Hot Docs 2013, Days Two to Five: Fascist Regimes, Hellish Conditions, and Shanghai Jazz + Saul Bass at 93

May 8, 2013 | By | Add a Comment

Because of an essay deadline next week (May 15th), I’m uploading a series of reviews in one tight cluster so I can concentrate on revisions, plus some extra research, but coming soon will be a set of composer interviews, and another blog at Big Head Amusements with another video feedback sample using a video mixer as old as me. (Quite frankly, this is surreal: How is it possible a device made 45 years ago still works? I wonder what its recovery rate from frozen shoulder would be, assuming there’s a solid state equivalent.)

I’ll also be testing out some very vintage video cameras – ideally colour vidicon and saticon – to check out how they capture brilliant garden colours, seeing how a) most video tests that are online are shakycam / fuzzycam unedited samples that fail to reveal the detail conveyed in a video like this one; and b) our spring’s been so amazing so far, the quality of light on flowers should provide excellent results. Besides, I want to see the reaction of my garden-hosts when I unpack my dino-cameras that look like over-sized Super8 gear, and require 10+ minutes of setting up because of cables, picky white balancing, and sending the footage into a MiniDV recorder.

Part of exercise’s purpose is to see what’s the most qualitative way to record the best image with the least compression on media that’s easily recognized by Adobe Premiere. I’ve done some early tests – mostly live recordings streamed through the recorder into the computer via firewire – but there are some elements within the footage that cause certain artifacts that need addressing.

Moving on.

The next set of reviews from Hot Docs 2013 are up, and they include the world’s oldest jazz band in As Time Goes By in Shanghai [M], the hellish world of asbestos mining in remote China in Cloudy Mountains [M], film school students in The Great North Korean Picture Show [M], and Russia’s President in the feature doc Winter, Go Away! [M] shot during the 2012 elections + the short film Vladimir Putin in Deep Concentration [M]. I’ll have another set of Hot Docs coverage, accompanied by some related DVD reviews.

Yep, Bass also designed this amazing poster.

I also renewed my Bloor Cinema membership, because starting this week the cinema will screen over the next 2 weeks Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining + Rodney Ascher’s feature-length making-of doc Room 237, which is being distributed by Mongrel Media. Director Ascher will engage in an audience Q&A via Skype at this Friday night and Saturday night’s screenings.

Several years ago the Revue screened a surviving orangy print of The Shining, but it’s fair to presume the Bloor’s gotten their hands on a digital transfer. It’s a flawed film with a completely silly, incoherent finale (the picture twist makes no sense!) but as an aural-visual experience in roving camerawork and eerie sound design, it’s a memorable cinematic experience.

Still moving on.

Today is Saul Bass’ birthday, and had the brilliant art director been around, he would’ve celebrated his 93rd birthday. Google’s crafted a neat tribute using their name as cheeky title material for re-renderings of some of Bass’ most popular work.

As a title and sequence designer, there’s his substantive work for Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho), Stanley Kramer (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World [M]) and Otto Preminger (Exodus), but some other classics include the strolling cat at the beginning of Walk on the Walk Side (transforming both images and Elmer Bernstein’s great title theme into a classic riff for TV advertisers during the sixties), the gorgeous Greek designs given a slick sixties twist in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, and the brilliant exhaust roar at the beginning of John Frankenheimer’s superb racing film Grand Prix, for which Bass also worked as a montage consultant.

Bass’ work as a director is very sparse, but within’s substantive archive is a review of his Oscar-winning 1968 short Why Man Creates, and the cult film Phase IV, which is screaming for a special edition Blu-ray release since a 2012 screening of a longer cut, featuring a never-before-seen footage.

Coming next: Twilight Time’s really nice Blu-ray of Brian De Palma’s ridiculous The Fury, plus Holocaust 2000 / Rain of Fire – one of two films Kirk Douglas made in the late seventies / early eighties wherein he revealed his pickle. (The other, for those concerned, is Saturn 3.)

Coming right after: reviews of some classic score reissues, including John Williams’ Jane Eyre, James Newton Howard’s Grand Canyon, John Barry’s First Love, and Howard Blake’s S.O.S. Titanic.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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