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Author Topic: Chinatown (1974)  (Read 32623 times)
Novecento
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« Reply #105 on: January 15, 2012, 07:16:20 AM »

This will only mean that you see in the full frame version more at top and bottom, or the other way round the widescreen is only a masked version of the full screen image. But then the 1,85:1 aspect ratio should be the one Welles shot it for (otherwise they should have only released the fullscreen version), and therefore the image compositions should look better in 1,85:1. So I hope.

You do indeed see significantly more vertically on the "fullscreen" version, however it's not simply a result of masking to get the 1.85:1 as you do actually get a little more on the edges of that one too. However, you're right in that it's not to the same degree at all, so it's not really a fair comparison. I don't know which was Welles' original intent which I guess is why they included both versions (as well as three others too). I'll let you know about which one I prefer in terms of composition after watching both.

Here are DVD Beaver's images: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDCompare2/touchofevil.htm

The name Noir (which is a French invention for a certain type of films) is surely derived from a certain way of lighting these films, but for me Noir as a genre has more to do with the stories told and the conception of the hero. I indeed see Noirs basically as PI films in the tradition of Chandler and Hammet. And the Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep are the key films which define the genre (or sub-genre).
Therefore films like Notorious, The Third Man, In a Lonely Place or White Heat are not Noirs. Chinatown is clearly a Noir for me, but If we keep the time frame for Noirs to the 40 and 50s, than I'm generous enough to call it a Neo-Noir.

Ah ok, I'm more a visual guy in my definition of noir so The Third Man is one of my very favorite noirs with all its wide angles and shadows etc

There is just this month a Noir series on the German / French quality TV Channel Arte which includes Double Indemnity, Chinatown, Hammett, The Killers (1946) and other stuff.

Nice.

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stanton
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« Reply #106 on: January 15, 2012, 07:34:59 AM »

You do indeed see significantly more vertically on the "fullscreen" version, however it's not simply a result of masking to get the 1.85:1 as you do actually get a little more on the edges of that one too.


That's strange. Do you have a 16:9 TV or an old 4:3 TV?

Normally you shouldn't see more on the sides. Touch of Evil was shot in 1,37:1, and the only way to get a widescreen image is the masking of the 1,37:1 version. And for that the image should be exactly the same at the sides.


« Last Edit: January 15, 2012, 07:47:25 AM by stanton » Logged

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« Reply #107 on: January 15, 2012, 08:03:21 AM »

40mm anamorphic is wide. It's usually admitted that everything under 50mm is a wide angle. Do regular 40mm is quite wide (not that much) but anamorphic amplifies the thing. The traditional angle to shot a femeal beauty is 85mm.
But to me, wide angle is part of the noir aesthetic: even if you forget portraits, Expressionist wide shots have always been inherent to noir movies (due to their filiation to German expressionism).


I'm sure Noodles knows a lot more about these things than me as he is actually making films. so he may correct me.

As I have read about it in the past the normal lens is the 50 mm one, which reproduces the images in a way felt normal to the human eye. But the range for normal lenses is from 35 to 5o, and only beneath 35 mm a lens is called a Wide Angle lens.
That would mean that a 40 mm lens is not that unusual. But I'm also now very interested to re-watch Chinatown and check if there are Wide Angle effects visible in the pictures.

Orson Welles on the other hand used a 18,5 mm lens for Touch of Evil which brings an enormous distortion into the depth of the images, and he probably shot every scene with that lens, so that the scenes added by another director are easily visible over their lack of style. At least I recognized them immediately without checking a source.
It was probably the first film which was shot completely with a Wide Angle lens, at least it looks very different from every film which was made before (save probably some other Welles films). And I think that Wide Angle lenses were only rarely used in these days, and directors still don't use them that much, in contrast to the tele lens.
At least the powerful atmosphere of Touch of Evil has a lot to do with Wide Angle images Welles has composed. Of course there is much more why this is one of the best films ever.


« Last Edit: January 15, 2012, 12:27:12 PM by stanton » Logged

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« Reply #108 on: January 15, 2012, 08:32:52 AM »

That Techniscope stuff is very interesting to read about. As you may have gathered already, when it comes to lenses I really don't know what I'm talking about at all  Grin - probably best if I remain quiet and leave it to someone like noodles_leone

Well, uh, like Stanton said Grin

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« Reply #109 on: January 15, 2012, 10:37:15 AM »

That's strange. Do you have a 16:9 TV or an old 4:3 TV?

I was actually going by the DVD Beaver images as I haven't compared it myself yet.

As I have read about it in the past the nornal lens is the 50 mm one, which reproduces the images in a way felt normal to the human eye. But the range for normal lenses is from 35 to 5o, and only beneath 35 mm a lens is called a Wide Angle lens.
That would mean that a 40 mm lens is not that unusual. But I'm also now very interested to re-watch Chinatown and check if there are Wide Angle effects visible in the pictures.

Now are those regular lenses or anamorphic? If I understand correctly from the posts above, isn't a 40mm anamorphic lens more like a 20 or 25mm regular lens and so treated as a wide angle lens?

