Steven Soderbergh, Danny Boyle, George Lucas, Robert Rodriguez (below), the Wachowski siblings and a host of other top "filmmakers" -- as... digital-makers, or maybe digi-makers? That, as they say, is the least of it. (Not to worry: Christopher Nolan, along with maybe Spielberg and Scorsese, will still be using film. For awhile.) Over the past decade or more, we film-goers/digi-goers have been told that the death of film as a format for movie-making is at hand and that digital would soon take over everything. And then we were asked, But what does this mean? Most of us viewers (even, I would wager, many of us "critics") sure as hell didn't know -- particularly those, such as TrustMovies, who pay more attention to Content and Style than to the technical efforts used to bring that C&S to the screen.
Film Comment, Cineaste, Cinema Scope and Sight & Sound, to name those to which yours truly pays most attention -- we would find an occasional article or roundtable/symposium devoted to exactly this question, often with an emphasis on film preservation, coupled to the worry that nobody quite knows how, as yet, to preserve the digital format -- or, even if this is/will be necessary. I don't know about you, but after I finished reading these, I always had more questions than when I had begun.
SIDE BY SIDE -- written and directed by erstwhile production manager Christopher Kenneally (shown at right), is an absolutely must-see for any true movie buff. In it, Mr. Reeves talks to everyone from movie directors and cinematographers to editors and the guys who make and market the latest (and quite amazing, as it turns out) digital cameras, and gets them to point out the differences between the two formats, what each can achieve, and why & how, in various cases, one or the other may be better or worse. After viewing this jam-packed-with-good-information movie, you'll finally understand what is going on and why it is so important for the future of the thing we love more than any in this world. Excepting, of course, our immediate family. (And even that depends on the particular family.)
Thomas Vinterberg's landmark digital film The Celebration was created -- you see a bit of many of these during the course of Side by Side -- that one can only marvel at what is now possible to do with some of the new digital cameras.
John Malkovich, coming as he does from legitimate theater, enjoys the longer time between cuts, while Robert Downey, Jr. can't wait for the director to yell out the "C" word. And Mumblecore queen Greta Gerwig (above), who certainly cut her movie teeth on digital, has some interesting things to say, too. We hear from film/digi editors about their work using both formats, and the special effects people, too -- whom, it would seem, digital was born to serve.
James Cameron (above) comes off as less self-satisfied than usual, David Fincher as intelligent and level-headed as usual, and Joel Schumacher as friendly and funny as usual -- he has one of the best lines in the whole film. The other great line goes to Soderbergh, below, who tells us that, "We want to send film to the retirement home but have her feel good about what's taking her place." When that director saw what the new camera from RED could do, he says, "I felt like calling film and telling her: 'I've met someone'."
Robert Adragna, take a look at the movie to see what he thought. He told me he enjoyed it on many levels, even though he felt it was made only for an audience for film buffs, rather than normal movie-goers. "It meandered, and ping-ponged back and forth and was a little repetitive. But there was still so much information here. One thing I was surprised at, considering the movie's title: They never actually did a side-by-side comparison of film against digital -- showing us the same thing using both processes. That would have been interesting." Indeed.