Haines Logo Text
Haines Logo Image
July 5, 2015:

DISSERTATION ON THE STATE OF THE BLUES

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I had a perfectly pleasant fourth of July Independence Day and I hope all of you dear readers did, too.  I did get just eight hours of sleep but then this yearly parade they do on my street happened earlier than usual and the noise was, well, boisterous.  After it passed, I was going to try and go back to bed, but my very thoughtful neighbors and their equally thoughtful guests (they ALWAYS seem to have seven or eight of them hanging around) decided to come outside and talk loudly.  That kept up until I finally just got up.  And, like clockwork, as soon as I was up, they all went inside never to be heard from again.  Note to neighbors: You really are irritating.

Once up, I did some stuff on the computer, then went for a two and a half mile jog, running my opening patter about five times in a row.  Once back home, I just relaxed and sat on my couch like so much fish.

Yesterday, I decided to watch the Blu and Ray of The King and I, because there is still the endless raging controversy about how botched the transfer is and how there’s a blue wash over the entire image and how Fox should be ashamed of themselves.  I defended the transfer during the first of it, trying to explain the look of Fox films of that era, but especially the look of films that cameraman Leon Shamroy shot.  No one would hear any of it because they’re able to discern from screen shots (yes, most of the complaining coming from people who – wait for it – didn’t own the disc) how an entire transfer looks.  But the problem is the screen shots being presented (maybe ten in all) are carefully chosen – now, I can go into any film and find one frame that may look odd out of context – ANY film from ANY era.  It’s complete folly.  But I got tired of posting and the others won the day and actually stopped people from buying the disc.  I’d only sampled about thirty minutes when I got the disc, so I thought it would be fun to see it all the way through.

Does the transfer have the blues?  No.  No.  And no.  Watch the opening scene.  There is blue where there’s supposed to be blue – but a wash over everything?  What silliness.  Anna’s dress is gray, her gloves are white, her hair is red and her skin tones are perfectly natural for the make-up of that era.  Reds are red, greens are green.  None of that could be if there was a blue wash over everything.  At the end of the sequence we cut into an optical – a long optical that lasts all the way until Anna enters the palace.  In the OPTICAL, the dress takes on a bluish tinge and the blue is boosted in the street shots – all a product of the optical.  Then we go inside the palace.  Once you cut to the closer shot of the King, there is actually not a trace of blue anywhere.  Why?  Because that room is rendered in yellows, reds, golds, greens.  Oops.  Where’d that blue wash go?  Oh yeah, we haven’t SEEN a blue wash yet.  Then we go into the wives chamber.  Ah, now the wags might say, look blue wash.  And yet – it’s dusk out and Mr. Shamroy does his trademark and beautiful blue lighting here – he continues to do it throughout the film but only in appropriate scenes.  If you look at the bed, there’s blue lighting coming through the slatted windows there.  If you look elsewhere you’ll see obvious blue lighting coming through other slatted windows.  What you won’t see is blue washed over any of the other colors in the scene and there are plenty of them, nor will you EVER EVER see blue on the skin tones – except if Anna passes by a blue front light, which happens once.  If it were a wash, her face would be blue throughout – watch the scene with that in mind and you’ll see how beautiful this transfer is.  Shamroy does front light the dress so that it’s a bit of blue is added to the gray, but Anna’s skin tones remain perfect.  Once the camera cuts to outside the window for the last half of the song, that entire shot is an optical – still looks pretty good and the lighting is so obvious.  It’s beautiful lighting and Shamroy was known for it.

The rest of the film is all like that.  People are using as a comparison, the previous DVD transfer, which was, in a word, horrid – all orange and looking nothing like this film should look.  You can never judge the look of a film from a previous video transfer and just assume the previous was correct because that’s what you’re used to.  People have pointed to the ballet and the masks that have a blue tinge to them.  They do, which is correct.  NOTHING around them does, just the masks themselves.  Does anyone honestly think that someone went in and made the masks only blue?  Seriously.  And in one shot, one of the dancers costumes is blue on the left side due to the light hitting it, but not blue on the right side where the blue light isn’t hitting it.  Funny how that works.  And again, you couldn’t have all those gorgeous other colors with a blue wash.

Fox has been dealt a low blow by these experts and they deserve a full apology.  Even I got caught up in it a little, not willing to fully commit to it being a terrific transfer, so let me just make amends right here and now and say that this IS a terrific transfer with terrific color.  Only ONE reviewer got it right – he’d read all the crap about the blue wash, and he actually took the time to analyze the lighting in Hello, Young Lovers, running it in slow motion and he saw that it WAS the lighting in every shot, with no blue wash.  The other reviewers just fell in line, afraid to buck the trending opinion, which I find completely nauseating.  Anyone who loves The King and I should be happy with this disc.  The detail, outside of the opticals, is really nice, as is the contrast.  People are also saying it’s too dark.  Is it?  No.  No.  And no.  Is it darker than the way too bright previous transfer?  Absolutely positively.  And there you have my dissertation on the state of the blues.  They said the same thing about Desk Set and Wild River from Fox and they are just as wrong about those films – those are both stunning transfers with perfect, saturated, 1950s color.  Accept no substitutes.   I have about fifteen of Mr. Shamroy’s personal shooting scripts, including The King and I.  Here’s the cover of that one, with his signature in pencil.

king and i script

After that, it was time to attend the partay at neighbor Tony Slide and Bob Gitt’s house.  They always have a wonderful array of folks, this gathering being a bit smaller in size.  I didn’t eat much at all – mostly totally non-caloric things like green beans, fruit, corn (a corn salad), and just about an ounce of a very good chicken dish.  Given the jog, I’d basically had no calories at all for the day.  I knew I couldn’t do that, so I knew I’d make a snack when I got home.  We had the always-youthful octogenarian, Norman Lloyd, we had the equally youthful and delightful Marsha Hunt, actor James Karen (so good in Poltergeist), cousins Dee Dee and Alan, my pal composer John Scott, and a few others.  I’d intended to only stay an hour but I had such a good time I was there for a full three hours.

After that, I walked home.  Fireworks were still going on and I could see a few of them from CBS Radford, which is where they do the big Studio City display.  I made a couple of eggs in the low-cal no-fat tortillas and that was my real meal.  Then I just played on the Internet.

Today, I shall hopefully arise after a good night’s beauty sleep, I’ll definitely jog, I’ll relax, and then I shall be on my way to The Federal for sound check and show.

Tomorrow we start planning the next show, casting, and getting our musical director.  And I’ve got a lot of meetings and meals, errands and whatnot, and some shows to see.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, do a jog, relax, have a sound check and do a show.  Today’s topic of discussion: It’s free-for-all day, the day in which you dear readers get to make with the topics and we all get to post about them.  So, let’s have loads of lovely topics and loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to have written my dissertation on the state of the blues.

Search BK's Notes Archive:
 
© 2001 - 2015 by Bruce Kimmel. All Rights Reserved