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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old June 27th, 2005, 07:37 PM   #31
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i didn't mean to turn it into a pissing contest of film history knowledge. i'm the first to volunteer that i know the least =).

however, it's not so odd that i would make technical and artistic merits separately. first, technology has always been one item built on top of another (mac os's use of mouse before windows, etc.). second, artistic merit can be pretty subjective while technology is a bit closer to objective. so while we can agree to disagree on what's first or middle or last, what's good better or best, i still hold my opinion by trying to back it up.

re: timeframe, it's interesting that technologically the development of film recording and projecting all came out internationally around the same time. who said there wasn't globalization back then =). i do think the two world wars set European films back by quite a ways.

re: without mack sennett, there would probably still be the tramp. after all harrold lloyd, harry langdom and not to mention buster keaton could all take chaplin's crown... but probably not with the same sentiments chaplin's tramp enthused.

re: earliest films. first, depending on what you consider porn (nudity or hardcore sex), nudity began in the late 1800s.(1894-1896) with edison's kinetiscope shots of nude women. as for hardcore sexi'm no expert on that, but i'm sure it was pretty early. i wouldn't be surprised. a lot of what you mentioned are catalogued in Landmarks of Early Film Vol. I. Vol II is more about Melies. as for your list of films leading up to The Kid, while i agree one thing builds ontop of another, you don't get emotional nor humanistic empathy from watching 15 seconds clips of kissing, trains arriving, stepping on garden hoses, and so forth. not even the Griffith shorts that have short stories (like those long civil war shorts) has the resonance with teh human spirit that Chaplin's The Kid embodies. i mean, that's why i said that it's truly "the first" emotionally connecting film ever made that packs a punch intellectually, physically (laughing reactions).

as for vaudeville, of course, but vaudeville as entertainment never made audiences wept... unless of course they laughed so hard. but what i meant was wept emotionally for the characters. again, The Kid remains a tower as a true "first" of many kinds.

as for nothing is new, yeah, there's that campbellistic fatalism that you can take with viewing art. ya know, how there's only 7 stories people are retelling, etc. the problem is those people fail to see that Charlie Chaplain IS original. while the things he is doing, stories he is telling is not, HE is. it is the way in which a human soul tells his own story, in any medium that we are responding to, not the story itself. for example, in The Kid, by the time industrial revolution kicked around, the orphange growing up in a poor neighbor (especially in London) could probably be classified as a cliche... but it was the way in which Charlie Chaplin told it infusing his own soul into the film, that made it "original" in every sense of the word. what could be more reinventing than reinventing the human story by spinning it on film instead of oral presentation or theater?

what can be more original than a human soul, if he puts that side of himself to show. think of the best classic films, they always have humanity (even anthropomorphized).

jack f, that's pretty interesting because your points are what movie studios are going to have think through for HD-DVD/BluRay. but remember, what i said, with 1080p, you're literally more than doubling the NTSC progressive resolution (480p). twice as good. that's never happened before on the video format.

jack z, one bad thing i can think of from that is HD will expose the poor budget these shows have. for example. even on DVD, i can see the cheap fx Star Trek The Next Generation, DS9 or The X-Files employed compared to feature films. i don't think the tv producers had DVD or high resolution mediums to review the fx in mind when they first produced the shows.
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Old June 28th, 2005, 01:29 AM   #32
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yi, i had no intention of starting a pissing contest, as you put it, just thought it curious that you were simultaneously making a case against "firsts" in one instance while making a case for "firsts" in another and wondering how to fit the two together.

apologies if it came across as snotty in any way.

just as an aside note, i would add that our cultural conditioning makes it nearly impossible for us to put ourselves in the shoes of an early spectator--by that i mean, it is hard for us to experience the kiss scene as pornographic, as early reviewers did, or the train arriving at the station as any sort of big whup. the excitement of first contact with any sort of novel representation tends to fade rather quickly, but for the early consumer, it still existed. The Great Train Robbery was probably as thrilling as Independence Day once was (and now isn't). shock and thrill are experiences which are quickly supplanted by greater shocks and thrills.

artistically, chaplin is different because his work transcends the medium altogether, as you poetically describe, whereas griffith is pretty much locked into American history, almost unbearably so. most viewers who can squeeze a bit of pleasure out of viewing griffith do so on a primarily cerebral level, on the technical and historical merits of the film.

chaplin explored the sacred nature of the frailty and resilience of the human spirit and managed to do so in an unusually sustained way.

taste being a highly subjective entity, i would submit that my own favorite exploration of the sacred in early film would be dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc.

and, to bring this screed back around to the original topic, i would say you could transfer Joan to DVD, HD-DVD, or whatever, and it would be difficult to re-create the experience of seeing a projected film print. the transcendant quality of the film simply cannot be transferred. i have puzzled over this phenomenon for many years and still cannot explain it. on film, it is utterly mesmeric, on any other format, flat.

so many early films have truly benefited from DVD restoration, and yet there are a very few films with that undefinable, un-restorable quality which defy our best efforts to improve upon them. it's all part of the great mystery, i suppose.
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Old June 28th, 2005, 10:14 AM   #33
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i didn't enjoy joan of arc the way you did. i thought it was OK, but certainly not as consistent as chaplin nor Fritz Lang's French outing, "Lilliom". why? i couldn't feet the humanity. yeah, she was crying.. but the long tracking shots across the court muted that impact. good acting... but still not a big impact for me. even lilliom had bigger impact. but wait... that's not a silent... ah well =).

actually, my fav director of the silent film era is definitely F.W. Murnau, talk about consistency. imho, every single film he made (that i've seen on DVD) is worthy of the title "masterpiece". my fav is Der Letzte Mann (the last laugh). no dialogue. just purely visual, like a moving painting, but every frame full of humanity!

and yesh, back to topic.

having seen nearly all of the silent films on DVD, i can attest to the fact that bringing it to the higher resolution (TWICE!) can definitely benefit any film. the reason is simple. older films are already damaged and digital cleaning can only achieve so much. plus you are still left with the fact that the DVD format is limited. 720x480 is NOT good enough for a truly pleasant film-like movie presentation. i mean, you already have problems with scratches and missing film frames, sometimes entire scenes! add to that mpeg2 compression issues? i find mpeg2 blocky and jagged. i also see problems with jump motion. the biggest flaw is that i can see compression artifacts on my front projector. any DVD i put in, even pixar movies to star wars (episode 2 filmed digitally) to once upon a time (also filmed digitally). mpeg2=no good. it's time for us to move forward. i sincerely believe that once we overcome these little deformations, i can enjoy a movie to its fullest. beyond 1k resolution for the home format, i don't think it's feasible to goto 2k or 4k because that would mean literally building a cinema right next to the house to see the quality differentiation. for smaller displays (under 50"?) it will be harder to tell the difference between 480p and 1080p, but on a 70"+ screen, the problems are hard to ignore.

in the future i envision a $1,000 front projector (maybe DLP maybe LCOS, who knows) that can project 1920x1080p. then i hook up a universal HD-DVD/BluRay player via HDMI to it. i don't think we need anything beyond that unless all of us can afford to build a cinema!
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