Voyagers

Oct 3, 2007

Longtime Criterionites remember the days when we were a part of the Voyager Company. Voyager had a long history of innovations, hooking up laserdisc players to early Macintosh computers to explore the world’s museums or inventing interactive software to explore classical music on the first consumer CD-ROMs, but what has always been at the heart of the Voyager ideal is the concept of publishing. The original circa-1984 Criterion logo, lovingly known as the “P” around here, was actually a book turning into a disc, and it wasn’t long before Voyager made the eBook a floppy-disc reality when it brought out the expanded book tool kit in 1992 and started publishing Random House’s Modern Library in electronic form. Many of the eighty or so CD-ROM projects that followed were built on the ideas behind the expanded book tool kit, and Voyager founder Bob Stein has continued to push the boundaries with his Institute for the Future of the Book. But the most recent innovation to come out of the Voyager legacy is from Voyager Japan, our intrepid overseas partner company run by Masaaki Hagino. Apologies for the Japanese link—the Babelfish-style English translation is not much help—but it seems Voyager Japan has created an eBook reader for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Congratulations, Hagino!

On another note, Lee had Vittorio Storaro in the office last week to ask him some questions about the transfer on The Last Emperor. For anyone who doesn’t know, Storaro is the cinematographer who shot Last Tango in Paris, Apocalypse Now, Reds, The Conformist, and on and on. There’s a game we play sometimes—Is so-and-so a master? We always say it takes three great films. Storaro is definitely a master, and it’s always a special occasion when someone of that stature passes through. The Last Emperor was transferred in Rome under Storaro’s supervision, and he had made some surprising choices. Lee and Stéphane went through the HD master in detail with him, asking questions about color, light, and framing, and Storaro answered them one by one. Afterward, Lee brought him around, and a few of us hung out and talked with him. He’s a whirlwind. Any question ties into a theory or an overlooked fact. Colors have absolute emotional resonances and inherent meanings. The ideal aspect ratio of film is 2.0:1 (so all future TV sets should be 18:9). Movie theaters in Europe project faster than theaters in America because of the differences in current. 50 kHz and 60 kHz? At this point I’m in way over my head, but it was fascinating to hear how he ties the world together. Everything is connected, and he seems to harbor absolutely no doubt about his views. As I listened to him, I couldn’t help thinking that even aside from his mastery of his art, I’ve never met anyone who so totally embodies the sentence from Emerson “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.”

And finally, the cinematic equivalent of "Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall," but a lot more work!

Voyagers