Last Emperor

Ein neuer Höhepunkt der Criterion Collection : Bernardo Bertoluccis „Last Emperor“ liegt jetzt in einer so sorgfältig gemasterten Edition vor, wie es sie bisher noch nicht auf DVD gegeben hat. Diese Fassung wurde mit dem Knowhow von Criterion unter der Aufsicht des Kameramanns Vittorio Storaro erstellt.

Die Tests von Gary Tooze (DVDBeaver) zeigen den Unterschied: der Gelbstich (China!) bisher erhältlicher Ausgaben ist verschwunden und das Bild Storaros erstrahlt in nüchterner Schönheit:

„The package is busting with Criterion’s extensive and passionate attention to detail and is a wonderful addition to any DVD library. The film has never looked better on digital in my opinion and it is loaded with valuable insights into the production, the story, and Bertolucci himself. A grand achievement of a film supported by a grand achievement of a DVD package. Strongly recommended!“ (Gary Tooze)

Die 4 Disc-Edition mit ihrer Fülle von Beigaben erlaubt eine intensive Beschäftigung mit der Produktion und Gestaltung des Films. Sie ist ab 26.2.2008 erhältlich. Anmerkung: Wäre dies nicht eine Gelegenheit für eine Blu ray-Ausgabe gewesen?

Der Film selbst liegt in 2 Fassungen vor, der Kinoversion mit 164 Min. und der Fernsehfassung mit 218 Min. (zu den Details siehe im Criterion-Blog On Five „Final Cut“).

Beide haben das Format 2:1, d.h. das von Vittorio Storaro vorgeschlagene Universalformat Univisium (Hinweis von Casey Pegram in der DVDBeaver-Liste). Zu dieser entscheidenden Frage der Cadrage (siehe hier) gibt es eine interessante Kritik am Univisium-Bildseitenverhältnis von Simon Howson in der DVDBeaver-Liste:

>When a film is projected in 70 mm, the ratio for that is 2.2:1, so the
>Criterion disc has the 70 mm film copy ratio. When the film negative
>for these film is in 35 mm, they had to make two different ratios. On
>the screen caps, the Criterion disc ratio seems fine to me, and the
>scope ratio seems to have too much information on both sides.


The Criterion DVD is 2.00:1, not 2.21:1. 800 x 402 is far closer to 2:1 than it is to 2.21:1. If this DVD was cropped to 2.21:1 to replicate the 70mm presentation, then I would have absolutely no problem with that. But 2.00:1 is just arbitrary revisionism that doesn’t make historical or pictorial sense for the film.

For example, I can’t see how this composition makes much sense:

You have the guy standing on the left chopped perfectly in half, and the guy on the right 2/3 in view, but with the Emperor in sitting slightly to the left of centre. So in a composition that seems designed to emphasise symmetry, you no longer have symmetry! The full 35mm frame makes more sense:

Sure it has the shoulders of another two people in the shot, but they wouldn’t be visible on 70mm prints. So to me this looks like a good 2.21:1 70mm composition, that looks cropped to an arbitrary 2.00:1 format.

2.00:1 is absurd, it has never been a theatrical aspect ratio, and it most likely never will be. I say this because even films Storaro composes for 2:1 have been shown in cinemas at 1.85:1 or 2.4:1 (e.g. both Exorcist prequels), so he really needs to realise that people aren’t seeing what he wants in the theatres, so he should adopt one of the formats that people do get to see.

Moreover, this is all just revisionism. If he wanted The Last Emperor, Tucker, and Apocalypse Now to be projected at 2.00:1, he shouldn’t of shot them in anamorphic. He could’ve used 65mm or Super 35. There is no real advantage in shooting anamorphic if you intend to crop the image to 2.00:1. Super 35 would make a lot more sense, and would’ve avoided pan and scanning problems in the VHS era.

The fact those three films were shot anamorphic suggests to me that that is how they were intended to be viewed, or slightly cropped to 2.21:1 for the 70mm prints. 2.00:1 makes no sense whatsoever.

… … The Criterion DVD is NOT preserving the 70mm or 35mm anamorphic aspect ratios.

>Perhaps some tech guys can tell me. Why was the AR changed from 2.35 to 2.20
>for the film-DVD presentation?

Vittorio Storaro believes that all his films shot in 35mm anamorphic (Technovision) should be presented at 2.00:1 on home video. He believes this for two reasons 1) Because he thinks that all films should replicate the aspect ratio of the painting “The Last Supper” and 2) he does not think that DVD has enough resolution to properly represent the 2.4:1 aspect ratio. Therefore he feels that cropping the image from 2.4:1 to 2:1 increases the vertical resolution, and improves the image quality.