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stanton
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« Reply #110 on: January 15, 2012, 12:41:00 PM »



Now are those regular lenses or anamorphic? If I understand correctly from the posts above, isn't a 40mm anamorphic lens more like a 20 or 25mm regular lens and so treated as a wide angle lens?

I don't know if there are great differences between anamorphic lenses and normal ones, again, maybe Noodles knows more. I'm far from being an expert. I'm just interested and sometimes try to understand a few of the things I have read in books.

But Chinatown has indeed Wide Angle images, not as extreme as in Touch of Evil, but I see them. Not in every scene, but in some. Still possible that they also used the same objective for every scene.
A visually stunning film anyway.

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« Reply #111 on: January 15, 2012, 01:13:21 PM »

I'm sure Noodles knows a lot more about these things than me as he is actually making films. so he may correct me.

As I have read about it in the past the normal lens is the 50 mm one, which reproduces the images in a way felt normal to the human eye. But the range for normal lenses is from 35 to 5o, and only beneath 35 mm a lens is called a Wide Angle lens.
That would mean that a 40 mm lens is not that unusual. But I'm also now very interested to re-watch Chinatown and check if there are Wide Angle effects visible in the pictures.


You're 100% right, it's commonly admitted that 50mm is the best way to emulate the human eye, so I was surprised to see Chinatown's DP talk about 40mm instead. The first shot of the short I posted here: http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=11122.0 is shot on 50mm. It has the human eye look to me.

Now, anamorphic lenses are another story, since you actually have 2 different focal in one image: a 40mm anamorphic lens has the vertical angle of a 40mm "regular" lens combined with the horizontal angle of a 20mm one. So Chinatown is shot in really wide angle if you ask me, although not as extreme as Touch of Evil.
I never worked with the anamorphic format so I'm just saying what I understand of this. You'll probably get more exact information on these links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anamorphic_format
http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=4690


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« Reply #112 on: January 15, 2012, 01:19:23 PM »

I am absolutely stunned that a "is it a (neo) noir" debate broke out.

Thank god for a bluray of this amazing NEO NOIR.

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« Reply #113 on: January 15, 2012, 01:28:10 PM »

Debate #1 "is it a NOIR?" closed
Debate #2 "is this noir a NEO noir?" open
TH says YES! Waiting for the opponents!!

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« Reply #114 on: January 15, 2012, 04:04:59 PM »

Debate #1 "is it a NOIR?" closed
Debate #2 "is this noir a NEO noir?" open
TH says YES! Waiting for the opponents!!

Debate #1 Closed? are we agreeing that its Not?

Debate #2 I'd have to watch it again

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« Reply #115 on: January 15, 2012, 07:28:06 PM »

DJ, this movie is almost the OUATITW of Noir...
No, it's the OUATITW of PI films...

I wonder if this is what inspired the creation of Rango?

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« Reply #116 on: January 16, 2012, 09:24:24 AM »

As far as I'm concerned, the point of the discussion is: Is Chinatown a great film in part because it is so like a lot of other films that came before it, or is it a great film because it is so different from those other films? For me the answer is obvious, and whether you use particular terms to describe the contrast between classic Hollywood filmmaking and what Towne/Polanski/Alonzo/Evans achieved is unimportant. The important thing is noting the contrast.

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« Reply #117 on: January 16, 2012, 10:16:22 AM »

The important thing is noting the contrast.

So at least it isn't grey.

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« Reply #118 on: January 16, 2012, 11:08:53 AM »

And, again, that contrast is due, in large part, because Towne et. al. are taking inspiration from literary antecedants rather than cinematic ones. In the interviews Towne, Evans, Polanski, even Nicholson gave for the 2007 disc they speak of Chandler and "detective stories." They are unconcerned with any filmic tradition. Towne talks about the historical record. The 2.35 ratio was selected over 1.66 because, apparently, it better represents the scope of normal human vision. Alonzo chose to do as little lighing as possible, and went out of his way to avoid casting shadows (not always successfully). Finally, the original DP for the film was Stanley Cortez, the man who had lensed such noir classics as Secret Beyond the Door and Night of the Hunter. If they had really been going for a noir approach they would have kept him on board--but Evans took a look at his dailies and fired him. At every turn the creative team was going for a new kind of "realism" that would contrast with the movie realism of the past.

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« Reply #119 on: January 22, 2012, 07:07:56 AM »

Have been doing some reading on film style/technique etc. I came across this comment on Chinatown in the following 2002 article by David Bordwell called "Intensified Continuity: Visual Style in Contemporary American Film":

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"During the 1930s, cinematographers increasingly relied on wide-angle lenses, a trend popularized by Citizen Kane (1941), and the normal lens was thereafter redefined as one of 35mm focal length. By the early 1970s, many anamorphic processes allowed filmmakers to use wide-angle lenses, and the lens's characteristic distorting effects (bulging on the frame edges, exaggeration of distances between foreground and background) were flaunted in such influential Panavision films as Carnal Knowledge (1971) and Chinatown (1974). Thereafter, filmmakers used wide-angle lenses to provide expansive establishing shots, medium shots with strong foreground/background interplay, and grotesque close-ups. Roman Polanski, the Coen brothers, Barry Sonnenfeld, and a few other filmmakers made wide-angle lenses the mainstay of their visual design."

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