Feedback Link

Sep 28, 2008

Letterboxing Education on TCM

TCM on cable here in Australia is showing a nice mini-documentary between movies which educates the audience on showing films letterboxed rather than pan and scan as they've previously shown them. People like Martin Scorsese, Curtis Hanson, Michael Mann and the late Sidney Pollack explain why pan and scan is in a sense re-directing a classic film and why letterboxing is giving the entire picture. Good on them. The education process is important. They demonstrate this using both versions of films like the '56 Ben-Hur, Gigi, My Fair Lady and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. The fact that TCM is now showing letterboxed versions where available is also deserving of credit.

Back when I was working for Foxtel, the local cable tv provider, we used to get old ladies (and invariably old ladies) who called up to bitch about the black bars above and below the picture when they watched movies. Much time, effort and many imaginative analogies were used to educate them about letterboxing. Nice to see TCM doing the right thing.

And how fucking cool is Rod Taylor in The Time Machine? (Which is on right now, letterboxed.) He essays the perfect philosopher-warrior-scientist in cinema. The second best one is Aaron Eckhardt in The Core a movie with sometimes ridiculous science but which I enjoy immensely in spite of this, partly for the great ensemble cast (Stanley Tucci, Delroy Lindo, Hillary Swank, et al) and the wondrously silly audacity of the plot.


Cerpts said...

I know exactly the mini-documentary of which you speak. Here in the States they've been showing it for quite some years now; owing to the fact that TCM here has always been 100% uncut and commercial free (as well as always letterboxed). This apparently is not so in England (where our friend Weaverman says TCM has always stood for "Total Crap Movies") and it sounds like TCM hasn't always been 100% in Australia either. This is quite shocking to me to think that here in the States TCM has always shown the most impeccable handling of classic films whereas they apparently have shovelled inferior product away from these shores. Let's hope they finally have decided to make their brand stand for quality worldwide instead of just here at home.

Terry Frost said...

I think that one of the problems TCM has in Australia is that it's attached to TCM Asia which covers a big footprint for places like Hong Kong Singapore and Malaysia, which have ridiculous censorship laws. So we tend to get very old movies on there, with some exceptions. Just the nature of the biz alas.

We get TCM as part of a package with four local movie channels and World Movies, which does a lot of good foreign language flicks. It's also a great channel for me because I keep winning contests on it and they send me seven or eight dvds each time.

Keep the faith, bro.

But the letterboxing doco is a useful tool for viewers and good on them for that.