So, with this piece, I want to look at what, exactly, we saw, and what I think that means. I’ll do that by revisiting a film whose pan-and-scan presentation struck me, at the time I rented it, in the dying days of VHS, as a pinnacle of the pan-and-scan format: Michael Winterbottom’s 2000 drama The Claim.
In thinking about a film from the last ten years that gives me hope for the next, I wanted to find some kind of reassurance that, even if most films will soon cease to exist as any kind of physical object altogether, they might still appear, to the future viewer, as dated as any saturated and seamy 35mm print.
With its catchy Cold War milieu, surveillance-culture sheen, and precariously hairpin plot, the film is more obviously topical than peak-period Peckinpah; the film’s sensationalism is a matter of its super-contemporary hook, rather than the more eternal, atavistic violence that was Peckinpah’s great subject.
Familiarity of the personal is, perhaps, why Hou’s fourth film, The Boys from Fengkuei, leafs through the same dog-eared locations as other vignettish all-the-young-dudes remembrances like I vitelloni, Diner, and, more recently and self-consciously, Reprise.