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Filmmaker's Nightmare: NYFF Screening of De Palma's 'Passion' Hits a Digital Snafu

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood October 11, 2012 at 1:16PM

With technological evolution comes hiccups. Though not widely reported, the September 29 NYFF premiere of Brian De Palma's "Passion" apparently hit a disappointing snafu when the DCP (digital cinema package) of the film refused to play.

With technological evolution comes hiccups. The exhibition and film festival community tell horror stories about the vagaries of showing DCPs (digital cinema packages). While not widely reported, the September 29 NYFF premiere of Brian De Palma's "Passion" hit a disappointing snafu when the DCP of the film refused to play.

Unfortunately, De Palma was in person for the screening that never was. Reportedly festival director Richard Pena, soon to retire after 25 years of running the fest, came on stage to report that the DCP had worked mere minutes before showtime, but that due to a missing code the hard drive had locked itself down.

At Telluride, Greta Gerwig was in tears in the lobby of the theater where "Frances Ha" had started twice without sound (MOS, as German directors supposedly coined it). Eventually the film did proceed. At another NYFF screening intermittent subtitles plagued the DCP of Mexican film "Here and There."

Cue the digital hand-wringing. As frustrating, discouraging and worrying as instances like this are, the digital revolution would be unlike any other technological transition in history if it didn't have potholes to navigate. Patience, people -- surely there were some thoroughly botched screenings in the early days of talkies that left audience members wondering why cinema couldn't stay silent forever.

Check out our TIFF interview with De Palma, who, interestingly, shot "Passion" on 35mm film.

This article is related to: Digital Future, NYFF, News, Brian De Palma, Passion

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.