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Movie Heaven

Tuesday 5 March 2013, 14:52

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

Last night I introduced a special screening of the Jean Cocteau classic La Belle et la Bete on 35mm at my favourite cinema in the UK - I was truly in movie heaven.

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    Comment number 3.

    For me it should be digital all the way. Digital offers a wide range of possibilities that improves the viewing experience, films are sharper and the resolution is breathtaking. However where digital has earned its stripes is in film preservation. Just look at what Eureka Entertainment and Criterion in the U.S. have done with digital technology, they have cleaned and remastered both classic and unknown films and have re-introduced them to many new film fans thus ensuring that everyone can have a chance to watch classics of the cinematic medium.

    HOWEVER

    Digital has its downfalls, and like pretty much any other industry that is a slave to the free market economy, the cinematic digital revolution has created many casualties; in this case it is the projectionists, making this wonderful profession obsolete. Which brings me onto my second counterpoint; the flaws of digital projection far outweighs that of celluloid, sound out of synch, or switched off entirely, the projection is out of focus or out of frame etc. Now there is only one person who is responsible for an entire cinema screenings, and they are technicians who don't know the difference between screen ratio or projection ratio, and most probably don't know the difference between The Third Man and The Hangover.

    Sure digital has helped, but the niggles far outweigh the positives.

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    Comment number 4.

    Our local Picturehouse showed an early Chaplin film, and although not my favorite of the silents, I thought I'd go along to support them showing silent fare. I was annoyed to find that they were showing a digital print which had very distracting artefacts on screen -- any edge in the image near vertical or horizontal became a strangely dotted line. (I suspect that it was either a very bad transfer, or a DVD quality print which upon being shown through their 4k projector "developed" these artefacts on the fly as the technology was trying to upscale the content).

    This does show up the school of thought that once you "preserve" celluloid digitally, that's the end of the story. The problem is that many preservation efforts are now made along these lines, and while digitization should still be done, keeping the dwindling library of the world's celluloid alive is more important than ever.

    The Cocteau is great, and I've been lucky enough to have seen it on a big screen before pixelization. That said, the first time I ever saw it was on an beat up old b&w telly on a rainy afternoon. It was every bit as magical then.

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    Comment number 5.

    Couldn't agree more. Was in my Fav Cinema the other week - the Curzon in Clevedon, Somerset. The guy played the organ before hand, the audience waited in line for ice creams at a booth by the side of the screen, the film was perfectly projected and the audience kept every rule of the 5 live Movie cod of conduct. The cinema dates back to 1912 and has a small museum dedicated to the history of Cinema. Have you been there Mark? You should try it - it was my idea of Movie Heaven.

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    Comment number 6.

    Can we partly blame 3D, Mark's film nemesis, for this *wide scale* digitisation? Avatar was a phenomenon that obliged many cinemas to make the move. I think many yearn for film/classic 35mm because it acts a Proust moment. Unfortunately the younger generations, myself included, will not know that magic- which I agree is very sad.

    However there is a point to be made about the inefficiencies of film process. Surely film, with its flicker, lower resolution, colour fading etc.presents us the medium not just the content, much more noticeably compared to digital. It could be said that digital gives far more artistic control.

    In a sense though it's like seeing a print of an oil painting rather than the original, it looks much the same but the lack of idiosyncrasy takes away the magic. Which one is cheaper to get hold of however?

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    Comment number 7.

    It's all well and good old men getting nostalgic about celluloid, but for me the biggest issue raised by the 'Side by Side' documentary was the subject of film preservation. With new formats being developed all the time, what happens to the films that don't get transferred to DVD?. From my own experience, i've found that a lot of pre-war Hollywood isn't available on DVD, often having to watch them on YouTube. I once watched The Story of the Late Chrysanthemums in 10 minute sections on YouTube because it was the only way i could see it, and judging by the picture quality, it was presumably uploaded from a beat-up old VHS copy. Now with live streaming becoming the new format of choice, how many films will get left on the shelf to rot. The term "lost film" is something we generally associate with the silent era, but how long before it becomes a by-word for vast swathes of cinema history?. A recent example being the 1992 Hong Kong film The Actress, 40 minutes was cut from the running time and the producers destroyed the original negative and the uncut version apparently only exists on Australian television, i rather doubt i will ever get to see it, in any version. Dr K, i think we'd all be interested to your thoughts on this subject.

 

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