Quentin Tarantino Makes a Lot of Sense Discussing His Dislike for Digital Cinema

Below is the nearly 50-minute press conference with Quentin Tarantino from this year’s Cannes Film Festival where he introduced a remastered version of Sergio Leone‘s Fistful of Dollars and a 35mm screening of Pulp Fiction took place. Now why is it important to mention it was a 35mm screening? Well, as Cannes director Thierry Frémaux mentions at the beginning of the press conference, Pulp Fiction was the only film at this year’s festival not screening in digital, which Tarantino believes to be the death of cinema as he knows it:

As far as I’m concerned, digital projection and DCPs is the death of cinema as I know it. It’s not even about shooting your film on film or shooting your film on digital. The fact that most films now are not presented in 35mm means that the war is lost. And digital projections, that’s just television in public. And apparently the whole world is okay with television in public, but what I knew as cinema is dead.

We’ve heard this all before, but this idea of television in public is point I don’t think is directly understood until he elaborates a little later saying:

When all of a sudden they have a re-release of Godard’s Breathless, well, if you’re showing a new print of Breathelss, or hell even an old print, in a cinema… whoa, whoa, that’s worth leaving the house and going out and into a theater to watch it. But to watch a digital version of it? Well my Criterion is just fine, I don’t need to go and watch television in public. I don’t see any reason to leave the house when home theaters are so good and the presentation on the DVD is so good. Why would you go to the theater? 35mm, which most people don’t have in their house, well that’s a reason.

What’s interesting here is he’s almost advocating against what is perceived to be “perfection” in today’s digitally restored era, something that bleeds over into the next question in which someone refers to the “facsimile” of digital projection. In fact, I had a brief conversation on Twitter earlier this month with The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody when he tweeted, “Will there be “natural” restorations that look not like a pristine ideal but like a transfer of an actual print?”

I chimed in, “Hmmmm, is one really preferable over the other? I understand the want, but once you get it would you not prefer ‘perfect’?” And I think he gets to Tarantino’s point with his response, “No; that retrofitted perfection, whether on-screen or DVD, seems false; no print that I’ve ever seen projected was perfect.”

It’s a very interesting debate to be had and at this point it really is mostly about film restoration and how those films are projected considering so many of today’s filmmakers are now shooting on digital. Does it lessen the impact of today’s films? I’m not really sure, but it does seem to suggest the rise in IMAX and 3D are almost the studio and theater responses to perfection.

Why would anyone go to the cinema to watch a movie that’s going to look and sound exactly the same on their home theater? The studio response is to say size and three dimensions, but is there a richness to the medium when it’s shot and projected on 35mm that’s been lost? Tarantino and most certainly Christopher Nolan would say yes.

Other aspects of the press conference include Tarantino’s thoughts on a four-hour, four-installment mini-series of Django Unchained, inserting 90 minutes of unseen footage. He also says he is still working on a second draft of The Hateful Eight and will write a third before deciding if he makes the movie, publishes the script, takes it to Broadway or all three. To that point, at the end of the conference you can hear him say to the moderator, “It was really great, I was expecting more Hateful Eight questions.”

He also nicely deflects a question in which someone says Jean-Luc Godard called him a “fraud” and a weird moment when a women decides to use her time to ask him to support Serbia with a hashtag note and he also gets into his love of film history and mentions films such as Unfaithfully YoursBreathlessThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly (his favorite film of all-time), Battle Royale (his favorite movie of last 20 years) and director Dorothy Arzner.


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