Tarantino. Digital. Projection. Death. Cinema.


Recently, my reader was invaded by news from Cannes. All sources were posting headlines referring to Tarantino’s statement using some combination of the following words: Tarantino, Digital, Projection, Death and Cinema. I have respect and admiration for Tarantino’s work. But, when I read ”digital projection is the death of cinema,” I could not resist to feel somehow disappointed.

Then of course, when you add the words “As far as I’m concerned” in front of the same statement, one can more easily understand the difference between The Death of Cinema and the Death of Tarantino’s Cinema. For example, Charles Chaplin was resistant to the introduction of sound, and that (amongst other aspects of his life) was the Death of Chaplin’s Cinema. We all fall in love with certain aspect of the experience. They might depend on our age, location, personal taste and… luck. But isn’t cinema something bigger than just the medium of film?

I invite anyone believing the magic of cinema is dependent on the flickering of a film projector and the qualities of the grain to sit down and watch 90min of film noise at 24fps. What about the stories, the script, the directions, the cinematography, the cast, the art direction, the music, the sound effects, the editing, and all the other elements that were imagined, designed, created always keeping in mind the cinematic experience the audience will hopefully enjoy in the theatre; at the cinema?

I understand Tarantino, but I also believe that if he were to be an aspiring filmmaker in 2014 his view of Digital Cinema could also be different. Certainly, many have abused the digital medium, providing content that felt like video games and TV, this at the same time when video games and TV were becoming more cinematic. However, when shooting digital for “Cinema” many keep in mind the experience in the theatre. I have seen directors moving into a position where the field monitor would feel as large as a cinema screen (even if this mean sticking their nose into it). I have seen editors (probably inspired by Walter Murch) place little paper-cut ‘humans’ in front of their monitors as a reminder.

Tarantino’s cinema is best seen on film. I truly believe so. His films are made for that medium; it is part of the style. If I were to point out a negative aspect of digital filmmaking in my limited experience, it would be the diminished respect towards the take. The cost of film seemed to create a greater level of concentration and respect during a take. Instead of shooting “the hell out of it”, the take was more often rehearsed and executed with care. Cinema is cinema because of the respect it receives, from the makers and the audience. Most of the famous quotes you will find online expressing love for the magic of cinema seldom mention the celluloid.

6 responses to “Tarantino. Digital. Projection. Death. Cinema.

  1. Pingback: Is Cinema Dead? Cinema is Broken says Greenaway.  | W(A/O)NDERING Filmmaking·

  2. Presentation has always dictated form. This was true of the oral poetry of the Ancient Greeks and it has persisted to present day. With the proliferation of MP3s and selective digital downloading, many contemporary recording artists (including Lenny Kravitz on THE HOWARD STERN SHOW last week) are bemoaning the “death of the album”—the art of sequencing songs to create a musical experience grander than the sum of its parts. And yet, the notion of “the album” only came about when the nascent record industry saw an opportunity to capitalize on new technology—vinyl records—by compiling preexisting songs (singles, essentially, to use an anachronistic term) from an artist’s repertoire into a “collection” that fit the record’s time capacity. Later, savvy artists and producers capitalized on the creative possibilities of this new “presentation” by experimenting with “form”—i.e., engineering a listening experience that was linked sonically, thematically, or otherwise. Then came along more brilliant minds, like the Beatles and the Who, who helped pioneer the next presentational innovation: the “concept album.” And now, in the era of iTunes, the notion of the album as a means of musical presentation is altogether antiquated. But, I suspect the new mode of presentation (digital downloading) will inspire great artists to find new styles of form (TBD), making everything old new again. There will be a lot of junk—that’s always been the case—but there will also be inspired works of art that only came to be because new technologies allowed for new creative possibilities. Same goes for cinema. Tarantino utilized the then-newfound possibilities of PRESENTATION—that is, the Miramax-spearheaded independent-cinema movement of the ’90s as a reaction to the constraints of the sanitized, by-the-numbers major-studio approach of the ’80s—to create a new cinematic FORM (violent; nonlinear; avant-garde) that galvanized the industry and an entire generation of filmmakers. He is proof that the right voice and the right time WILL be heard—it’s only the technology by which those voices and visions are presented that is ever and always in question (more so now than ever given the exponential speed of innovation). The debate of film versus digital is one of presentation, which comes and goes; form, on the other hand, is wholly dependent on clever minds and imaginations, and those are here to stay.

    • Thank you for taking the time to write this insightful comment. To open another area for discussion… Opportunities for change are strong during transitions from one technology to another. Most importantly, as you noted with your example with Miramax, the changes in funding and monetisation paradigms also open the door to new generations of storytellers. One of the dangers of Digital Cinema and digital media in general is the devaluation of content. The audience has access to a large quantity of high quality legal and illegal content for consumption. If we trace another parallel with the music industry with the case of Taylor Swift and Spotify, we can see the problems linked to the comparatively low income subscription packages such as Netflix and Spotify can offer. Cinema exhibitors are starting to offer similar deals. In the UK, you can subscribe for a month worth of Cinema going for little under the price of 2 entries. Could this lead to an increase in revenues? If it did, could this increase the demand for content? We can release a movie digitally to the theatres for far less than with celluloid. We can produce a movie for far less digitally than with film. Could this hypothetical abundance of content in the theatres lead to a devaluation of content? One thing is sure, with the tumultuous changes the movie financing and distribution paradigms are undergoing, the door is wide open for a fresh wave of filmmakers to explore new territories and eventually become the references of the next generation, and so on. Visual storytelling is here to stay.

  3. Pingback: Presentation and Form | Sean P Carlin·

  4. Yes, there is more media competing for our attention now than ever. Digital distribution platforms—for movies/TV, books, music, video games—have certainly democratized the process, and that’s something to celebrate, but they have also opened the floodgates: There’s seemingly infinite content from which to choose! Now—does abundance of material DEVALUE content in general? As a consumer, it certainly makes quality content that much harder to find; as a screenwriter and author, I can tell you that it’s also harder than ever to find an audience and make a LIVING as an artist (no less than the legendary Sammy Hagar, in discussing his endangered supergroup Chickenfoot, recently addressed the sorry state of the record business here: http://on.vh1.com/1v8FXkL). But, as you noted, it’s all in flux right now—no one’s definitively figured out how to effectively monetize the emerging paradigm just yet—so we’ll have to wait and see. If artists can’t make a living, though, they’ll stop producing art, and that will force SOME manner of cosmic self-correction, as there will ALWAYS be an appetite for good content (life simply isn’t worth living without art). As for how said content reaches a broader audience, I have to trust that social media will play a part in getting the word out—even over the ample noise it generates—in the uncertain years ahead. Again, the universe seems to have a built-in self-corrective mechanism: If the Internet opens the door for slathers of new content, it will also play a part in seeing the cream rise to the top. To be sure, that will require artists to become savvy marketers of their own work/brand, which renders the process rather Darwinian, doesn’t it? Darwinism ensures that the strongest and savviest endure (filmmakers like young George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino were as shrewd as they were talented), and there should actually be something reassuring about that principle as it applies to new modes of creative expression in an overcrowded media landscape. Visual storytelling is not only here to stay, it will find a way to prosper. Stay tuned.

  5. Pingback: Supply and Demand: Content in the Digital Age | Sean P Carlin·

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