"Third Way: The Rise of 3-D" by Anthony Lane in The New Yorker — "3D won't make us happy"
Thanks to NYSS member Dimitis Athos for flagging this one: cultural critic-at-large, Englishman and movie reviewer Anthony Lane takes an over view of stereo imaging from the stereoscope to Avatar. Sounds great, right?
There's a wealth of 3D and 3D film history in the article and it's worth reading for that alone, even though Mr. Lane gets the occasional detail wrong. Stereopsis, Galen, Charles Wheatstone, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edison, Plastigrams, R.M. Hayes, Audioscopiks, Arch Oboler, Bwana Devil, Ray Zone, Robert Zemeckis and James Cameron are all covered, briefly. It's a shame, though, that his tone is so negative through out.
That Mr. Lane's take on the subject is conservative, almost reactionary, is an unmistakable conclusion. Considering Bernard Mendiburu's technical manual, 3D Movie-Making: Stereoscopic Digital Cinema from Script to Screen Mr. Lane says, "will scare the pixellated daylights out of anyone over forty."
Looking over a bad review of Inferno, a 1953 3D film starring Robert Ryan that's called "handicapped by 3D" he wonders if this reviewer is "revealing an unjust prejudice or a bitter truth of the time?"
Sadly, he concludes that, "3-D will ravish our senses and take us on rides that no drug can match, but my guess is that, like so many blessings, it won't make us happy. It will make us want more." And here I always thought it was "Talkies" that had ruined the motion picture business.
Mr. Lane is too young to have experienced that marvelous Owlsey acid of the mid-1960s so we'll respectfully disagree with his comparison of the relative intensities of drug trips and stereoscopic cinema.
But I think this is sloppy journalism, in any event, akin to writing that "Pee Wee's Playhouse is like Captain Kangaroo on acid." 3D cinema is not like any drug experience we know of and it seems part and parcel of Mr. Lane's negativity towards the format that he uses such language.
And is it really fair to judge a film format because of the bad movies that been made with it? There are lots of terrible color films — sleazy, exploitative, derivative, pornographic, boring — and we understand that it would be ridiculous to condemn the use of color film stock because of them.
Lane at one point discusses a scene from Sergei Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible, Part I and states "the scene works fine as it is" and the "posthumous application of 3-D would not sharpen—and might even vulgarize—its moral thrust."
Let me re-work his contention: the shower murder scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Pyscho
works fine as it is. The posthumous application of color would not sharpen—and might even vulgarize—its moral thrust. Color film will not make us happy. It will only make us want more.
Mr. Lane employs ridiculous straw-men arguments against 3D cinema, like claiming that deranged 3D fans hunt for screenings of Coming at Ya! and The Disco Dolls in Hot Skin the way normal cinephiles hunger for a copy of the original 10 hour version of von Stroheim's Greed.
His idea of a joke is to comment that Dean Martin "was presumably the only man in history that could watch a 3-D movie without needing the special glasses." Ooh, snap! The man's got a wit like a butter knife.
Of course, the comedic drunk character that Mr. Martin developed was a decade in the future when he and Mr. Lewis filmed Money from Home in 3D in 1953. But we get the drift, Mr. Lane. 3D, it's a gimmick only fit for drunks and drug addicts.
Disdain for 3-D seems to ooze from nearly every paragraph. Wonderful. We finally get a respectable amount of ink in a major cultural journal and the writer simply hates 3D. Sigh. We long for the day when 3D will simply be considered another format for presentation; a choice, not a gimmick.
Let us know what you think of Mr. Lane's piece in the comments section.
PS: Anthony Lane has not, to my knowledge, directed a single film. But Martin Scorcese has.
"We see in depth, for the most part. We go to the theater — it's in depth. Why couldn't a film like `Precious' be in 3-D? It should be," Martin Scorsese told the AP. "I'd love to do one," he explained, "It just seems natural that we'd be going in that direction. It's going to be something to look forward to, but to be used interestingly."
Once again, thanks to NYSS member Dimitri Athos for this link.