Guys: I guess I'm just lucky. In the last couple of weeks, I went out to see THE WRESTLER and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (based on the first novel of Richard Yates, my favorite late 20th Century American writer). Though I thought that THE WRESTLER, lean, mean, and old-fashioned, needed a little more development of the daughter's character, and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD should have a couple of more revealing, passionate metaphors (which Yates creates in your imagination with his style on the page), I didn't see a single boom, nor did I have to fall back on a single film theorist in order to enjoy either experience. The same is true of TOUCH OF EVIL. Frankly, I think that the picture's Restoration-like theatrical melodrama does not wear very well, whereas the rich and deep layering of character, meaning, history, and wit in CITIZEN KANE justifies any analysis one can throw at it, no matter how pompous or esoteric. I'll still be willing to fire up my DVD player to watch it any night, and sink within the screen, taken clean out of myself after 68 years!
It's not that I saw CITIZEN KANE with awe, enjoyment, and life-changing emotion before most of us were alive here, but that I can see it now with some of the awe, almost the enjoyment, and much of the emotion because, now, I know what a profoundly true metaphor for an American life, rich or poor, the picture is. I doubt that can be said of TOUCH OF EVIL, which is much more melodramatic but strangely removed from emotion by its intellectual thesis. Any booms or film theory which gets in its way, destroys the picture for me . . . in ways I would be tempted to analyze.
A similar if paradoxical comparison could be made between THE WRESTLER and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. My guess is that the simpler, more emblamatic THE WRESTLER is a movie that I could go right out and watch again; it's an experience. And within its simplistic arc, a whole life is revealed, and in its comparison of what a celebrity hero and heroine must do to fight of the inevitable decline of age, it is as profound as CITIZEN KANE (but not so rich or deep). The more complex REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, possibly because I've read the novel four times, is one I may want to analyze . . . but not right away. The film will not wear well because I know TOO MUCH about the source material.
There's a lesson there somewhere, guys. It may just take decades to learn it.
I guess what I'm saying is that I understand the technical discussion of screen ratios, and I've read as much of film theory as I care to in my young life, but if the ratio does not destroy the composition of the frame (including obvious booms or tracks I can't ignore), or the theory adds little to my viewing experience, I would rather go with my gut, as they used to say. To paraphrase Evil Pauline Kael: Movies should be fun, no matter how serious and important they are. They should give you a certain frisson, and as Hemingway had the English Hunter, Wilson, say in "The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber," talking too much about it spoils all that. Or more precisely: “Yes,” said Wilson. “There’s that. Doesn’t do to talk too much about all this. Talk the whole thing away. No pleasure in anything if you mouth it up too much."
Yes, I plead Guilty to that, too.