Quentin Tarantino is Wrong About Film and Digital Cinema

There it is. I said it. Tarantino is wrong. Digital projection isn't 'television' at the theatre.

"As far as I'm concerned, digital projection is the death of cinema," Tarantino said, visibly heated. "The fact that most films aren't presented in 35mm means that the world is lost. Digital projection is just television in cinema."

I love the "Maltese Falcon". It's one of my all-time favourite pictures. Love, love it. Many years ago I got a chance to see it at a great old movie palace in Toronto called 'The Eglinton Theatre'. I had seen the film many times on television and VHS and I took the opportunity to see a fresh print of the 'Falcon' on the big screen.


It was a spectacular experience and I laughed in places that I didn't on the small screen. The big screen amplified the film. It amplified the performances. I then realized how great Bogart was with his subtle but effective nuances. It was an entirely different experience of the film. It is all about amplification. Small gestures became big gestures. Great set pieces are more explosive on a big screen. Our peripheral vision is hampered and we are to engage in the images and story before us. We can't hit pause or leave the room. We are forced to be engaged in the story. Leave and you will miss something important. We sit in the darkened theatre and EXPERIENCE the movie in all of it's gigantic glory.

We don't give a shit about the film stock or the grain. It's all about the story, the performances and experience. If we have done a disservice to film is that we don't use the frame in the way we used to. We cut medium shots with close-ups and we are worried about how the film will be viewed on a phone. Fuck the phone or tablet. Make sure those rat bastards that like to watch movies on a phone can't see a fucking thing. Use the long shot. The EXTRA LONG SHOT. Cinema is about a big screen experience. This is where Tarantino is misguided. It's not about film and flicker. It's not about a shitty print shown in an art house theatre. I saw a horrible print of '2001' in a rep theatre and it made me depressed. I could care less about the flicker of the film. I wanted to experience the film as it was originally presented. Who cares how the image was aquired? Had Kubrick made that film digitally or on film it wouldn't matter to me in the least. I don't see a film for grain structure. I see a film to be engaged in an idea, a style, and a character and a story. Who gives a flying fuck how we got here?

Feature film is my passion. It's not a passion for it's grain. It's a passion because features have big ideas. They don't rely on extensive plotting and long character arcs. Great features have big ideas. None of this has to do with film or digital. Projection on a large screen amplifies these ideas. These characters. Whether digital or analogue, the story is told on a large canvas. A visual canvas. Flicker and grain doesn't matter at all. What matters is that your movie connects to the audience. That is what provides a big screen experience that you can't get at home.

It's Bogart's subtle twinkle in the eye that makes you laugh. Visually amplified. Perfect.

Movies on Movies: No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos

'No Subtitles Necessary' explores the history and friendship of two of Hollywood's greatest cinematographers, Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond. Little did I know that these two Hungarian greats were film students together in Budapest and filmed the quashing of the Hungarian uprising by the Soviets. They smuggled their film out of Hungary, made their way to America and started working in the film industry on low budget horror pictures. Both cinematographers went on to become two of the most innovative and accomplished photographers of their generation. An unexpected gem marred only by the constant inclusion of Sharon Stone. A little bewildering but a great viewing nonetheless.

Movies on Movies: Side by Side

'Side by Side' is a documentary that examines the seismic shift in the acquisition format from film to digital. This film isn't geared toward a general interest audience and is much more of an exploration of the technical side of making films.

Film is dead. The writing is on the wall that film is not going to be the most popular acquisition format of the future (or even the 'now'). Of course film isn't dead and won't be for a long time but it will be a specialty format used for certain effects and by specific filmmakers. Over one hundred years film basically evolved slowly. Stocks got faster and grain got smaller and color film was introduced but overall the change was gradual. In the decade since the release of Star Wars Episode II, shot on the HDCAM format, digital technology has grown exponentially. It's come to the point that digital formats are exceeding the abilities of film. Just as there are advocates for the analog format of vinyl records film will also have it's advocates. Still, it's a moot point now as digital acquisition is clearly the winner and every year the stakes keep going higher and higher.

A decent film that will probably seem silly in a decade from now.

Side by Side Official Trailer (2012) from Company Films on Vimeo.

Movies on Movies - Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood

'Moguls and Movie Stars' is a  7 part series produced by Turner Classic Movies. The series explores the rise of the moguls from the original peep shows and nickelodeons to their eventual decline and extinction. It's a wonderful reminder of a time where the heads of studios were as passionate about films as they were about profits.

Movies on Movies - The Story of Film: An Odyssey.

Beyond all of the extras that are given on DVD and Blu-ray releases there are many excellent films about films and the filmmaking process. Many of the films I will list may be hard to find so I will start with some great films available on Netflix and DVD/Blu-ray.

First up is Mark Cousin's whirlwind examination of the history of film in his excellent fifteen part series 'The Story of Film'. Not only is this series rich with detail Cousins makes all sorts of wonderful connections between world cinema and Western cinema. It's a great series for those of us who grew up with a Hollywood-centric view of the history of the movies.

A great starting place for any lover of movies and movie history.