does this make a difference to anyone? obviously for a new film, you cant expect prints anymore, but i like to see old films on prints even if they are a bit grainy or imperfect. i would much prefer that to digital restorations which often look pristine but can look a bit too slick – i guess i dont mind old films looking their age (when i saw wild at heart at the bfi recently i loved that it looked a bit battered and inland empire was actually improved about a 100 times by it being screened from worn prints). but then i guess its going to be harder for cinemas to source old prints a lot of the time from the looks of it – plus, screening from blu rays or whatever is probably much cheaper for a lot of rep places too.
It’s less than ideal, but I look at it like this—basically any viewing experience is somewhat compromised in some way. Seeing a good print of something is by far the best alternative, but I think at a certain point you have to accept that, in a vaguely similar way to how audiophiles lost big when portability/access became a bigger priority than fidelity, cinema is on the verge of a huge digital compromise.
Screening from any print at all is good. Around my parts, all I can ever get is a DVD or BD screening, which can be hit or miss depending on the projection capabilities.
We had a fairly extensive Hitchcock retrospective here this summer which was great, but some of the prints were just brutal.
“but some of the prints were just brutal.”
I saw a print of High and Low and Once upon a Time in the West that had degraded to near Bill Morrison levels of decay.
Acknowledging that prints look better in most cases than digital, in these specific cases what’s the point?
And yes, when leaving the theatre people effused. “Ahhh, I loved seeing the scratches and hearing the warped soundtrack, it makes it more pure because it’s _real film.”_ Blow me. These are two movies that were meant to look great, not like shit. Certainly the effect was interesting but only if it were intentionally used to some specific purpose, like a Bill Morrison remix.
I’m pretty sure good prints of those two films exist so I would definitely like to try that experience again. Whatever the best is available, man… whatever’s the best.
If it’s something your concerned about, you can always call the venue beforehand and ask about the condition of the print.
The worst print I’ve ever seen was of John Ford’s 7 Women. Apparently the best print of the movie available, it looked like it had been doused in pink kool-aid. But given that 7 Women is so rarely seen at all, much less on a print, I didn’t mind.
A good print is always the best, and I can stand a certain amount of scratches, but fading colors (ESPECIALLY fading to pink) drive me nuts and really just obliterates one’s ability to gauge the actual artistry of the piece.
You can definitely call the venue beforehand, but they also may not have been able to preview the print, may have only spot checked it or checked it by hand to get a rough idea, or may be going on the word of the archive/depot they got the print from (who probably also haven’t thoroughly checked its condition in a while). If something’s screening on Blu-ray or DVD, I’d just as soon watch it at home. But if something’s on DCP, that is getting to the point where it looks pretty frickin’ great coupled with a good projector that minimizes rainbow effect.
Yes it does. I call the venue and ask, if they say digital I stay home.
I think it matters to me. I went to some screenings, and I’m pretty sure they were digitally projected (I could see the “pixels”.)—and yeah, this did take away from the experience.
On the other hand, DiB makes a good (and humorous) point about bad prints being no better than digtial projection. (I agree.)
Matt said, It’s less than ideal, but I look at it like this—basically any viewing experience is somewhat compromised in some way. Seeing a good print of something is by far the best alternative, but I think at a certain point you have to accept that, in a vaguely similar way to how audiophiles lost big when portability/access became a bigger priority than fidelity, cinema is on the verge of a huge digital compromise.
Thanks for that. Those are all good points.
Ben S. said, You can definitely call the venue beforehand,…
Do you guys think it’s worth telling the theater manager that prints matter? I sort of feel like this is pointless because they’re never really going to get the prints anyway.
Whoa. What about Matt’s points above? I hear what you’re saying, but I can’t go that far. I think many of our movie experiences are compromised to a degree. I’m not willing to take an all or nothing approach.
I care more about the theater/condition than whether or not it’s a print, most of the time.
I’ve seen a bunch of 35mm prints. When I saw Charade and The Great Escape on the big screen in 35mm it didn’t make any real difference to me. When I saw Andrei Rublev and Stalker (two of my favorites) on a HUGE screen in 35mm, it also made little difference.
However, I do have very distinct memories of seeing City Lights and The Big Sleep for the first time in 35mm, partly because they were my first viewing, partly because of the haunting black and white, and a lot of it was the theater (very old theater from the 20s) and the audiences’ reaction to the films (everyone loved City Lights).
When I saw L’Argent and Uncle Boonmee for the first time, only L’argent was a print but both were in the same theater and both had the same kind of “cinema” experience impact on me (actually Boonmee slightly more so).
So to me it depends a lot on the film, whether I’ve seen it before, what the audience is like, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY what the theater itself is like. Rarely does seeing a film print make a huge impact on me, but I guess I’m not from that generation so I don’t miss much.
“Yes it does. I call the venue and ask, if they say digital I stay home.”
Maybe it is just all those years watching film prints (since 1965) , film school , and working as a film editor. Plus I figure that I have a TV at home, no need to pay to watch something that is not too different from it.