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Sunday, July 11, 2010

NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)


Alfred Hitchcock’s plush thriller hardly needs a boost from this corner, though it’s worth mentioning its unexpected emotional resonance, so often overlooked. (The walk in the birch trees. Bernard Herrmann’s Delius-inspired music cue. Swoon.) But a new 50th Anniversary edition earns a nod for fab restoration from the original VistaVision picture elements.* Sure, it looks great, but the bonus is that in polishing things up (superior grain, color correction) they’ve assuaged the jarring visual inconsistencies that long compromised the integration of location master shots with studio inserts. See the legendary crop-dusting sequence to note the remarkable improvement. When you recall that films shot in the superb VistaVision process were almost never projected in VistaVision prints, it’s possible that NbNW has never looked this good. And that’s worth celebrating.

*VistaVision turned regular 35mm film on it's side, exposing two frames per image, creating a WideScreen picture without CinemaScope’s anamorphic squeezing. Along with 70mm, M-G-M’s Camera 65 & Todd A-O, it delivered the sharpest, richest picture of its era.

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