Originally Posted by HiramAbiff
Let's not derail this into a Last Emperor discussion, but did you not read that Storaro *originally* framed the film for the narrower ratio? The wider ratio was never what they intended, only what was feasible for a long time due to theatrical limitations.
That's baloney. Technovision is 2.35:1 anamorphic. If he had preferred 2:1 at the time he could have shot Super35 which gives you infinite flexibility for selecting the aspect ratio for home video.
This amazon review sums it up best:
The roaring controversy however is over the decision to crop the film from its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio down to a narrower 2:1. Vittorio Storaro who was responsible for this has defended his action and Criterion has taken the line that they follow the wishes of the creator. However after having seen the new cropped versions, my preference is still for the older 2.35:1 widescreen.
The newer versions by and large look fine and you won't notice the cropping unless you do a 1 to 1 comparison. However in more than a few scenes, the new visual composition looks askew - awkward and ugly. Scenes that were originally perfectly framed now appear inadvertently cropped - arms, ears, sometimes whole figures are cut in half - Eg. during the enthronement of little Pu Yi, the court official who issues the proclamation is standing toward the left edge of the screen but is otherwise supposed to be fully visible. In the new 2:1 crop for the TV version, he is cut into half. In the new 2:1 crop for the Theatrical version, the panning is more to the left and only his arm is missing. This is just one of many instances which infuriate viewers. Criterion should remember that its customers are avid cinephiles who scrutinise films in minutest detail and expect faithfulness to the original release. I for one do not take kindly to a creator coming back to redo his work with the result that it looks uglier than before. Especially when I know that he has an ulterior motive for the revision.
For those who are still unaware, Vittorio Storaro pioneered a new film format in 1998 called Univisium (aka Univision) which just so happens to have a 2:1 aspect ratio. It is intended as a compromise format between the 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and the new 1.78:1 widescreen TV aspect ratio. Storaro wants his new 2:1 aspect ratio to be the new universal aspect ratio for all films. So far only he has used it in shooting his newer films. No one else is interested so he has gone about reformatting (cropping) all the older films he has shot into this new 2:1 Univisium format. He has already mutilated Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" to the chagrin of film fans worldwide. Now he has come round to mangling Bernado Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor".
His various statements in support of this cropping are illogical, contradictory and at points ludicrous. The question is, when did he first consciously compose his pictures for the 2:1 format? Criterion cites Storaro's claim that "The Last Emperor was the first film he shot specifically for 2.0 framing". Storaro on an earlier occasion had already made the claim that he first conceived of shooting for 2.0 during the filming of "Apocalypse Now" way back in 1978. He said this in support of his cropping the war classic down from its original 2.35:1 to 2:1 for its Redux Edition and subsequent video transfer. These two statements are patently contradictory and cannot both be correct.
Both "Last Emperor" and "Apocalypse Now" were shot in Technovision which is in 2.35:1. The only format using 2:1 aspect ratio at that time was the old SuperScope. Why choose 2.35:1 Technovision, when (as he now insists) he wanted to shoot in a 2:1 aspect all along? Criterion also trots out the red herring that the producers had initially hoped to release it on 70mm. But that means composing for 2.2:1 not an odd ratio like 2:1. Actually I personally believe the films were indeed composed for 2.2:1 and they would look just right if reframed in that ratio. The only reason for cropping it down to 2:1 is to accommodate Storaro's new Univisium format. For all the Storaro apologists out there (and there are many), the Oscars he won for "Last Emperor" and "Apocalypse Now" were for the films in their original 2.35:1 presentation NOT the new 2:1 crops. I hope Criterion bans him from supervising any more transfers of his old films. In his monomaniacal quest to promote his Univisium dream, he has become more like a vandal than an artist.
But anyway, you are right that this is off-topic here - I'll save it for the inevitable Last Emperor BD thread.