The miracle of 3-D

Three-dimensional Cinema had a fleeting moment of glory in the early Fifties, with American B-movie production, before being wiped out by Cinemascope: in the search for a total experience, the process that produced the illusion of the screen’s disappearance, was replaced by a system that actually magnified the surface. It fell out of use because of the complex equipment required to screen it (silver screens, polarized or anaglyph glasses, double synchronized projectors, special lenses...), and now, after the Fifties, 3-D has become just a surviving curiosity. Prior to gaining new relevance within the culture of virtual reality, the format was relegated to the margins of the film industry – gore flicks, karate films, soft porn – but it also found a niche in experimental film which renewed both the projection equipment and perception of the images.

3-D films question the aesthetic categories of a painterly origin, which prevail in the history of cinema. The relief of the figures and the multiplication of the planes seem to be modeled on the techniques of embossing and bas-relief, while a circular relationship is set up between the spectacle and the spectator, where «flat» cinema provides only an abstract, stylized representation. Thus, halfway between sculpture and stage arts, 3-D cinema will destroy the painterly aspect of cinema by resurrecting ancient phantasmagoric performances.

Many of the films which make up this section have been distributed and seen mainly in their flat versions. Film in 3-D is often a rarity which struggles to come to the surface, primarily due to the technical difficulties connected to a correct projection. Another example of a cinema to recover and rediscover. This is the case of Miss Sadie Thompson, where an irresistible Rita Hayworth finally comes off the screen in a blazing, new restoration presented in its European premiere.

Philippe-Alain Michaud