Exhibition by Conor Jones

Mark Cousins calls digital technology the ‘third epoch of cinema’[1]; to him digital technology ‘changed cinema even more fundamentally than the introduction of sound’ because it created the first ‘meritocratic’ film society. Cousins words were directed toward the use of digital technology in the production of films, but I believe this speaks for cinema exhibition also. Digital exhibition has personalised how people see films, there is no longer one way to see a movie and any film can be seen at anytime. This personalisation and freedom digital offers should be wholeheartedly embraced because while this means the film industry will suffer, the artist and the audience will gain creative control.

Before talking about film outside of the cinema, it is important to first discuss digitals effect inside the cinema. It is broadly known and discussed that digital projection has taken over from the projection of physical film reels and while some agree with digitals quality and practicality, many still fight for the traditional film stock. A choice between digital and analogue projection is silly, by answering this you remove choice. Some films want to be played on film, some films want to be played digitally. Seeing ‘Annie Hall’[2] on 35mm was a warmer experience than seeing it digitality projected, but I wouldn’t think of seeing ‘Avengers Assemble[3] in the same way. It’s for the same reason that some music is best heard on vinyl and some digital. This is not an argument which can be statistically backed up, this is something that works on the dataless emotional level which could never hope to be studied because the human mind is brilliantly flawed. It’s not a choice that should be forever chosen, the choice should always remain because the complexity of an artform can never be completely explored if it’s only shown one way.

I was fortunate enough to see ‘The Conversation’[4] in 35mm recently. The scale of the film’s opening shot and the complexity of foley work screamed that this film belongs in the cinema; played on 35mm because the analogue technology central to the film is reflected by the film stock itself. There are many films like this, Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’[5], for instance, needs to be seen in a cinema because the cinema offers a loneliness in crowds, an integral part of understanding Travis Bickle’s character. A films exhibition should never diminish itself, it should only heighten the themes already present in the film and help communicate those themes to the viewer. This is why some films, such as ‘Synecdoche, New York’[6], deserve to be seen alone and others, like ‘If….[7], with just friends. Digital technology has made these personalised screenings possible because the internet has grown exponentially. A cinema will nearly always be the ideal place to see a film, at least for the first time, but it’s important to note that cinema exhibition was never exclusive to the cinema.

The first screening of the Lumiere’s cinematographe was in a small parisian cafe, and if film is welcome there, it is welcome in the home. This also opens opportunities for the audience to engage with films in a similar way as they would with books. Books allow people a great deal of creative control, they may read out loud, they may read in their head, and they may do either in an accent for each character. It may be the reader wants to go back and re-read a section or stop in the middle of a sentence to come back later. Similar opportunities are now opened for cinema audiences and what I believe this is leading to is a film literacy among the public. Cinema hasn’t diminished, its simply matured into an artform, becoming more personal to the audience than one-hundred lit faces in a dark room. The personalisation of cinema due to digital advancement has removed the grand spectacle of a full theatre and transferred it to the home where it can be best analysed. A film literacy on par with the public’s understanding of the written language does not mean the average film will get better, but it will mean the audience’s opinion of a film will become more educated and this will mean a more fair and meritocratic perception of cinema.

However, digital technology has done some harm to cinema, but it appears as only temporary. Because of this amazing new, seemingly limitless, technology, cinema has reverted back to its earliest stage, the ‘cinema of attractions’[8]. Many films now aim to have more flash than substance, because the new technology allows films to be screened louder and larger than ever before with borderless CGI. The old technology of 3D has came back with it, again enforcing a ‘cinema of attractions’. Fortunately the internet will save cinema. The internet, specifically ‘YouTube[9] and similar sites, is slowly becoming the new home for ‘attractions’. As technology becomes easier to use and cheaper to afford anyone will be able to create anything. Already the wide spread of handheld recording devices has made channels such as ‘Le Zap De Spion[10] and ‘FailArmy[11] the new home of the ‘cinema of attractions’ that the Lumiere’s began one-hundred-and-twenty years ago.

Finally, ignoring any previous pretentiousness of seeing a film in a way which better constructs an environment toward the metaphorical value of a film. I would like to conclude by saying this; If you truly love cinema, it won’t matter how you see the film, the film itself will be enough.

[1] Cousins, Mark, The Story of Film, revised hardback edition. London: Pavilion, November 1, 2013. p434. A brilliant book chronicling the history of cinema from the perspective of a person truly enamored with it.

[2] Annie Hall (1977), dir. Woody Allen. USA: MGM.

Somehow this embarrassingly real film sneaks inside your mind until it when it ends a sudden burst of nostalgia will come over you for relationships you’ve never had.

[3] Avengers Assemble (2012), dir. Joss Whedon. USA: Marvel Studios.

[4] The Conversation (1974), dir. Francis Ford Coppola. USA: The Directors Company.

Coppola’s kafkaesque commentary on surveillance flaunts the most beautiful and complex foley work cinema has yet seen.

[5] Taxi Driver (1976), dir. Martin Scorsese. USA: Columbia Pictures Corporation.

In this film you become the voyeur of a voyeur, all his judgment becomes your judgement; your duty as an audience member, to decode the complexity of others, is questioned.

[6] Synecdoche, New York (2008), dir. Charlie Kaufman. USA: Sidney Kimmel Entertainment.

The most honest film you’ll see.

[7] If…. (1968), dir. Lindsay Anderson. UK: Memorial Enterprise.

A film which perfectly sums up the surreal nature of growing up.

[8] Gunning, Tom, “An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator”, Film Theory & Criticism, fifth edition, edited by Leo Braudy, and Marshall Cohen, 818-832. Oxford: Oxford University Press, August 6, 1998.

[9] https://www.youtube.com/ (Assessed 30/04/16)

[10] https://www.youtube.com/user/LeZap2Spi0n (Assessed 30/04/16)

[11] https://www.youtube.com/user/failarmy (Assessed 30/04/16)

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