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Weekend Reel Reads: Digging Deeper in Familiar Territory

Photo of Steve Greene By Steve Greene | Criticwire October 7, 2012 at 9:46AM

Although some of this week's stories inhabit categories that might sound familiar, each piece brings a new perspective for your weekend perusal.
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Chris Kenneally's "Side by Side."
Company Films Chris Kenneally's "Side by Side."

Weekend Reel Reads is a regular feature that gathers lengthier stories related to the world of film criticism you may have missed during the week. If there's anything you think would be ideal for future installments, please let us know at critic@indiewire.com.

When Theaters Transition to Digital Projection, What's Lost?

We could probably run a weekly feature compiling all the stories about the steady conversion from film to digital. But whereas previous pieces have focused on the dwindling number of projectionists or the problems of preservation, Ian Buckwalter's piece for the Washington City Paper approaches the issue from the perspective of new theater owners looking to continue as independent businesses. The costs and additional labor associated with digital projection systems become far more than an abstract shift in artistic merit. It becomes a tangible, hefty burden.

"So the obvious solution is for theaters to just bite the bullet and snag a fancy new DCP projector, right? It’s not that easy. Unlike those vintage 1980s projectors that came with West End, there’s no inexpensive option to make the leap to DCP. 'Quotes we’ve gotten, and word amongst our friends in the art-house world, is that we should budget $60,000 per screen, and that’s the projector, the server, and the other pieces you need, and it also includes an electrical upgrade,' says Levin. 'These things can burn a lot of juice.' The total cost for Levin to upgrade to DCP on all of West End’s screens would be around $200,000, a figure he calls 'completely untenable.'"

My Novel, Their Culture:

The extent to which a film should mirror its source novel is a perpetual debate, but what if a piece of work is being adapted in a completely different country? Tim Parks gives his first-hand account of watching his novel "Cleaver" being converted to the German production "Stille," where the linguistic transformation seems to be a major sticking point. The end result is not what Parks had envisioned (or desired), and his disappointment makes an intriguing counterpoint to David Mitchell's experience with "Cloud Atlas."

"I watch the film unfold with a mixture of admiration, bewilderment, and, for purely selfish and private reasons, disappointment. My potentially global work has been made local. It is now locked into Germanic culture. It portrays the German media world, a distinctly German sensuality, a concrete Tyrolese. Well, haven’t I written frequently in admiration of the artist happy to engage with his local community and ignore the global? Indeed I have. But this local is not my local. And of course, thanks to the complex laws of film rights and copyright, something else I have recently expressed a few opinions about, it will now not be easy for English or American producers to make their own version of the film."

Sound The Death Knell (Again): A Brief History Of The Death Of Cinema:

Last week, as multiple outlets were forecasting the imminent demise of the film industry, Matt offered some tempering words of calm. At The Playlist, Oliver Lyttelton compiled a list of cinematic doomsayers from past decades. If these sentiments existed before "Citizen Kane," perhaps there's hope for the future.

"1940s: Romanian artist/filmmaker Isidore Isou, founder of the Lettrism movement, wrote in his principles of the movement, 'I believe firstly that the cinema is too rich. It is obese. It has reached its limits, its maximum. With the first movement of widening which it will outline, the cinema will burst! Under the blow of a congestion, this greased pig will tear into a thousand pieces. I announce the destruction of the cinema, the first apocalyptic sign of disjunction, of rupture, of this corpulent and bloated organization which calls itself film.' That was in the 1940s. In the 1950s, he premiered his film 'Treatise On Slime and Eternity' at the Cannes Film Festival; a four-and-a-half hour selection of 'discordant' images."

Two, Post-Fantastic Fest:

We published our fair share of Fantastic Fest coverage while Matt was fortunate enough to make the trek to Austin. The Movies.com crew was also primed for their own offerings on the festival experience, publishing two entertaining pieces on Monday and Tuesday. Jacob Hall penned an amusing look at how the world's various regions are represented at Fantastic Fest. As he points out, "if Fantastic Fest is any indication, every corner of the planet is home to things that want to kill you and violate your corpse." But different countries have still carved out noticeable niches. For those of us who haven't had the good fortune of visiting Texas, John Gholson listed the five essential elements for recreating the experience in your own hometown.

"And it's not like civilians are the only ones being corrupted beneath Europe's posh, graceful exterior. If Fantastic Fest is any indication, Europe is home to more corrupt cops than any country per capita. Although countries like France (Paris By Night) have plenty of officers driving around and abusing their authority, Spain appears to be king of corrupt law enforcement (Unit 7 and No Rest For the Wicked). At least they're in good company, since the rest of Europe also has its fair share of criminals (F**k Up, Black Out, Plan C, Vegetarian Cannibal and Pusher). All of this corruption aside, at least we know whose side these criminals will choose in the upcoming zombie apocalypse (Cockneys vs. Zombies)."

"You get a show before the show at the Drafthouse, and unlike the multiplexes, pimping new ABC sitcoms and diet cola commercials, the Alamo Drafthouse pre-show consists of video oddities of every imaginable configuration. You might see a vintage cartoon followed by a hopelessly outdated PSA followed by a 1980s hair-metal music video. The geniuses who create this stuff are the beating heart of the Drafthouse brand. Keep the preshow visually interesting and entertaining, but not so engrossing that anyone will groan when you turn it off. Many set-top boxes include YouTube integration, so build a playlist there and fire it up between shows."

Back and to the Left:

Coinciding with the screening of "Something in the Air" at the New York Film Festival, Reverse Shot's Adam Nayman had the chance to speak with its director Olivier Assayas. The talk takes a close look at "Something in the Air," but fans of "Carlos," "Summer Hours" and Assayas' other work with still enjoy how the filmmaker's approach to character and plotting in his most recent film makes a valuable case study. (Time will tell what the director's encounter with other critics at NYFF will add to the conversation.)

"I made this film because people have been making fun of the seventies. And I think that’s because the dreams people had at that time are still considered a threat. I would never make fun of kids who rejected the material values of the world, and who considered that life was about some sort of political or spiritual path. They were dealing with abstractions, and I do believe in abstractions. I don’t think there’s anything too romantic in the film, either. I was trying as much as I could to strip that away, because I have already done the romantic version of this film, in Cold Water and Desordre. I used the same elements, things that I lived through, and inscribed them in narratives that are in some ways more conventional, which was the way I functioned at that time, and I am really happy with those films. But in terms of the way that I wrote and conceived them, this one is very different. It’s not a classic narrative, and every single moment that I could have emphasized and exaggerated I attempted to tone down. Because that’s how I experienced them! And ultimately, if there’s any emotion that creeps in, it sort of happens on its own terms."

This article is related to: Reel Reads, Film Versus Digital, Fantastic Fest, Olivier Assayas


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