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It's one thing when you and I sing the praises of a film, but when the
experts - the people who know film-making inside-and-out - heap
superlatives on a film.....well, it's time to take notice. Not that
Ben-Hur needed additional praise; the film won a then-record 11 Oscars.
But, when it's almost 50 years later and today's film experts are still
in awe of that film. That says a lot.
It was impressive to hear a number of directors and cinematographers, men like Ridley Scott, Ernest Dickerson, George Lucas, Robert Dalva and others explain WHY Ben-Hur was so impressive and how this film inspired them to do things in their movies years later. Even with today's technology, they still aren't sure how some of the scenes were able to be put on film.
It was amazing for me to see and hear just how big the sets were on Ben-Hur. With computer effects available, for one thing, they don't spend the time and money on things like that today. By "that," I mean, let's say, the arena where Ben-Hur had his famous chariot race. That gigantic oval, with incredible statues and architecture, took over a year to build. Scott, who directed the recent epic "Gladiator," said his arena was one-sixth the size of the one built for Ben-Hur.
Even though some of the talk is technical, it was never confusing and was always interesting. I think I enjoyed listening to most to Dickerson, who was the cinematographer on "Malcolm X." He seemed to be one of the people who was the most impressed with Ben-Hur, and still is today. Directors, photographers, actors, costume designers, on and on just rave about how authentic everything looked in here, which was amazing for a film in the 1950s. That's why it holds up so well today, they remarked.
The above, and a much more "inside" looks at this film, made this documentary interesting, and made me appreciate this film all the more.
Despite being a DVD extra, this is not just some 'making of' featurette. Instead of talk about the film and the back story, this film is much more specific and focused. Many directors, producers and cinematographers discuss the many ways that "Ben Hur" was a groundbreaking film. As they describe the brilliant camera angles, costumes, the use of light, closeups and the 65mm print, you see what they are talking about on the screen. As a result, the film is more a primer for young film makers on how to make a profound film--and it has the added benefit of enabling the casual viewer to get so much more out of the production. Some might find this a bit dull, but for insane cinemaniacs (like me), it's all great because it's so educational. Plus, it helps me appreciate a movie that I already love--giving me so many more reasons to respect and love the movie. It's like sitting in on a film class--just soak it all in and enjoy.
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