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Letterboxed: The Evolution of Widescreen Cinema

by Harper Cossar

Availablecloth$60.00x 978-0-8131-2651-7
304 pages  Pubdate: 01/14/2011  6 x 9 x .875  255 b&w photos

When widescreen technology was introduced to filmmaking in 1953, it changed the visual framework and aesthetic qualities of cinema forever. Before widescreen, a director’s vision for capturing beautiful landscapes or city skylines was limited by what could be included in the boxy confines of an Academy Ratio film frame. The introduction and subsequent evolution of widescreen technology has allowed directors to push the boundaries of filmmaking.

Letterboxed: The Evolution of Widescreen Cinema explores the technological changes of the widescreen technique and how the format has inspired directors and also sparked debates among film critics. Examining early filmmakers such as Buster Keaton and D. W. Griffith and genre pioneers like Nicholas Ray and Douglas Sirk, Harper Cossar explains how directors use wider aspect ratios to enhance their creative visions. Letterboxed tracks the history of stylistic experimentation with the film frame and demonstrates how the expansion of the screen has uncovered myriad creative possibilities for directors.

Harper Cossar teaches media studies in Atlanta. His publications have appeared in Journal of Film and Video, Flow, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Journal of New Media and Culture, and Film and History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies, as well as the anthologies All-Stars and Movie Stars: Sports in Film and History and Convergence Media History.

“Cossar significantly intervenes in our scholarly understanding of the aesthetics of widescreen cinema by considering them in relation to both auteurism and genre.” —Derek Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Radio, Television, and Film, University of North Texas

"Complementing the work of John Belton and David Bordwell, this excellent book provides a detailed and insightful account of widescreen technology, widescreen aesthetics, and widescreen cinema history in the United States."--Stephen Neale, Film Studies, Exeter University

"Cossar provides a new tool for examine the ever-evolving art of filmmaking as well as a window to understanding the changes that are taking place today as televisions undergo a similiar change in format."--Tuscan Citizen

"Letterboxed traces recurring technological problems and aesthetic solutions across a wide swath of film history."--David Bordwell

"Cossar offers a meticulously researched, well-organized, and far-ranging analysis of the impact of widescreen aesthetics on cinematic technique. . . . An important resource for those seeking to expand their understanding of how the shape of the frame impacts the storytelling within it."--Choice

"a fine survey of the history of widescreen technology and applications . . . a 'must' for any serious film collection." -- The Midewest Book Review