I’ve been a hardcore aspect ratio fanatic my entire life so I when I notice something unusual or striking about the masking of a new film, you can pretty much take it to the bank. I was in a local AMC plex last night, and impulsively decided to pop my head into a theatre showing The Holdovers. Despite having seen it three times (Telluride and Montclair film festivals plus last night) I noticed for the first time that it’s being projected at 1.66:1, or is masked at that aspect ratio.

We all understand that director Alexander Payne has gone to some effort to make The Holdovers look and feel like a half-century-old film, but honestly? 1.66:1 was more in vogue during the ’50s and the early to mid ’60s (at least when it came to United Artists releases). Outside of European projection standards and par-for-the-course 1.66 maskings, 1.85 aspect ratios had become ubiquitous stateside by 1970, the year in which Payne’s film mostly takes place. I nonetheless love that he tumbled for 1.66 anyway.

Nobody loves 1.66 aspect ratios like Hollywood Elsewhere…nobody.

To me 1.66 framings are a special turn-on — a standard of old-school visual integrity that either you’re on board with like a monk or you’re not and you’re lost.

The first three James Bond films use the 1.66 rectangle…perfection. I adore that John Schlesinger‘s Sunday Bloody Sunday (’71) adheres to same. I hated it when Richard Lester ignored the traditional 1.66 framings of A Hard Day’s Night and went instead for 1.75 when the Criterion Bluray version came out…heresy! The late William Friedkin once told me in no uncertain terms that Sorcerer was meant to be shown in 1.85, but he could have kicked back and opened his heart and gone for 1.66 and nobody would’ve said boo. Roman Polanski wasn’t “wrong”, of course, when he stated that 1.85 was the proper aspect ratio for Rosemary’s Baby, but when I saw a 1.66 version in Paris in ’76 or thereabouts, I knew…I just knew.

You can’t instruct a cinematic Philistine to get with the 1.66 program — they either understand or they don;t.