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Happy Birthday ‘On The Waterfront’! Watch Visual Essay On Aspect Ratio Plus The Film’s Most Famous Scene

Happy Birthday 'On The Waterfront'! Watch Visual Essay On Aspect Ratio Plus The Film's Most Famous Scene

It had class, it was a contender, and sixty years ago today, it all started when Elia Kazan‘s “On The Waterfront” opened in theatres across the country. The film about squandered ambition, love, corruption and basic human decency has gone down as one of the finest American dramas ever produced, winning eight Oscars (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress) and has, to this day, a single sequence that has some of the greatest screen acting you’ll ever see.

And so, with Comic-Con in the rearview, maybe it’s a good time for a palette cleanser. Below you can check out The Criterion Collection‘s visual essay on the aspect ratio of the film (it was presented in a couple of formats upon release as they’ll explain, and the boutique label offers a couple of options in their release of the movie). And after that, the scene that cemented Brando as one of the finest thespians of his generation and of all time.

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Though this is a rather irrelevant observation, and I promise I'll discuss the scene and its aspect ratio's artistic significance too, but I found the newspaper highlights remarkably fascinating. You see, those excerpts are examples of movie marketing in its beginning stages, and look how far we've come! Despite this, it seems as though the critical style on the discussion of film and its varying viewing mediums has remained very much the same. Specifically, if you placed those excerpts in any post on your blog, tweaked it about a different movie or theatre, no one would know it was from over half a decade ago. Same style of discussion, different method of expression (the internet, not a newspaper). So it really raises a question to me of what has evolved more: film or film criticism. I like to think one can't really grow without the other, but I found it really, really, reeeaaaallllllllllly interesting inquiry worthy of noting. Anyway, back to what I'm really here for: The 1:66 framing of the film definitely makes it a more comfortable watch, whereas the 1:85 definitely accentuates the piercing tonal anxiety prevalent throughout its entirety. It almost makes you feel like your drowning in the tragedy with these characters. The viewer is just as confined and constrained as the characters are in 1:85. I would say that watching the film in 1:85 would do more justice to the viewing experience, providing the viewer with a more cohesive, precise, and exact comprehension of the morbid energy that defines the picture. However, depending on your mood, a 1:66 framing could make the sadness of "On the Waterfront" a little more palatable.

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