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Public Discussions

GreenCine Movie Talk
In The Theaters
I just saw it and boy does it...

Reflected Light
Topic by: FGaipa
Posted: September 5, 2005 - 12:01 PM PDT
Last Reply: September 5, 2005 - 11:46 PM PDT

author topic: Reflected Light
post #1  on September 5, 2005 - 12:01 PM PDT  
I don't know exactly where it came from, or why so late. It's kind of sad in one with a substantial DVD buying habit recently broken by GreenCine membership. But just a few weeks ago I became intensely aware the difference between stories experienced via light bounced off a screen and via light shot straight at me (and you) through sheets of glass or plastic. Watching DVDs, we're still watching the boob tube. Whatever its size or shape, we're gazing into a huge complicated light bulb. For a blunt take on just how extreme the difference is, look over your shoulder in a theater straight into the projector -- at the tiny image (doesn't work everywhere). As one of our local critics, Mick LaSalle said just today, to really see beauty and truth you have to go "into the cave and stare at shadows." A reflected image is a sort of lie, a daydream. Blink and it's gone: no fast backward. Seek truth in lies. LaSalle was talking about Garbo, and maybe what I mean is easier to grasp in black and white but it's no less present in color.

Three or four years ago, I watched my Region 3 of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Kairo -- the only way to see it then and for a long time afterwards. I had huge expectations, picked up here or there. I'd seen every other Kiyoshi available. The fact that it screened at Toronto the very day of 9/11 then vanished from our shores added to my anticipation. Late one night, all in one sitting, no food or other nonsense, I scrunched as close to my 27" as I could, trying to simulate a theater experience. Some films etch themselves so indelibly that even though I know that I'd benefit, that I'd see even more in them, I just can't bear to watch a second time, or at least not too soon. It's a stupid fear of boredom, of too-sharp familiarity, or maybe of discovering what I first perceived is gone or existed only in my imagination. But now I've seen, last week in a Landmark Theater, the trailer for Kairo's delayed American release as Pulse. It's not an awful trailer. Except for the airplane shot that probably delayed the film's release here, it gives away nothing important. The dreaded movie-voice guy who desecrates so many art film trailers is blessedly absent. It's not morbidly boring like the current trailer for Tony Takitani that suggests Haruki Murakami's humor will be entirely absent. It's none of that, but it is reflected light. Even if Kairo wasn't in some sense about reflected light, reflected light within reflected light, reflected light about reflected light, I know I'll have now to see it a second time.

I'll never have the space or money for a home projection system. I'll go on buying and renting, even passing up screenings I can catch on DVD. Nonetheless, I know what I know.
post #2  on September 5, 2005 - 1:00 PM PDT  
There are lots of arguments for seeing a film in a theater as opposed to at home on a DVD, but I don't know if the reflected/projected light concept could be considered one of them. Either way what you are seeing is your brain's interpretation of light that reaches the cells of your retina. The mechanics of how that light reaches your retina, I think, is of secondary importance to some other concepts that you've brought up.

Screen Size/Direction
Movies - Big, Up usually
TV - Smaller, eye-level or down usually

Movies - communal experience outside one's control
TV - can be solitary, or if others are present, they could be "preselected"

Direct Experience
Movies - ephemeral, although repeat viewings are possible
TV/DVD - as you say, you can pause, rewind, step forward and back...

Trying to differentiate the experience of seeing a film based strictly on whether it's projected from a source like a cathode ray tube as opposed to projected on a reflective surface seems like an effete intellectual exercise... it distracts from the actual practical differences between the theater experience and the home video experience, and if you pursue the logic to the end, you can only draw the conclusion that staring at the sun is a bad idea...

I'm not trying to denigrade what you are saying. I think you've made an interesting philosophical statement, but one that has many practical pitfalls if you want others to understand how you are feeling about the experience.

Each time you view a new film you create a personal relationship between you and that particular film. The different aspects of that relationship will depend on a lot of things, and each repeated viewing in whole or in part might change that relationship somehow.

Personally, I don't think the single factor of how the images of that film reaches your retina, other than image quality, is going to affect your feelings very much.

What if you go see Kairo but you have a really bad projectionist and the film is a bit out-of-focus? Well, that's one type of experience and depending on your personal relationship with that particular film, it might be good or bad...

