Watching some older movies recently (“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “The Ox-Bow Incident,” “His Girl Friday”) it occurred to me that the aspect ratio that most nearly equals what we currenlty think of as “full-frame” is really an excellent format to shoot movies in. It allows for really tight compositions: really tight close-ups, the possibility of using every bit of the screen. Plus, it just seems like a natural format to shoot movies in: if you look at movies like paintings, many paintings are made in more or less the “full-frame” ratio – slightly flattened squares. Widescreen has its purposes – BIG movies like “Lawrence of Arabia” or “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” can make great use of that format. But I don’t think it’s a natural shape for most movies – too elongated, too much screen to fill.
(And for the record, I’ll always watch a DVD in widescreen if that’s what the movie was shot in – better to see what the director shot than to see a pan ‘n’ scan.)