Despite the fact that the majority of the film industry has moved over to the digital medium, there’s still plenty of room for good old-fashioned celluloid.
Quentin Tarantino has said he’ll retire if the industry decides to make a total shift towards digital. Ironically, two of Tarantino’s defining movies (Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction) will be playing as part of Cineplex’s Great Digital Film Festival, which kicks off on Feb. 1. Cinematic masterpieces like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange—most of which were shot on celluloid—will be screened digitally. There’s something weird about retrofitting the past to make it conform to the present—especially since 2001 was recorded on 70mm film, a rare format typically used for wide, sweeping epics.
Where Kubrick used the extra-large film stock to convey the grand themes he was exploring across time and space, P.T. Anderson, director of 2012’s The Master, used it to document the intimate details of an actor’s performance, so that even the slightest expression would have a deep, emotional resonance. In The Master, Anderson explores the relationship between order and chaos. Those themes are echoed in his use of 70mm film, which combines uniform clarity with the shakiness and unpredictability that are associated with traditional film projections.
Digital can help a slick film like Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike (a total masterpiece, btw) convey the cold, distant nature of its world. But just as Soderbergh used digital video to send a message, the directors of the movies screening in the Great Digital Film Fest said something deliberate through the nuances of celluloid. For both Anderson and Kubrick, film wasn’t merely a method of image capture, it added thematic depth to their work. Film has been the canvas for filmmakers for over a century. Even if Cineplex is setting up these screenings with the best of intentions, there’s something to be said about viewing an artist’s work as he or she originally intended. Nobody goes to the Louvre to look at the Mona_Lisa.jpeg.