are:

(1) The major studios.

(2) The Criterion Collection.

Practically everyone else takes the PAL master — i.e., does not go back to the digibeta and re-author an encode at NTSC — and direct-converts it to NTSC. What this means is, let's say, on the Zeitgeist release of Garrel's Regular Lovers, you're watching an NTSC disc of the PAL release, and thus, the playback is 4% faster -- with the added bonus that, because nothing more than a direct standards-conversion was involved, and the 25fps source was retrofitted onto 29.97fps, the movement is smeary, ugly, disgusting, unfilmlike. This phenomenon is called "ghosting." And it's the primary way most video-watchers in North America have understood 'a foreign film playing-back on video' to look for most of the last 20 years. If, on the other hand, you look at Artificial Eye's release of same film, Regular Lovers, you'll note that there's no ghosting — it's lovely and crisp, even if still technically (and unnecessarily) interlaced. Why? Because they made their transfer right from the progressive digi-beta source. They could have made it in NTSC, or they could have made it in PAL.

Now, because 99% of PAL DVD players are able to play-back NTSC discs (but no NTSC players are able to play-back PAL discs without being not ONLY a "region-free player" or "region-free hacked-player" but ALSO containing a PAL-to-NTSC conversion chip -- very important), the question rises: Why doesn't every European video publisher simply encode their films in NTSC, at the correct (via 3:2 pulldown) 24fps playback speed? The answer is: simple ignorance/apathy; and often: the licensor stipulates that the encode must be PAL, even though it may very well already be region-contained (thus maximizing the licensor's ability to draw profits from licensing the film to outside territories) by virtue of being, say, "Region 2."

In a nutshell: if Europe had an NTSC video standard, Fassbinder would have shot Berlin Alexanderplatz at 24fps, and Rivette Out 1 at same. But, because PAL playback = 25fps, both directors (and others in similar situatons) opted to shoot their films at 25fps, for optimal playback presentation on European television, while retaining a "real-time" temporality in the play-back.

I think Criterion have handled the Berlin Alexanderplatz situation pretty admirably btw, and I commend them for being conscientious enough to put not a little thought into how they presented the release on NTSC.


November 17, 2007 12:24 PM  
Blogger Gareth said...

For what it's worth now, I saw Requiem subsequent to this discussion, and thoroughly recommend it.

November 27, 2007 10:46 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Gareth. I will check it out for sure; I remember it being on James Quandt's end of the year top 10 in Artforum, which got me very curious.

November 27, 2007 10:50 PM  
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January 29, 2010 8:11 PM  

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