Two Subjects ~ Paying Your Dues / EPIX Gets It

| October 10, 2012

There is an old saying …

… at least older than me because I heard it come from a lot of my mentors when they were long in tooth and I was still wet behind the ears – Paying dues … There’s a lot of frogs to kiss before finding the princess. (this alludes to the old fairy tale of the prince that was turned into a frog and the only way to break the curse was from love’s true kiss)

This reminds me of Vilmos Zsigmond as I watch “The Road To Nashville” on late night (or is that early morning?) Epix

He went by “William” Zsigmond then in 1967 and for a few more years after that.

Just a couple years before that, he was cinematographer on the ghastly bad but fun to watch at least once SciFi monstrosity “Psycho A Go-Go” in 1965.

Zsigmond was born the year of 1930, which I consider to be the best year in human history to have been born (mainly in North America). He is still working as Director Of Photography now into his eighties.

Pretty good for a guy who was born in Budapest and filmed the Hungarian Rebellion against the Soviet Communists, then escaped to the USA with his film school mate Laszlo Kovacs to help make the surprisingly good cheepo B-movie “The Sadist” in 1965. I can’t imagine what American movies would have been like without Kovacs and Zsigmond … what would “Deliverance” look like ? What about “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” ?

Talk about paying one’s dues and kissing a lot of frogs along the way …. going from “Psycho A Go-Go” to “Close Encounters” … all those Biker Movies !

I’m sure if Zsigmond and his buddy Kovacs (who I’ve learned a lot from) got stuck in Hungary by the Soviet Communists we would not be as blessed in the world of cinema as we have been.

It speaks volumes of what a free market society can do for creative people. It is a shame they had to leave their homeland – but what a benefit to the USA to attract such talent.

All this came to mind tonight watching this blandly made but wonderfully filled with music and history “The Road To Nashville”. It is wonderful to see – but painful at the same time as it was ruined by making it fit on television screens.

But I digress …

I’m happy to see
that Epix “gets it” …

What I mean is –

As time goes on EPIX seems to understand that variety is the spice of life. That is, they are getting better and better finding their position in the market which just may be where the market really wants to be.

Epix completely blows away HBO.

But this copy of “The Road To Nashville” is so very poor and cropped to 1.33:1 (4×3) from it’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Plus – I see video tear occasionally as well as large “gonks” in the film frames it was copied from onto video. Seems like a returned theatrical copy that was transferred to tape for TV broadcast. Not even “pan and scan” … no panning or scanning on this copy – seems to be just a dead center crop.

It is wonderful to see so many people I worked with who are young and skinny in 1967 !

… although the Stoneman sisters are still as skinny :-)

Seeing The Stonemans perform is a real gas ! Especially as they would put their father on stage with them in a rocking chair …

This movie is of historic value. It represents a time in Nashville when music was as much a family affair as it was an industry.

Time moves on but there are moments in history that are truly timeless.

It is really a gas to see the classic instruments. A lot of Fenders ! Makes me wonder where all those guitars are today. Probably long cased in closets around Nashville somewhere. I’ve been privileged to have some folks pull some out to show me at times.

My question is – Where is a 2.35:1 print floating around ?!?

It was a pain to watch the blown up, washed out 4×3 version as interesting as it was – but what a real gas it would be to see Marty Robbins drive around the Nashville Speedway of 1967 in his 777 car !

And I’d really like to see Zsigmond’s early cinematography in all its glory.

Like in “McCabe & Mrs Miller” with director Robert Altman (who did the make-fun-of-Nashville movie “Nashville”) with Zsigmond’s brilliant, groundbreaking cinematography.

That was truly when the “look” of a movie was made as much a character as any other aspect of a movie which is so common today. The studio suits complained at the antique brown and darker look – but it really made the film more real and textural.

It was also a combination process of cinematography and processing the film. A real lost art. Now we have digital toys to do it in post.

It’s true that pioneers are usually the ones who get scalped.

Creative artists like Zsigmond are usually misunderstood at first. Good to see the suits proved wrong when they are indeed wrong.

They used to fire cinematographers who allowed light strikes from the sun – then later it became a common trick to make the audience “feel” the dry heat of a desert scene.

Surely there would be market interest to justify reconditioning the full widescreen version of “Road To Nashville” … any takers?

As I have just repaired (I hesitate to say “restored”) a 50’s movie classic soon to be released as a DVD set with a new documentary, I’d love to take on the task of repaing and restoring it … especially the audio track.

Thanks to EPIX for showing the movie – even at 3am in the morning of an old cropped version from video tape.

Keep up the good work ! Dig up more – try to get original aspect ratio copies.

Category: Tony Rollo Blog

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