Sunday, January 13, 2008

Preminger on HDNet Movies tonight

HDNet Movies is bowing hi-def transfers of Anatomy of a Murder and In Harm's Way tonight, the first and last of Preminger's "institutional" epics, as everything comes up Otto for the new year. Not a barn-burner of a post after ten days away (some of them deep in Huckabee country, which has a Baptist church for every resident), but you go with what you got.

I did see Preminger's Saint Joan at Film Forum last week. The image was variable, the sound buzzy and distracting, and the film so-so, almost a storybook version of the tale for literate adults (Graham Greene compressed George Bernard Shaw's play, a lifelong favorite of the director). The uncertain but compelling Jean Seberg would find her feet in Preminger's followup, Bonjour Tristesse, unveiled in a spectacular print right afterwards. Joan's highlight was Richard Widmark in an almost Jerry Lewis-like portrayal of the weakling Dauphin, an out-there performance he regarded as a near career-killer, one that pretty much chased him back into rancher and bureaucratic roles (I recall only one other comic part, the feeble Doris Day picture The Tunnel of Love). Too bad; I like Widmark, but with his perpetual sourpuss he always acted like he was nursing a peptic ulcer, and his lightening up made for interesting viewing.

TCM's Skidoo airing, that looked ripped from a decaying VHS source, was a distinct disappointment, with terrible pan/scan of the anamorphic image and hollow audio. Bad doggie, Robert Osborne. But watching it as a kind of ur-Sopranos, with Jackie Gleason's game performance as another menopausal gangster named Tony, made some sense of it all. And the opening meta-appearance of In Harm's Way, as Gleason and Carol Channing squabble over the TV remote control, and Harry Nilsson's sung end credits buttoned it up nicely.


Jeffrey Allen Rydell said...

What service do you use?

I'm on Time-Warner Cable HD, and can't bring myself to watch HDNET Movies anymore, as T-W downrezzes the original signal to the point of manifesting aggressive crawling crap on any smooth surface.

The service is even worse for concerts on other channels (total image crash every time a stage light flashes the lens), and is pretty much acceptable for late night talk shows and little else.


Robert Cashill said...

Agreed wholeheartedly on the de-merits of TW Cable HD. My parents, in NJ, get a glorious HD signal through Optimum Online, plus Monsters HD, Kung Fu HD, etc. And they watch very little of it, while I would probably not leave my house if I had a better channel lineup and more importantly a stronger signal coming in. It's aggrvatingly poor...but I hope someone enjoyed the Preminger broadcasts, which (almost) approached the quality of my DVDs on TW Cable HD.

Jeffrey Allen Rydell said...

Well, it's weird because the detail's noticeably above that of Standard-Def, but the 'one size fits all' re-compression is well below the quality of a well-authored DVD, so what are you left with?

Very frustrating, and if these are the sorts of results we can expect from downloads, I really hope Blu-ray takes off.

And I'd actually prefer downloads, provided the quality was there, but I'm afraid they'll skew in favor of smaller file sizes, with attendant faster load time.