Friday reviews: 17 November 2023
Saltburn, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and Five Nights at Freddy’s are in cinemas, The Killer is on Netflix
I saw two films in cinemas yesterday and only one of them was a serious film – and it’s probably not the one you are thinking of.
First, a thought or two about aspect ratios. I named this newsletter Funerals & Snakes after a comment by veteran Fritz Lang in Godard’s Contempt where he said that widescreen cinema was “only good for funerals and snakes”. It’s a good gag but he’s wrong.
Widescreen cinema does open up the world, opens up landscapes, opens up relationships between people. I used to love it when the masking at the cinema would click into action and go wider because you were going to see something truly epic. It’s as if the movie was going to throw its arms around you.
Now epic movies have become taller – think of IMAX framing as opposed to CinemaScope – and I’m not sure it has the same psychological impact. If any.
Emerald Fennell’s new film Saltburn, the follow-up to her surprise hit Promising Young Woman from 2021, is presented in the 1.33:1 ratio – the proportions of old televisions and of a standard 35mm film frame – and it’s purpose is to show the characters as hemmed in, constrained, imprisoned. It’s a constipated aspect ratio but like so many aspects of Fennell’s films, it’s too obvious and at the same time too clever by half.
The film is set in 2006, before ubiquitous pocket computers arrived and ruined everything, especially storytelling.
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