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January 23, 2008:

IT DON’T MEAN A THING IF IT AIN’T GOT THAT SWING

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I can’t just sit here and dawdle, Amaryllis, I must write these here notes. I mean, I just stared at a blank page for five full minutes. In times like those I find it best to just dive in and start typing and whatever comes out comes out. Currently, this is what’s coming out. You see, now that I have a few sentences, I’m in the swing of things. And, as we all know, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. Doo wa doo wa doo wa doo wa doo wa doo wa doo. Yes, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, but happily we’ve got the swing so I’m quite certain it means a thing. Wheat the HELL am I talking about? WHEAT the HELL? What in tarnation does that mean? Wheat the hell am I talking about? That makes no sense. Perhaps if it was “the hell I am talking about wheat” – now that makes perfect sense. Speaking of perfect sense or, at the very least, perfect cents, yesterday was quite a long day. First of all, I got up at six in the morning. At seven I went back to bed and then got up at ten. An hour later, I was merrily writing away and did most of my pages before toddling off to do a couple of errands. I came home, cooked some halibut, and had some rice with it, then I wrote another page, then I did some more errands and then I sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I watched a very long motion picture on DVD entitled El Cid, which, for those of you who don’t speak Spanish, means The Cid. When I first saw El Cid, back on its original release at the glorious Carthay Circle Theater in glorious 70mm and six-track stereophonic sound, I was very impressed (I believe I wrote about it in one of the Kritzer books), but didn’t actually love the film as I loved most epics of that nature. But, over the years I’ve grown to really like it a lot. It has wonderful spectacle, excellent direction by Anthony Mann, gorgeous photography, a rousing score by Miklos Rozsa, and the writing, while not great, is certainly fine. Whatever one thinks of Mr. Heston, he’s very good in this film. When I first saw it, I really didn’t like Sophia Loren, but, again, over the years I’ve grown to like her performance. And, of course, any film that features the great Frank Thring, is immediately on my A list. This new DVD from Miramax has been one of the most wanted titles in the history of DVD, right from the very beginning. It was promised several times through several companies but it never arrived. In the meantime, those who loved the film could get DVDs from either Japan or France – those DVDs were in the 2:35 ratio and enhanced for widescreen TVs. The French DVD lacked the overture and was in 2.0 stereo. The Japanese disc sounds like 5.1 and has the overture and was also in that ratio and enhanced. I have them both. I’d heard not great things about the transfer from Miramax, so it was with some trepidation that I began watching. The good news is it’s not a disaster. The bad news is, it’s not what it could or should be, both clarity-wise and color-wise. Clarity-wise, it is a 1000% better than both import DVDs. But, for this transfer they clearly used a 35mm internegative, instead of doing the restoration from the eight perf Technirama negative, and it shows. It’s just never quite sharp enough. Then there’s the color. It’s not terrible, but there’s too much brown and so the colors don’t pop as they should and did way back then and certainly in the 16mm IB Technicolor print that I owned. Where it really suffers are in the really saturated colors – the deep reds (especially in the costumes) and the deep blues. Yes, there are reds and pretty blues, but the brown bias robs them of their richness, and the brown bias also renders the skin tones pallid and pasty and flat. In comparison, the new DVD has better color than the Japanese, which has a green cast to it, but the French DVD, despite its lousy quality, has slightly truer color because it’s slightly more saturated – not perfect, mind you, but slightly better. The contrast on the new DVD is milky and washy. Keep in mind that the color and contrast could have been fixed in the telecine room, especially if hey had an IB Tech print as reference. As it is, if you love the film, this DVD will do. I do hope at some point someone will invest the money and do a restoration from the original negative – IF it exists and IF it’s usable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could strike a new 70mm print? That’s the way these films should be seen. In the extras, they completely side step whether the original camera negative exists. So, a mixed bag, but I’m happy to have it, and the film was great fun to watch.

What am I, Ebert and Roeper all of a sudden? Well, why don’t we all click on the Unseemly Button below because frankly it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing and I think we’ve lost the swing in this section.

Have I mentioned that it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing? After the movie, I went over what I’d written earlier, made some changes, added some stuff, cut some stuff, then printed out the pages.

Today, I shall Xerox said pages and deliver them to my muse Margaret. I shall then have lunch with cousin Lori, and then I’ll probably write two or three pages, and that will be that. I then have several DVDs to watch and watch them I shall.

Tomorrow will be a writing day, and a working lunch day with Mr. Kevin Spirtas. We have to buckle down Winsocki and plan out a schedule.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, Xerox, deliver, lunch, write, and watch a DVD or three. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Ask BK Day, the day in which you get to ask me or any dear reader any old question you like and we get to give any old answer we like. So, let’s have loads of lovely questions and loads of lovely answers and loads of lovely postings, and do try to remember that it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. Doo wa indeed.

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