DVD Review - Side By Side

Keanu Reeves explains a scene from "The Matrix"
in his documentary "Side By Side"
Keanu Reeves went around to pretty much all of the major, Hollywood film directors with the exception of Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino. Reeves interviews them and gets them to talk about the differences between 35mm filmmaking and digital filmmaking. He also interviews cinematographers in order to understand the intricacies between 35mm and digital camerawork, as well as 35mm and digital projection. At the core or the subtext of what Reeves is doing is the idea that one has to decide which is better, either 35mm or digital.

It's framed as an argument, but, in reality, the argument has already been won. Because it's cheaper and allows more flexibility, digital filmmaking is the winner and might likely become the only way movies are made. In terms of post-production and exhibition, digital is the clear winner. Reeves does have his interviews go through the pros and cons of 35mm versus digital. Reeves tries to play devil's advocate and he gets some good, if brief, quotes from Christopher Nolan, the staunchiest defender of 35mm, as well as from Martin Scorsese, but the pros pile higher for digital.

George Lucas was a pioneer if not thee pioneer for digital filmmaking and projection. He has either been in the forefront with his Star Wars movies or he's been working behind-the-scenes pushing for things, directing or influencing companies like ILM and Pixar. He helped to advance the use of digital technology in the creation of visual effects, until digital technology was being used across the board.

Reeves delves into that technology, explaining how it all works. He even goes into the current advances. He shows off the Red Epic and the Arri Alexa, which are two of the most advanced digital cameras currently in use, ironically designed to parity the look of 35mm cameras.

Reeves also points out or tangentially mentions how the digital revolution might affect people's perceptions or valuing of movies. Digital technology democratizes the industry. It allows everyone to be a filmmaker. It allows the people who really want to do it and who really have a talent for it to do it with little or lower barriers, but it also allows for those who don't have talent to do the same. As someone says, it doesn't allow for more good movies but more bad movies.

While people like George Lucas and James Cameron might prefer people come to theaters and see movies on big screens, digital technology is also pushing audiences to see films online, streaming on mobile devices. Shooting something on 35mm and 70mm as Christopher Nolan does almost demands seeing on a two-story wall or even dome, but digital filmmaking has so far not made similar demands.

For some, it's the choice of either watching at a IMAX or on an iPhone. The movies meant for the in between might be going way. Reeves reminds us though that some major motion pictures are still produced on film like The Hunger Games or The Tree of Life, but movies shot on film and certainly projected that way will soon become a rarity, just as shooting in black-and-white is.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for 14 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 38 mins.


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