News Trims

With two days left in the 5th Toronto After Dark Film Festival, the last films in the lineup are perhaps the most controversial – Steven R. Monroe’s remake of Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave (1978), screening tonight, and Tom Six’ wacked-out Human Centipede (2010), which closes the festival on Friday.

Grave may be the more divisive of the two because Zarchi’s original was, according to the director, an anti-rape film. The digest version of its genesis: when Zarchi and a friend brought a young rape victim to their local station, she was treated with contempt, and his seething outrage at the police’s callousness was channeled into a script that focused on a young woman’s brutal revenge for the ongoing assaults she suffered at an isolate lake resort.

Zarchi kept that backstory secret until he recorded a commentary for Elite’s 2003 DVD, and while Grave is an ugly film, it’s supposed to present rape as a despicable act; the revenge is pure dramatic payback. The screen story is fairly straightforward, but I wonder if the reportedly grittier revenge sequences in Monroe’s 2010 version will be regarded as tonal updates for contemporary audiences accustomed to nasty images, or will stop the film cold for the sadistic minutia inherent to torture porn sequences, and cause any anti-rape message in the film’s subtext to virtually evaporate. There is a point where style can smother a message – presuming a message was there in the first place.

In a segment of Talking Movies, the BBC series recently focused on A Film Unfinished (2010), Yael Hersonski’s documentary on a planned propaganda film the Nazis were making as a ‘record’ of Jewish hypocrisy for future generations of Third Reichians. Shot in the Warsaw Ghetto, the project was abandoned and sat undisturbed for 70 years, including raw footage that hadn’t been edited into any assembly version.

The BBC’s report features an interview with Hersonski, and David Fenkel from Oscilloscope Pictures, the company releasing the film, in spite of it being slapped with an R rating by the MPAA. The restrictive rating, and some editorial comparisons with the PG-13 rated 1998 documentary The Last Days, are covered in this Cinematical piece.

Lastly, the Digital Bits’ Bill Hunt weighs in again on the issue of scrubbing out film grain in overly sanitized Blu-ray transfers, although this time he was given an opportunity to visit Universal and speak with their technicians regarding the disappointment film fans have expressed towards Spartacus (1960), Out of Africa (1985), and Flash Gordon (1980).

“… The reality is that market for most of these titles - especially catalog BD titles like Flash Gordon - is really driven by enthusiasts, many of whom know the film better than all of us (in the room) and probably already own multiple copies on DVD and even laserdisc. Enthusiasts are willing to buy the film again on Blu-ray, but if they're going to pay $29.99 or $39.99, they demand the highest possible A/V quality - meaning one that's true to the original film presentation - and they at least want all of the previous DVD extras to carry over. So the transfer and mastering work really needs to be done with these enthusiasts in mind.”

That’s a pretty clear statement on why people get fussy over transfers – music or film – and why technicians and studio execs shouldn’t be swayed by the wow factor of new scrubbing software and restoration tricks. They key is finding a balance that removes some of the pesky flaws without ruining the visual design of the cinematographer and director.

The same goes for sound mixes, particularly those 5.1 remixes that weren’t always the best. A personal example is Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977), of which the best sound mix is on the old Image laserdisc; it’s Dolby Pro Logic, but it’s far punchier than the 5.1 remix on the old Anchor Bay / Blue Underground reissue.

Hunt also cites two related pieces regarding James Cameron’s involvement in fixing some flaws in Aliens (1986) for the film’s upcoming BR release, and Columbia’s new HD master for David Lean’s Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). (The only shot in Aliens that’s been a sore spot for more than 20 years is the crash-and-rollover of the rescue ship, after an alien creature kills the crew and causes the ship to nearly smother the survivors hoping for a flight back to the mothership. The optical processing is grainy and blotchy, and unlike other shots in the film, the lighting discrepancies make it clear the actors were filmed in front of a blue screen.)

Mark R. Hasan, Editor


Copyright © mondomark