Friday, 17 June 2011

Suspicion Torments my Heart ....Remastered.

Unquestionably, the three most important inventions of the 20th century were the automobile, the hot shower and the LP record in no particular order. In terms of sound transmission, we experienced the 78rpm LP (maybe), the Cadilliac of sound propagation post-1960s the 33rpm LP with the added bonus of its cover art, and its younger brothers, the Single (hit song and B-side filler)and the EP Extended Play (4 desirable singles....hopefully).

A minor footnote to the 70s was the 8 Track Car Cassette which supposed marked the demise of Stereo Sound, which (if I recall) was an 8 track sound breakdown distributed to a battery of speakers strategically situated inside the vehicle. Definitely the Edsel of sound inventions since the 8 Track unspooled before you turned on the ignition, and the catalogue was limited to Crosby, Stills and Nash and Blue Cheer (and you would only remember the latter if you attended Hells Angels bar room stomps)and more bloody Crosby Stills and Nash on-the-back-porch ditties of conscience eg Teach Your Children Well, Ohio, etc.

The Stereo Cassette soon followed, combining auto-mobility and sound youth-identity, but only if you installed a kick-ass Pioneer cassette in your Kombi van. Thence began the digital revolution too familiar to warrant description.

There are undoubtedly forums which discuss the merits and demerits of the digital remastering process - the journey from vinyl to chip, from film to Blu-Ray - so I will go on record here, and state that vinyl transferred to CD or chip loses a lot of warmth, especially when saxaphone and piano are concerned. And that colourisation is an abomination since film noir completely loses its raison d'etre.

However, there are always positive examples of the film to digital trip, namely Sergei Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible Part 2 The Boyar's Plot produced in 1945. Eisenstein (and other Russian directors such as Pudovkin and Dziga-Vertov) are best remembered for their theoretical views about montage editing. Academic film theory journals of the late 70s and 80s discussed montage theory in excruciating Marxist and neo-Marxist detail issue after issue, making the life of film theory students a pure misery. On the brighter side, we watch with pleasure films directed by Brian De Palma, that most literate of directors, who cannot help slipping in homage sequences to some of Eisenstein's killer montage scenes.

I was completely taken with the digital blacks, whites, shades of grey and elongated shadow effects in the Ivan dvd, which are both sharp, effective and true to the directors intentions. The bad Ivan - his suppurating suspicions towards all and sundry - receives full justice in this digital remastering. The eyes hold the secret of Ivan's bloody intentions, and they bring to mind that last photo of Lenin as he wrestled in silence with the succession issue. ie Lenin's so-called Last Testament and the ensuing petty bureacratic warfare with Lenin's drab wife.

The other abiding impression of Ivan Part 11 is the court and wardrobe design, the detailed attention lavished on jewellery, furs and wigs on which Eisenstein must have lavished a large part of his budget. The net result is that Ivan's world is portrayed in purely Asiatic terms with its dance and choral sequences, 'bad element' court advisers and all round factional/family fear and suspicion. Little wonder Stalin had the film shelved after a late night viewing at his dacha with Beria, Molotov etc. If I were Stalin when experiencing a black episode, Eisenstein would probably been consigned to the Gulag, since Ivan 11 accurately depicts conditions in the Red Court during his incumbency.

Rather, Stalin told Eisenstein that he portrayed Ivan as 'too indecisive, like Hamlet', and his only mistakes were'...not cutting the throats of the last five feudal families', and then "letting God get in the way and spending a long time repenting and praying'. (1) This discussion marked Stalin's final separation from his youthful experiences as a seminarian.

And I leave the last word to Jonathon Jones of The Guardian HERE on montage revolutionaries:

Without Lenin, we wouldn't enjoy Hollywood half as much.

(1) Stalin and his Hangmen Donald Rayfied 2005 Random House Page 433

And thanks to Elvis.

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