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'Fitzcarraldo' on YouTube.

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Eric Kohn April 18, 2009 at 2:48AM

'Fitzcarraldo' on YouTube.

I believe in the prospects of distributing movies online. New home entertainment options don't seem to supplant the theatrical experience so much as provide an alternative to it. (However, they will eventually become the only alternative. DVDs, we hardly knew ye.)

Still, I was a little taken aback by the idea of watching the full two hours and thirty seven minutes of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo on the small screen — with commercials! No, this one will require the aid of my projector. But I'm assuming the 1,875 people who have viewed the movie on YouTube's new movies page as I type this probably did not go that far, nor did most of them make it to the credits.

Since the late 1970s, cinephila has greatly benefited from the proliferation of home video. Young people are now more capable of educating themselves about film history than ever before. It seems natural to continue the process of preserving important cinematic accomplishments by making them available on the web, but we have yet to arrive at a point where a good amount of people will watch films of this caliber in this format from start to finish. But it's something.

This article is related to: Digital Distribution