But even the Siren has to admit that the news isn't all bad for those of us who don't want the latest Pirates of the Carribbean on high-def. Glenn has some excellent news about this new version of Black Narcissus. Click over and see what he has to say, and the very revealing screen captures he's posted. It prompted a mini-discussion of Technicolor, and Jack Cardiff, and the Siren's signed edition of Michael Powell's marvelous autobiography, A Life in Movies. And that, in turn, prompted this anecdote of the week.
It's from the section in Powell's book about filming The Thief of Baghdad. Together with cameramen like Cardiff, Georges Périnal and Christopher Challis, Powell made the most beautiful Technicolor films anyone will ever see. (And one thing the Siren likes about Powell's books is that he always gives due credit to the DP.) This, however, did not mean Powell worked free from interference by Natalie Kalmus, the "color advisor" moviemakers were saddled with if they wanted to film in Technicolor. She was universally regarded as a pain in the ass, having a meddlesome, high-handed personality coupled with dreadful taste. But producer Alexander Korda, while talented, was no picnic either, as we shall see. Powell says that although "my name is on the picture, as one of the directors...the film is really the swan song of the Korda brothers--Alex, Vincent and Zoli [Zoltan]."
I had never directed a colour film, but I found the crossover easy. "Make the colour work for you, don't start working for the colour," I said to myself.
And when Natalie Kalmus was firing off her cliches at a grumbling Vincent Korda as she stalked about the big sets on the lot, I said to myself, "We are not making coloured picture postcards for Technicolor."
Mrs. Kalmus, naturally, went by the book. She was not an artist, and the sight of one of Matisse's canvases of that period would probably have sent her to bed for a week. Alex [Korda] knew even less about painting, although he pretended he did, and Vincent had bought him a Manet to hang on one of his walls. I have been with him and Vincent and Nuisance and Frank Walker, the chief of construction, as they walked around the huge pink set of the marketplace and looked at the elaborate foreground miniatures of the city on the hill which were being put in place. Alex, on principle, was never content with anything his brothers did, and he would grumble: "Vincent! What do you think this set is supposed to be?"
"It is the palace, Alex."
"It's a piece of shit. Tear it down and rebuild it four times as big and paint it blue."
For years around the Siren's former Harlem household, which she shared with two gay men she misses a great deal, a major catchphrase was "Four times as big, and paint it pink."
Here are some other pieces the Siren has been catching up on around the blogosphere:
Raymond de Felitta has switched gears to blog the filming of his new movie, City Island, right here in New York with Alan Arkin, Steven Strait and Emily Mortimer. Andy Garcia plays an everyman, a prison guard with yearnings for art--a type of art that is dear to the Siren. Already there is a lot to enjoy, such as this post about Arkin.
Bob Westal has been devoting himself to the fabulous Michael Caine, one of the Siren's favorite actors of any era. Start here and follow to the magazine. Bob's got clips, reviews and career retrospective. But Bob, where is the love for Caine in Mona Lisa?
Over at Goatdogblog Michael Phillips was blogging his European travels, but the Oscar From the Outside In project is still in full swing. Nick's Flick Picks has the one the Siren was looking forward to, Crash vs. All Quiet on the Western Front, and the Siren was delighted that there was not unmitigated hate for Crash. I still haven't seen Crash, mind you, but I love a contrarian viewpoint, even a partial one. And anything nice about Crash is contrarian. And now The Film Experience has Cimarron vs. Million Dollar Baby. Adding--the Siren's new favorite catchphrase, from Michael discussing the thematic complexities of Cimarron: "Did they mean anything except 'look at this huge budget'?"
Speaking of contrarian, here's Peter Nelhaus: "I know there are some who love El Dorado. Too often, I got the feeling that Rio Bravo was a river that should have been best visited once." The Siren feels the same way about El Dorado; definitely lesser Hawks. I have been waiting to hear Peter's opinion of Lee Server's Robert Mitchum biography, and here it is, in tandem with reviews of El Dorado and Man in the Middle.
Dennis Cozzalio, who once met John Belushi, has an open forum on Animal House going.
Kimberly Lindbergs has great news about a CD release of movie music by John Barry.
The Siren tries to read every word of Greenbriar Picture Shows for its impeccable research and intelligence. John McElwee always has something different to add to the discussion. Three posts the Siren has particularly loved recently. There is this two-parter on the wild and woolly experiments with movie theaters in the late 1920s, and how early widescreen was snuffed out in the 1930s, darn near taking the careers of Raoul Walsh and John Wayne with it. And then there is this sympathetic look at not just the tragedy, but also the work of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.
Noir of the Week tackles the best film poor doomed Barbara Payton ever made, via her biographer John O'Dowd. Talk about a star-crossed dame.
Finally, Ivan at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is the antidote to the sour sentiments expressed here a few weeks ago about Red Skelton. And Ivan just wrote up Anthony Mann's "historical noir" Reign of Terror (aka The Black Book), which the Siren has waiting for her in a stack of recorded DVDs even as we speak. She recorded it off TCM in hopes of getting a better look at John Alton's cinematography, but no dice. Ivan reports that it's the same crappy print that's everywhere else.
Which brings us right back where we started. I know I'm a curmudgeon, but I have company. Blu-Ray, schmu-ray.