However, many people think this is silly because 1) He shot the films in the anamorphic 2.4:1 format, so that is how the films should be presented on DVD, and 2) If he wanted the films to be shown at 2.00:1, then he could’ve shot them in the non-anamorphic Super 35 format and protected that ratio both theatrically, and on home video.

Simon Howson“ (

Hierzu Vittorio Storaro, zusammengestellt von Gary Tooze in der DVDBeaver-Liste:

„Thanks Simon!
Here are some further bits and pieces I’ve cut and pasted from the web…

MM: What film format was chosen to produce Caravaggio?
VS: We used the Univisium system, which is 35mm film with three
perforations per frame. The cameras were modified to allow us to
compose images with a 2:1 aspect ratio. That was important, because
there were plans to release both television and cinema versions of
Caravaggio. I believe that it is important for audiences to
experience films the way they are intended to be seen whether it is
seen on a cinema screen or on television. (Editor’s note: Storaro
invented the Univisium system during the 1980s, when the FCC was
first considering standards for high-definition television displays
in the U.S., and similar discussions were going on in other countries.)
MM: How were the cameras modified?
VS: We had two ARRI 535B cameras modified for Univisium, along with a
full set of Cooke prime and zoom lenses. The cameras have a modified
movement with no flutter, and a 2:1 gate. Kodak provided the films we
needed in three-perf format, and Technicolor in Rome processed the
negative and printed the film in Univisium format. We saw film
dailies in Italy and digital dailies on a 50-inch plasma screen in Belgrade.
Additionally, Storaro has reframed many of his earlier widescreen
releases for the 2:00:1 ratio upon DVD release, including Apocalypse
Now, Reds, and The Last Emperor[7]. This has however proved
controversial with many film enthusiasts, who believe that regardless
of Storaro’s attempt to unify all aspect ratios, films should be
viewed in the ratio they were filmed in, without any cropping.
Storaro: Well, I always connected with one painting that Leonardo
did, The Last Supper. The Last Supper is 2:1.

[ Doing a bit more research – Da Vinci’s The Last
Supper is not 2:1. The painting measures 460 ×
880 centimeters (15 feet × 29 ft) which is 1.91:1
– closer to 1.85 than it is to 2.0

At the time of shooting
Apocalypse Now, I was not aware. I don’t really remember when I
became conscious of the 2:1. Definitely when I started to originally
transfer Apocalypse Now (to video). In my opinion, it wasn’t working
in 2.35 — at that time, we were forced to do a pan-and-scan. That
was the worst. So we had to find a common ground between film and
television. The aspect ratio for 65mm is 1:2.21, and the new video
aspect ratio is 1.78. If you remove 0.21 from the 65mm, and then you
have high definition which is supposed to be the future
film/television format, you’ll find the perfect balance between the
two is 2:1. So any transfer I do is at 2:1. I remember with
Bertolucci when we did The Last Emperor and we watched it on the
television screen, we didn’t like it at 2.35. We found it was much
better at 2:1. Now, I only shoot 2:1. I refuse to not shoot 2:1. And
I only transfer with this, even the old films, because I know it’s
the only solution for the future. It’s the only meeting point that we
have. The DALSA at 4k gives me some encouragement to continue in this way.
Now, there’s this rumor they’re going to retransfer Apocalypse Now at
1:2.35 — I will not do it. I will not do it. Because on a television
it doesn’t work.
Filmmaker: Not even if it’s being played on an HD 16:9 screen?
Storaro: 16:9 should be changed.
Filmmaker: There would still be black bars, but it would be less…
Storaro: No, no. We should change the screen and make it 18:9.
Filmmaker: 2:1.
Storaro: You can never be perfect. It could never work in television
at 1:2.35. 2:1 is the perfect balance. Even if you lose something,
you gain the most important things. Never again would it have to be
chopped to 1:3.75 (pan-and-scan) like Americans do. In 18:9, easily
you can see the Academy ratio with bars on the sides, or the French
ratio of 1.66, even 1.85. The only thing that you miss a little from
is the anamorphic.
I really do care about composition. Believe me. I even would discuss
this with Stanley Kubrick if he could be here. You can never really
do composition perfectly at 1:2.35. If you go in any theater and
measure it, it’s not perfect 2.35 — because they don’t like to be so small.
Filmmaker: Stanley Kubrick hated 1.85. At the very least, he
preferred 1.66. Because he started as a still photographer, he
preferred to compose for the full negative. So he’d compose for 1.85
for theatrical at the same time using the whole frame at 1.33.
Storaro: I did the same thing for many films. When I knew that here
in America we’d have to do the transfer at full screen, I did that
with The Sheltering Sky.
Gary „

One Response to Last Emperor

  1. […] besondere Reiz einer Blu ray-Ausgabe von “The Last Emperor” in der restaurierten Criterion-Fassung ist hier im Blog ja schon erwähnt […]

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