This afternoon I sent the following to a person who may very well be and most likely is Roman Polanski. This person identified himself in a 7.17 HE thread as “RRT Polanski,” and expressed himself in such a way that I’m 85% to 90% persuaded it’s probably from the Real McCoy:
“Roman — This is a response to what appears may be a legitimate post from you on a 7.17 Hollywood Elsewhere comment thread about my mistaken belief (which I’ve since admitted to) that Rosemary’ Baby was once composed and issued on home video at the aspect ratio of 1.66 to 1.
“You wrote that while my ‘righteous fury amuses [you] beyond measure,’ you feel ‘under the obligation to scholars and in defence [sic] of [your] magnificent friends at Criterion to set the matters right. Rosemary’s Baby is being released by Criterion in 1.85:1 because that is the aspect ratio I directed the film to have, because that is the aspect ratio that I prefer, and because that is the aspect ratio I insisted upon.’
“You added that ‘while there was protection in the filming for the possibility of inadvertent projection at 1.66:1, it was never my intention to allow such projection if I could maintain control of the circumstance of projection. This film is and will always be properly framed at 1.85:1.’
“If you’re really Roman Polanski. as you seem to be, I’ve obviously been chastised and bitch-slapped here, and I humbly admit error (as I did yesterday) in insisting that 1.66 is, or should be, the proper aspect ratio for your 1968 film. It’s your film, your call, and I defer to your judgment and authority.
“Except on some level, and I’m speaking in a purely conversational way here, I can’t entirely do that. Not wholeheartedly. I know for a fact that William Fraker, your Rosemary’s Baby dp, was a gifted man with a great eye, and I completely trust (and on some level recall. perhaps due to some viewing of Rosemary’s Baby at 1.66 in a Paris revival theatre) that what he captured within that protected 1.66 aspect ratio was aesthetically pleasing and balanced. I am what you might call a ‘light, air and breathing space’ kind of guy, and I believe that Rosemary’s Baby would be somewhat more pleasing (to me anyway) if it was cropped around…oh, let’s say 1.75 to 1. Just a little bit of breathing room. No biggie.
“Who am I to tell you what aspect ratio I prefer when you’ve clearly stated what you like and what you’ve firmly decided and that this is the end of it and shut up? Well, first of all we’re just talking here. Secondly, I’m a bigmouth. But thirdly, having been a film fanatic all my life and a licensed projectionist for a brief period in the early ’80s, I am seriously mesmerized by the right kind of motion picture framing for films that I love and respect, and I guess I’m caught up in a belief that I know a thing or two about what looks right.
“I don’t mean to imply that I know better, but deep down I sort of feel that…how can I put this? I feel that what I believe in this matter has a certain validity. I’m obviously not ‘right’ and you, the creator of Rosemary’s Baby, are certainly not ‘wrong,’ of course. But there’s a little man inside who wants to nudge up the frame height when I watch your film. Just a little bit. Anyway, that’s what I was trying to say the other day before I admitted error on this matter. The little man tells me what to say, and I just say it. Because the little man knows.
“I also believe very passionately what I said about the steak in that get-together scene between Mia Farrow, John Cassevettes, Ruth Gordon and Sydney Blackmer. I don’t have a Rosemary’s Baby DVD with me right now and I haven’t seen the Criterion Bluray transfer, but I’ve been led to believe by a source who has examined the film closely that the viewer may — I say ‘may’ — not be able to see the steak they’re eating. Again — I don’t know that the steak is missing, but I’ve heard that it may be. And if that turns out to be true when the Criterion Bluray comes out, I very respectfully don’t think that’s right.
“Anyway, it was good to hear from you, even under this circumstance. I humbly accept your criticism that my passionate argumentative tone strikes you as fascistic. I will try to keep this in mind during future debates over aspect ratios.”
“Regards, Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere”
APPARENT 7.17 POLANSKI COMMENT: “A colleague has made me aware of the discussion under way here, and while it amuses me beyond measure, I feel under the obligation to scholars and in defence of my magnificent friends at Criterion to set the matters aright. “Rosemary’s Baby” is being released by Criterion in 1.85:1 because that is the aspect ratio I directed the film to have, because that is the aspect ratio that I prefer, and because that is the aspect ratio I insisted upon. While there was protection in the filming for the possibility of inadvertent projection at 1.66:1, it was never my intention to allow such projection if I could maintain control of the circumstance of projection. This film is and will always be properly framed at 1.85:1. And Mr. Wells, while I admire your sense of righteous fury, let me say to you that I know a little bit about fascism, and disagreeing with you is not the hallmark. However, your response to disagreement looks familiar. Polanski” — i.e., RRTPolanski.