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Widescreen Worldwide

Widescreen Worldwide

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Widescreen Worldwide

Edited by: John Belton, Sheldon Hall, Steve Neale

The essays in this anthology provide a comprehensive portrait of widescreen cinema as an aesthetic and industrial phenomenon from the vantage point of twenty-first-century film studies.

Publication date: 2010
Total pages: 245
ISBN: 9780 86196 694
Price: £ 25.00


The essays in this anthology provide a comprehensive portrait of widescreen cinema as an aesthetic and industrial phenomenon from the vantage point of twenty-first-century film studies. They build on earlier work, including Charles Barr’s landmark 1963 essay on aesthetics, “CinemaScope: Before and After” and The Velvet Light Trap’s seminal 1985 issue on Widescreen with essays on widescreen aesthetics, economics, and ideology. But they also incorporate recent advances made in the field of film studies, ranging from revisionist approaches to film historiography to new techniques implemented in performing close textual analysis whereby the textual analysis is firmly rooted in the realities of shooting and production practices, producing readings that are informed by a technical grasp of these practices.

Widescreen Worldwide takes as its chief focus the aesthetics of widescreen filmmaking, while situating these aesthetics within the larger cultural and industrial practices that inform them. Most importantly, it considers these practices in a global context. What Hollywood sought to market around the world in the form of CinemaScope, SuperScope, Techniscope, Technirama and Panavision took indigenous form in a host of compatible anamorphic formats developed in France (Franscope, Dyaliscope), Italy (Ultrascope), Russia (Sovscope), Japan (Tohoscope, DaieiScope, Nikkatuscope), Norway (Norwayscope), Britain (Hammerscope), and elsewhere. The book documents how the aesthetic strategies explored during the first wave of American widescreen films underwent revision in Europe and Asia as filmmakers brought their own idiolect to the language of widescreen mise-en-scène, editing, and sound practices. As a global phenomenon, widescreen cinema thus presents the opportunity to examine how different cultures appropriate the technology to advance extremely different cultural and aesthetic agendas.

These essays also explore the pioneering work of some of the world’s greatest directors, including Otto Preminger, Anthony Mann, Samuel Fuller, Sam Peckinpah, Seijun Suzuki, Kihachi Okamoto, Tai Kato, and others. They also chart the global flow of widescreen technologies and aesthetics as the widescreen revolution transformed the face of world cinema in the latter half of the twentieth century and make a powerful case for the indebtedness of contemporary filmmaking practices to the innovations and discoveries of this earlier generation of filmmakers.

The contributors to Widescreen Worldwide are John Belton, David Bordwell, Steve Chibnall, Eric Crosby, Lisa Dombrowski, John Gibbs, Kathrina Glitre, Sheldon Hall, Paul McDonald, Steve Neale, Douglas Pye, Tom Vincent and Federico Vitella.


Widescreen Worldwide is an informative anthology that presents some excellent examples of how film history is enriched by seeking answers to particular questions. Many of the authors demonstrate that widescreen remains a fascinating topic because it raises numerous questions that touch on the technical, industrial, economic, aesthetic and ideological aspects of film as a cultural practice. While the book is concerned specifically with widescreen filmmaking, it demonstrates how focussing on even a limited aspect of film history forces historians to consider a range of factors that have shaped film history since the middle of last century. This book is a significant contribution to film history not only because of the information contained in it, but also because the chapters demonstrate different approaches to understanding a period of rapid technological change in the middle of the 20th century that offer ways of understanding changes to screen media that are occurring now.
by Simon Howson in Sense of Cinema issue 60.


1. Introduction

2. History, Technology and Innovation

John Belton (Rutgers University), “Fox and 50mm Film”
Tom Vincent (British Film Institute), “Standing Tall and Wide: The Selling of VistaVision”
Paul McDonald (University of Surrey Roehampton), “Hollywood: the IMAX Experience”

3. Textual Analysis, Aesthetics and Film Form

Lisa Dombrowski (Wesleyan University), “Cheap but Wide: The Stylistic Exploitation of CinemaScope Aesthetics in Black-and-white Low-Budget American Films”
John Gibbs and Douglas Pye (Reading University), “Preminger and Peckinpah: Seeing and Shaping Widescreen Worlds”
Steve Neale (Exeter), “The Art of the Palpable: Composition and Staging in the Widescreen Films of Anthony Mann”

4. Themes and Formats

Sheldon Hall (Sheffield Hallam University), “Alternative Versions in the Early Years of CinemaScope”
Kathrina Glitre (University of Nottingham), “Conspicuous Consumption: The Spectacle of Widescreen Comedy in the Populuxe Era”

5. Widescreen Worldwide

Steve Chibnall (de Monfort University), “The Scope of Their Ambition: British Independent Film Production and Widescreen Formats in the 1950s”
Federico Vitella (Universita degli Studi di Firenze), “Before Techniscope: The Penetration of Foreign Widescreen Technology in Italy, 1953–59”
Eric Crosby (University of Wisconsin- Madison), “Widescreen Com- position and Transnational Influence: The Problem of Early Anamorphic Filmmaking in Japan”
David Bordwell (University of Wisconsin-Madison), “Another Shaw Production: Anamorphic Adventures in Hong Kong”


John Belton teaches film at Rutgers University and is the author of Widescreen Cinema (1992).

Sheldon Hall is a Senior Lecturer in Stage and Screen at Sheffield Hallam University, UK.

Steve Neale is Professor of Film Studies at Exeter University.

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