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LetterboxedThe Evolution of Widescreen Cinema$
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Harper Cossar

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780813126517

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813126517.001.0001

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D. W. Griffith, Buster Keaton, Abel Gance, and the Precursors of Widescreen Aesthetics

D. W. Griffith, Buster Keaton, Abel Gance, and the Precursors of Widescreen Aesthetics

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(p.27) Chapter 1 D. W. Griffith, Buster Keaton, Abel Gance, and the Precursors of Widescreen Aesthetics
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Letterboxed
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Harper Cossar

Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
DOI:10.5810/kentucky/9780813126517.003.0002

This chapter focuses on stylistic choices that can be read as forerunners of wide film poetics. It examines experimentation in the silent era with widescreen aesthetics by auteurs deploying certain stylistic devices. What experiments did filmmakers attempt that may be considered precursors of the norms following widescreen's debut in the early 1950s? Through a textual analysis of aesthetic choices in Griffith's film Broken Blossoms and Orphans of the Storm (1921), one can see that the directors of pre-widescreen films used widescreen poetics such as letterbox masking to create a wider image rather than a vertical composition. Keaton often used the long shot and resisted cutting to close-up to show his gags in full space. The discussion also looks at Gance's bravura use of his Polyvision triptych to close Napoleon.

Keywords:   Academy ratio, camera movement, silent films, Polyvision triptych, widescreen poetics

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