Six Pack: Six Modern Films Shot in Old-Timey Formats

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 19, 2012

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Gus Van Sant's "Elephant."

Baraka (1992): Technology evolves, but the appeal of the old, at least with a precious few, remains. The immersive, high-resolution widescreen format colloquially known as Todd-AO—named for the company that produced it, which still exists, but now mostly works in sound—was launched around the same time as CinemaScope in the mid-’50s. Oklahoma! was the first produced in its version of the 65mm format, and others included South Pacific, Cleopatra and The Sound of Music. It faded around the ‘70s, but Ron Fricke, when making this Koyaanisqatsi-esque visual poem, brought it back. Fricke’s recent Samsara was shot on regular 65mm, but more on that later down the list.

Lumiérre and Company (1995): For the centennial of film itself, 41 directors—among them Theo Angelopoulos, Michael Haneke, Abbas Kiarostami, Spike Lee and Jacques Rivette—were given an assignment: shoot a 52-second film with an antique Cinématographe, one of the first film cameras. Some are interesting, some are slight, but the one by David Lynch is a corker.

Elephant (2003): The “Academy ratio” (1.37:1) is roughly the size of old TVs and was, up until CinemaScope, the dominant shape of the projected film frame. Some modern films perversely bring it back, as did Gus Van Sant with both Elephant and Paranoid Park, Kelly Reichardt with Meek’s Cutoff and Andrea Arnold’s new Wuthering Heights.

The Good German (2006): Digital convertee Steven Soderbergh has of late talked ill of shooting on film. He didn’t feel that way when he made this laborious homage to WWII-era cinema, shot 1945-style: all back lots and modified L.A. locations, no radio microphones, only incandescent lighting and old, enormous, heavy cameras.

The Master (2012): Todd-AO 65mm is no more, but regular 65mm every now and then rears its gorgeous, high-resolution head. Paul Thomas Anderson’s much-anticipated latest was shot in 65mm, and some can see it projected that way. (But not Philadelphia!) Ditto Samsara, The New World, Atlantis, The Lost Continent, Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, Little Buddha and Far and Away.

Computer Chess (2013): Andrew Bujalski, whose “mumblecore” indies are shot on glorious 16mm, finally goes video with his upcoming fourth feature. Then again, it’s not just video—it’s modified video cameras from the ‘80s.

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