Does it mean something that so many German directors adapted easily to Hollywood, while their French counterparts almost immediately beat it back to the old country as soon as they had the chance? Jean Renoir loved America (he became a naturalized citizen and lived in Los Angeles until his death in 1979) but American, or at least the American studio system, did not like him: his taste for location shooting and infinite retakes made even sympathetic producers like Darryl Zanuck extremely uncomfortable, and “Swamp Water,” his first American project, was eventually taken out of his hands after Renoir fell weeks behind schedule. Yet the film, recently released in an excellent, limited edition Blu-ray edition by Twilight Time, contains much that is personal, and much that seems to relate to Renoir’s own sense of exclusion and impotence during the Occupation. A review here in the New York Times.
I had an odd filmgoing experience last week that I somehow feel compelled to share. As someone interested in 3-D (the process that is bringing depth of field back to the vocabulary of filmmaking), I thought I’d better run out to see Andrew Stanton’s pre-ordained bomb “John Carter” before it vanished, so I drafted Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, the only other critic I know who’s sympathetic to stereoscopy, and we headed out to see the IMAX 3-D presentation at the AMC Loew’s 34th Street in Manhattan. After shelling out a breathtaking $19 per ticket, we settled into our seats, prepared for a sublime experience. But as soon as the film came on, it was apparent that we’d been issued glasses for the RealD process rather than IMAX — which, because the two systems use different left eye/right eye polarities — had no effect whatever on the blurred, double image on the screen. I went out to look for an employee, and after ten minutes or so I was able to find someone willing to exchange the RealD glasses that didn’t work for IMAX glasses that (though covered with greasy fingerprints) more or less did. What amazed me wasn’t the screw-up so much as the fact that, as near as I could tell, only two other people out of an audience of about 50 seemed to notice that anything was wrong and went out to complain (not surprisingly, the management didn’t bother to stop the movie and pass out the right glasses). So my question is, is this how people expect a 3-D movie to look — which is to say, hopelessly blurry and not in 3-D at all? Or are our expectations of the theatrical experience now so low that we just take these things in stride? All very strange, and all very dispiriting.