The medium isn’t dead, it’s changing. But sensationalistic pundits haven’t figured that out yet.
Back in May of 1897, when his cousin fell deathly ill, the press erroneously reported that it was none other than Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) himself who was unwell to the point of expiration. To correct this, Twain responded with a letter stating most famously: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” Today, over 100 years later, I am kindly borrowing Twain’s response to those journalists, and writing to the press on behalf of cinema. Guess what, True Believers? The report of film’s death is an exaggeration.
Now hooooold on. Before you get angry or frustrated, before you hit that comment button and begin to argue with me, please hear me out. I have something important to say. I realize that my stance on this may not be the most popular one, but it comes from a place of lifelong love and dedication to the cinema.
Before we discuss the “death of film,” we need to define a few words in order to ensure we’re all on the same page. While it may seem like a simple phrase, from my standpoint, as of late, it seems that people are using it interchangeably to discuss format and experience and we need to clear this up.
What do we mean when we say “film?” Are we referring to 35mm? DCP? Seeing Big Trouble in Little China for the first time in a theater? Even if most of the articles being printed today are referring to a format that is on its way out, I believe the use of the term “film” is causing people to confuse the technical with the experiential. No one, I repeat, no one, will ever be able to kill Film. It is a forever thing. When we enter a theater, we are not there to see a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) or five reels of 35mm polyester film. We are there for a moving image experience. We are there for a story. Unless you are going into a theater specifically to gauge the grain content, investigate the color correction results or another technical task, your only goal should be to indulge in cinematic entertainment. Or not. Maybe you won’t be entertained! Maybe you’ll hate the film! And if so, you can walk out if you think it sucks. The film might offend you, put you to sleep, make you want to write the filmmaker an angry e-mail telling him/her that you want that 90-120 minutes of your life back because he/she wasted it. But only if you let it. If you spend the entirety of your time inside a theater concentrating solely on the materials the experience was committed to, then you will miss the best part of Film: the experience.
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