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The Godfather - Widescreen vs Full-Frame

A note about The Godfather films in "widescreen" format,
by Harlan Lebo, author of The Godfather Legacy...

"For The Godfather, Willis shot it in full 35 mm frame -- roughly 4:3 ratio. Gordie knew the film would be cropped down to fit wide screen theaters at around 1.85:1, and planned accordingly, of course. But the difference between this film and many others that are cropped down to fit a wide screen from a full 35 mm frame is that Willis composed every scene to work beautifully in either format, wide screen or full frame.

"So, these days when you see a film that, as they say on TV, 'is modified to fit your screen,' what usually happens is that a chunk of the wide screen version is pulled out and blown up to fill a TV (that's pan and scan). Besides losing the view the director intended, the quality also looks grainy and faded.

"With the Godather, the 'TV versions' until now have been exactly what Willis shot, and in a sense, the theatrical version could be considered a lower quality image because it was blown up from the 35 mm image. Because of this, I've always watched the Godfather in full TV size. So I'm hoping that if there is a non-widescreen version of the film on the DVD, it is the original full frame, and not a blown-up piece of the wide screen frame. In any case, if we have "only" the widescreen version on the DVD, it will still look great."


The DVD looks great in widescreen, but I guess it's a matter of preference. Purists would love a full-frame version on DVD, but I, for one, can live with widescreen. I guess it's a matter of technology-over-art, but Gordon Willis did a fine job making it acceptable in both aspect ratios.

Here are side-by-side comparisons of the full-frame VHS version and the anamorphic widescreen DVD version. You'll first notice more to the left and right of the scene, but at the expensive of less on top and bottom. To my eye, people in the full-frame version look squater (shorter and fatter) than the widescreen. Compare the second shot of Brando's face. Perhaps it's due to the capture, but maybe this is how TV makes you look 10lbs heavier? ;-)

You'll also notice the superior video clarity and colors from the DVD, but the VHS version is definitely brighter. Which was intended?
VHS - Full frame
DVD - Widescreen

So, disregarding the video quality itself, what do you think? Is the added left-to-right worth the loss of top-to-bottom?



See this great article about anamorphic widescreen from The Digital Bits.







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