In India, if you're out in the countryside, they often show movies in the village square on a big piece of fabric stretched on a frame. Some people sit on one side of the screen, and some people sit on the other side. Is this good or bad? Some movie theaters are so big and nowadays they've added that "stadium seating" rake to the seats, so if you have to sit up in the back rows, it's almost like watching a big TV in a dark room. Is this good or bad? As they say, to each his own...
post #3  on September 5, 2005 - 1:35 PM PDT  
I was struck by the difference over the weekend. I've never actually seen an anime on a large screen, just tv or computer. I think it's the large size that makes the experience. You notice more detail. *shrug*
post #4  on September 5, 2005 - 1:39 PM PDT  
The Richelieu, a small screening room that used to be part of the Richelieu Hotel at Van Ness and Geary, SF, had an early rear projection system, probably something like the situation you describe from India. Though I barely recall, and the prints were probably 16mm in poor condition anyway, the experience was still of projected/reflected light.

Though the delivery system loses importance as a narrative enfolds us, I'm sure the difference between TV and theater images is detectible to the naked eye. At least with today's technology, a conventional theater screen and an LCD of equal size and resolution would yield different experiences.

(Not quite the same subject, but I used to be hyper-annoyed at the granularity of digital projection. Now I'm jaded and seldom notice.)
post #5  on September 5, 2005 - 1:57 PM PDT  
I'm two-thirds done transfering my movies-seen lists from WordPerfect and Word into Filemaker Pro. Yesterday I ran into "Laputa," item three thousand something, two-and-a-three-quarters stars (out of four: very low) 1989 at the Roxie (SF). What was wrong with me?! Was this something other than Miyazaki? Somebody else's take on Swift's Laputa? Or maybe just a stupid edit and dub?

Actually I don't agree. I edited from the original post here my opinion that of all things animation, or in particular anime since so much of it is designed for the small screen, suffers least on a TV. I've seen nearly all the Studio Ghiblies and many other anime on theater screens.

> On September 5, 2005 - 1:35 PM PDT Battie wrote:
I've never actually seen an anime on a large screen, just tv or computer. I think it's the large size that makes the experience. You notice more detail. *shrug*
> ---------------------------------

post #6  on September 5, 2005 - 2:10 PM PDT  
> On September 5, 2005 - 1:39 PM PDT FGaipa wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> The Richelieu, a small screening room that used to be part of the Richelieu Hotel at Van Ness and Geary, SF, had an early rear projection system, probably something like the situation you describe from India.

Well, the difference is if you're sitting "behind" the screen the image is mirror backwards so you would have trouble reading signs and credits and stuff like that.

In rear-projection theaters, I think the image is reflected off a front-coated mirror once or put through some optics to flip it horizontally.
post #7  on September 5, 2005 - 2:28 PM PDT  
I think with comedies and horror films a lot is lost on TV/DVD because the strong reactions of audience members (laughing, collective intake of breath, screams) I think are integral to the experience that the director intended. Some comedies especially are timed to allow for a pause after a joke to let audiences laugh... TV made up for this by adding a laugh-track or filming with a live audience. Even weepies where a lot of audiences cry could be good, but audiences are so jaded nowadays that some people laugh or shrug at the sad or moving parts.

On the other hand, artsy, dense, or serious films often suffer from audience members who are puzzled or bored, who start rustling around, talking to each other, calling people on cell-phones, etc. Or even laughing at inappropriate places. If you are one of the few people in the audience who "understands" the film or is captivated by it this can be very annoying. Best to catch the film on a Wednesday night when few other people are attending the screening, or try to catch it on DVD.

Of course some film fans are rather misanthropic and would like nothing more than all audience members to stay shushed, while other theater-goers love the communal aspect... some films are actually more fun if there are audience members talking back at it.

I rather enjoyed seeing The Sixth Sense in a theater because there was a guy sitting behind us who was a real scaredy cat. "Oh no don't go in there no no don't go in there YAAAAAAAGH!"

Of course good films could probably benefit from both types of screenings. Maybe you SHOULD always try to see your favorite films both in theaters and on DVDs...
post #8  on September 5, 2005 - 11:46 PM PDT  
Some of this is beside the point, and it's partly my own fault for slipping in a red herring about "fast backward." I really meant to address just the physical experience of light bounced off a screen, as opposed to shot straight at us through glass or plastic.

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