My Letter From Oliver Sacks

David Friedman in The Morning News:

Sacks-featureuse_1260_839_80In 1952, while Oliver Sacks was in England studying medicine at Oxford, the first 3D feature film was released in America: a jungle adventure called Bwana Devil. The New York Times called the movie “puerile” and “crude” but audiences loved it, launching a first wave of 3D films. Unfortunately, the technology of the time left audiences with headaches, and 3D movies quickly faded from mainstream into a long period of novelty. I grew up in the 1980s, when 3D movies were uncommon, but not forgotten. Occasionally a movie like Jaws 3-D came out, and I was amazed. When I saw a diving mask sinking underwater just inches in front of my face, I felt like I could reach out and grab it (forgetting that moments earlier it was worn by a character who was just eaten by a great white shark). If the technology existed to make a movie that immersive, I couldn’t understand why every film wasn’t made in 3D. The mere fact that 3D cinema was possible excited me.

I have always been an “intensely stereoscopic person,” a phrase I borrow from Oliver Sacks, who described himself the same way. The fact that human brains (and those of many other mammals) can take two slightly different flat images — one delivered from each eye — and turn them into a multi-layered world rich with textures and depth and space between objects absolutely amazes me. There are times when I literally pause to look around me and marvel at this. Growing up, I loved 3D photos and illustrations, and eventually made my own. I studied comic book art converted to 3D by Ray Zone, and in high school I drew anaglyph 3D images by hand using red and blue colored pencils. In college, I went through a period where I rented every Alfred Hitchcock movie I could find at my local video store. But I deliberately avoided Dial M For Murder after learning that Hitchcock intended it to be viewed in 3D. When it was originally released in theaters, the 3D fad had passed, and only a 2D version was shown, so audiences never saw the movie Hitchcock really wanted them to see. I finally got my chance to when a restored 3D version was screened at New York City’s Film Forum in December 2001.

It was great.

More here.