News, News, News

A couple of items to which I want to draw your attention. In fact, these would seem to be linked in theme, namely, how do we see older films.

First, the exciting news that a sizeable consortium of European film archives is being created to make rare films available on-line for free.

And a very depressing piece from the San Francisco chronicle about the economics of running a rep house. If a rep programmer can't make a go in SF, there really isn't much hope left for seeing older films on a big screen, is there?

It's sort of a cruel irony. When I first started studying and writing about film, there were so many titles that were nearly impossible to see, films that were supposedly lost, films that were out of circulation due to rights issues, films that just never turned up on television. And, of course, letterboxing was unheard of, so seeing a widescreen film on television was a form of medieval torture. But there were dozens of repertory houses in New York City. As I noted in my posting of Jan. 22, I used to run from the Elgin to the New Yorker, or the Regency or Theater 80 St. Marks, and so on. Now I just look at my mailbox to see what Netflix has sent. On the positive side, I now own -- on disk or tape -- hundreds of films that I could only dream of seeing 30 years ago. If I want a Cinematheque, I just have to walk across my living room (or my office, or our downstairs parlor -- damned things have proliferated so much that the only places in the apartment that I don't have DVDs or VHS tapes are the bathrooms), and there are 20 Ozu films at hand.

But there simply is no substitute for seeing a film in an audience, on a big screen, in a theater. And the opportunity to do that for older films is obviously fading like a Metrocolor print.


Daryl Chin said…
Yes, i feel the same way. I just had the experience of watching David Fincher's ZODIAC at home (i missed it during its theatrical run, and movies no longer hang around that long) and realizing that the theatrical experience is not the same as the home-viewing experience. Though i tried, i just couldn't give ZODIAC the same concentrated attention that i would have if i had been in a theater. And it made me realize that there are some movies that are made for that concentrated attention, and that i miss something by waiting to see it at home.

Yet that also means that films which have "surface" elements (snappy dialogue, good performances, a simple visual field - mostly close-ups) which fit the home viewing situation will seem so much better than those films which require more attention. (And that's why directors such as Elia Kazan and Sidney Lumet, whose films do not really depend on visual style but on performance and pacing, are now considered masters.)