Articles Film Square Eyes

After the Film

Friday, October 26, 2001

You walk out of the cinema and everything is changed. You entered the big boxy building in the light of an ordinary afternoon. But now it’s dark, and the city feels a little different. You wonder if what you’re seeing is actually there. Everything seems kind of real, but then you’ve just spent two hours believing what you saw, when you knew it wasn’t real.

You look harder, noticing things that you would have missed before in this stylized version of the familiar. The lights are brighter, the shadows more pronounced. You listen to the noise of the traffic, as it washes like waves on the walls of the buildings; you watch the forklifts loading bright boxes of veg as you walk past the wholesalers. Into a square and your eye pans across it, and then the focus pulls back to the office block at the far end. Now you cut to details of the halo round the top of a lampost, and you close in on the faces as people come out of the shining shop. 

You’re not just heading home, you’re walking down a street in a city on a specific evening, with the light just so, and particular cars driving past, individual noises reaching you, and so many different things all happening at once. You’re glad you went to the cinema on your own, because if you’d been talking about the film on the way home, or headed off for some drinks, your customary life would have intervened and you’d have missed all this wonder.

What’s the story? It’s like you’re in the movies. Or maybe the movies are in you.

Posted by David in • Square EyesFilm

Articles Square Eyes Television

When in Rome – television in Europe

Friday, October 19, 2001

While on a recent journey across Europe, I had the opportunity to watch even more bad television than I normally do – this time, in a range of languages I hardly understand.

Some of it was the same rubbish we get here, just given the exotic patina of being dubbed into Swiss German or the like. Anyone for ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ in French, or ‘Walker Texas Ranger’ in German, or my own favourite, ‘Robot Wars’ in Italian. Not a franchised Italian version of the show, mind, just the English programme with frantic Italian commentary: ‘Adesso, Iron Awe da Wolverhampton!’

It was the locally produced output that I was more interested in, and as I sat in my succession of hotel rooms, I was drawn to the sports coverage. I have little French, less Italian, and no German, but I even I could tell that Italian football shows could teach ITV and TV3 a lot about stylish presentation. And I don’t just mean the scantily clad lithe beauties that cavort across the screen as a staple part of seemingly every program in Italy.

The real highlight of the endless football coverage was the use of 3-D computer modelling of fouls and goalmouth incidents. Rather than just show the suspected dive from as many camera angles as they could (which would probably be more than enough for most people), the incident is then mapped in 3-D, and rendered in a full-screen version that can be zoomed, frozen and spun ad infinitem. For the final kicker, the presenter can be placed into the middle of this environment, to lean against a virtual goalpost, or stand next to a computer-generated player that’s as tall as he is.

Of course, this flashy stuff assumes you have rights to broadcast football in the first place. But not having the rights to Champions League matches doesn’t stop RAI offering a three hour footiefest on evenings when there are games. they improvise with the mad solution of having a panel of experts all watching different games on monitors that the audience can’t see. When something happens in one of the games, the expert pipes up, and describes the event. With the host leaping between the two storeys of experts, it looks like nothing so much as a bizarre version of ‘Blankety Blank’. 

Maybe the BBC should consider this, as they have precious little sport left to show. If they can’t run to a panel of experts, they could follow the lead of one of the low-rent cable channels I saw: just have one man at a desk, watching one game, and giving live commentary of what he’s watching. It’s televised radio commentary – aside from a clock and a display of the latest score, it’s 90 minutes of watching the top of a bloke’s head while he watches the TV.

More generally Italian TV looks like it’s still 1975, complete with the Roman equivalent of ‘Seaside Special’, Pan’s People and ‘Live From Her Majesty’s’. The whole country is still entranced by the debatable delights of the variety show – you can’t move for big performance numbers, sequined top hats and three costume changes for the unctuous host. When there’s no football, this is prime-time TV. I’m glad to be back to a diet of ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Corrie’.