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Yes Or No?

Friday 14 June 2013, 12:59

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

The excellent political drama No starring Gael Garcia Bernal is out on DVD this Monday. It uses antiquated video cameras to capture the spirit of the time but does the medium suit the message?

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Gael Garcia Bernal interviewed by Simon Mayo

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 1.

    I saw this on theatrical release and I admit that the visual format took a while to get used to, especially on the big screen. So garish and unpleasant to look at when projected so big! But absolutely it worked in integrating the archive footage and - most importantly - the advertising into the drama. The jump from pristine widescreen to 80s-vision would have been too jarring otherwise and completely taken you out of the film.

    On DVD, I think the stylistic choice will be even less of an issue due to the smaller size of the screen.

    As for the film itself, I highly recommend it. Despite the fact that Gael Garcia Bernal looks like a more handsome Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with his beard, he's a great lead and the supporting cast are great too. And there's a recurring mime gag, so bonus points.

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    Comment number 2.

    I thoroughly enjoyed Pablo Larrain's earlier film Tony Manero, a very black comedy/social drama about a Chilean Travolta impersonator set in the Pinochet era, so I'm looking forward to this one. I have no problem with the U-Matic video style, nor with subtitles in general. My only gripe is yellow-coloured subtitles: on that my vote is a resounding No!

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    Comment number 3.

    'No' is my favourite film of the year so far. Before I went to see it in the cinema I was aware of the aspect ratio that it was shot in, but a few of the people seated around me weren't, judging by some puzzlement when the title sequence began. Although I do think it was deliberate on the film-makers' part that some of the subtitles crossed over the 4:3 'box' to show that the projection was correct!

    The choice to shoot it on boxy video was really inspired, it immersed you in the period setting immediately. It was as if you were watching a dramatisation from Chilean TV just a year after the events took place.

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    Comment number 4.

    I don't think I'd go to the cinema for this experience, though on dvd I should think it could be a very fascinating film to watch; but not blown-up on the big screen: Not for me. Having recently watched a few clips of eg "Great Matches of the 80: Ipswitch Town vs Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final" or something, it's easy to forget how very poor the footage was; and really hard-work to go back to watching by comparison to today's crisp footage.

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    Comment number 5.

    A very general question to which the answer must be 'It depends'. Subject matter, period, narrative, and director are all important variables. It doesn't always work, but it can - and it can make a huge difference. I remember taking a 'phone call from Woody Allen when I was managing a cinema, here in the UK. I thought it was a wind-up but he was phoning round to ensure that Zelig was being shown in the proper ratio (he had filmed it in a ratio contemporary with the period in which the film was set). I passed him on to the Chief Projectionist and they discussed the matter. Did it look odd? Yes, at first. It did, however, make a huge difference to the viewing experience. A forgotten gem that would not be out of place in your film club.

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    Comment number 6.

    If it serves the story, then it souldn't be a problem. A perfect example of this would be the jump in film stock footage with 'JFK', a perfect example in how multiple ratios serve the films structure and narrative. Haven't seen 'No' but I have heard some pretty positive things about it.

    The director who comes to mind on the 4:3 format was Stanley Kubrick; sometimes one got the feeling he was losing a lot of his visual storytelling with this format. Since the debut of his films on DVD with the use of widescreen TV's, it took some getting used to - but i guess the director is always right in how a film should be viewed.

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    Comment number 7.

    I saw 'No' on it's release and i found it to be rather uninvolving, as it didn't give me any insight into the thought processes behind the "no" campaign. People would talk about how the bright and breezy commercials ignored the dark days of Pinochet's regime and Gael Garcia's reaction was usually silence, one brief with an old woman give me any idea as to the public mood at the time. If i was annoyed at all by the format, it's because i wasn't engaged in the film enough not to be bothered. When i came home, i listened to Mayo's interview with Bernal and i thought "this is really interesting, why didn't it come across in the film". I think this is a case where a bit of research before hand would enhance the experience.

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    Comment number 8.

    The idea of using degraded footage/stock or old tech is an interesting one and certainly for the film in question would appear to be a good stylistic choice.
    Reminds me of watching old video nasties on vhs(usually nth generation copies), they're just not the same in pristine widescreen dvd/blu. Like @4 said we've come a long way in terms of quality(or expectations of).
    Lets hope this doesn't become the new fad following the found footage sub-genre cf V/H/S.

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    Comment number 9.

    I remember seeing 'Blair Witch Project' not at the cinema, or even on TV, but through my Father's computer (which had DVD format) outdated by today's standards, but it some how was the perfect format to see the film. It made the film more realistic, seeing it through this small screen, and I was more scared by it, compared to when I watched it some years later on wide screen TV. GGB was very brave to do his movie in the format he did, and it will find an audience (myself now putting it on my film rental list).

    On a separate note. The Chile / Pinochet leadership. One of my favourite films is Costa Gavra's 'Missing'. Jack Lemmon giving one of his best performances.

