Recently my whole existence has changed. You see, my household has acquired a 47″ flat screen HD monitor (TV? I guess you could call it that), and our minds are being blown. The question is, is HD really better? It certainly is … strange. Sports? Sure. Amazing. But my tried and true film look? It’s gone, to my eye. A friend and I watched MAD MEN the other night and she kept saying, “I feel like we’re watching rehearsal. [and then again] It feels like we’re watching rehearsal.” Try watching an old classic or two — you probably have. I tried CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958, Richard Brooks). Holy crap. (The image above? Nuthin. Pixels. Chunks.)
I had a good childhood and all, but in HD with a modern transfer using advanced digital noise reduction, it’s not like I’m “really there,” it’s not “more than reality,” I’m living INSIDE Big Momma’s internal organs, and it ain’t pretty. “Big Daddy got a clean bill of health!” Help me, I’m inside her liver. Elizabeth Taylor slinks around as Maggie the Cat, Paul Newman limps around with his drink, and Mae and Gooper’s children run in with their guns, frightening everyone. It’s a wonderful film, even though apparently Tennessee Williams despised it. But in HD? I had to rethink it. The late 50s was not the hey day of creamy shallow-depth-of-field imagery in film, and so the Metrocolor crispness is now, well, singed. Orson Welles’ deep focus? Let’s call it deep deep deep focus. You can see what Brick is thinking about.