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    Comment number 10.

    It certainly worked for me. I found it easier to place myself in time. Although I do have some understanding of Spanish (altbeit rusty and not too fluent) as well, which helped.

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    Comment number 11.

    As a companion piece ,may I suggest the brilliant ` Death and The Maiden`. Three actors at the top of their game and a great script is all you need.

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    Comment number 12.

    I saw this on my TV as you could rent it from i-tunes at the time it was released in the cinema, and I thought it looked great, and a great choice by the makers as there was no jarring transitions between the historical stuff and the stuff they filmed. For me, it just took you back to the period and (take note 3-D fans) this is what immersion in a film is really about, it just felt like the 80's as I remembered them, the film really transported you back to that period. Of course, had the film been dull, I could have been looking for faults in the way it was made and the way it looked, but as the film had me hooked (it's a brilliant film) then I was just swept along. So yes, absolutely, the medium matched the message in this case, but that is down to the skill of the film makers I think, rather than the particular technique they used.

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    Comment number 13.

    "No" is a great film and I caught it at the my local House of Picture. To add to the slight novelty of the format of days gone by, they had a strange projection problem which cut one of the vertical edges at a slight diagonal. I'd thought it was perhaps an intentional glitch in the film to mimic scansion problems of analogue TV, but seeing properly rectangular clips in this blog suggest it was probably some masking problem in the projection.

    I don't think that aspect ratio will affect viewer choices unduly, if for no other reason than it's rarely in most reviews or publicity. "Silent" and "Black and White" were more notable features of "The Artist" than the fact that it was in good old Academy. I remember with great pleasure the opening of Mad Max 2 : The Road Warrior, beginning with a 4:3 montage of scene setting archive footage and flashback from the more low res Mad Max 1, as this narration ends the image widened out as the camera pulled back from the grill of Mel's turbo, a gimmick, but one that took us from apocalyptic psuedo doc and dropped us in the middle of a stunning violent chase. When I saw "The Dark Knight Rises" in true IMAX (I'd first seen it in IMAX lite at a regional Odeon), the action set pieces in stories high wall filling IMAX 1.44 : 1 were even more arresting, but other scenes ping ponged shot by shot between the shorter standard widescreen 2.35 : 1 and the full IMAX enchilada in a way that was by turns awkward/disconcerting/charitably reminiscent of '70's split screen thrillers like Thomas Crown or Anderson Tapes.

    As a projectionist for a "mobile cinema", I've found that aspect ratio only matters for practical reasons. Some venues, village halls or community centres with low ceilings, with no room to mount our screen higher, will be wary of films with subtitles if they do not project high enough for the whole audience to see (these are sadly always burned in, rather than digital titles that otherwise could potentially be shown as surtitles). The wider "shorter" formats may allow these to be projected high enough, where subs + 4:3 would almost certainly be a no go in that situation.

    Aspect ratio is just another tool in the palette of the film maker. Going forward digital may mean that we will have even greater flexibility in the way they choose to frame their work on the canvas of the screen. I'll use this opportunity to put forward my patents for Circlarama and Ovoid-vision, after all, we don't see the world within a rectangle.... (or, if ya do, maybe you should get out more....)

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    Comment number 14.

    Well, I can't say that "No" will be my favorite film, although the topic was extraordinary! Did it happen another time that a dictator was fired by a democratic poll ? I wish it will happen again... I was rather disappointed by the (lack of) rythm of the narration, for an unpredictable event which took place in only a few weeks.

    The artistic choice was coherent with the story, and didn't troubled me. I agree with MiddleClassFury, this is certainly more convenient on small screens, but it was ok. Maybe a little bit of nostalgia from me ? Why not seeing an old-like movie nowadays?

    That's less ridiculous than numerous "modern" ones.

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    Comment number 15.

    It's odd that they went to such lengths to preserve the 4.3 aspect ration of the frame and yet let the subtitles run into the 1.85, at least for the theatrical DCP. I speak as a projectionist who screened this. As far as presentation goes, it would have been better for the film to bring the masking in to fit the squarer frame but as it was, we had to leave it at 1.85, effectively 'pillar-boxing' the image, to accomodate the odd subtitle when it ran wider than 4x3. Surely 'they' could have ensured that the subtitles were also 'of a time' as well, keeping them confined to the 4x3 width. The DVD/BD may be different though. Aesthetically then, a fine idea but one that wasn't followed through to the end as far as the theatrical presentation went. In my opinion.

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    Comment number 16.

    this is a brilliant film and completely unpretentious despite all the talk of aspect ratios, film format, and the overthrow of a dictator (however you say his name).

    its a funny, human drama in which the politics and the cinematography are barely noticeable as they fit the subject so perfectly. a real pleasure to watch.

    I saw it at the cinema and loved it.

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    Comment number 17.

    I loved all aspect of this film. Lovely indeed. http://www.unn.edu.ng

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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