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Film Review: Influential Filmmakers Discuss Digital Revolution in ‘Side by Side’

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CHICAGO – We are at the tipping point of a technology that has been used for a hundred years to capture the moving image. Shooting on film is going away as more and more filmmakers use digital technology to tell their stories. How does this change the art form? Is it a creative new landscape or the death of something important? Keanu Reeves guides us through this minefield of opinions in the excellent “Side by Side,” opening this weekend at the Siskel Film Center and now playing On Demand.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

The first thing one notices about “Side by Side” is the pedigree of the interview subjects chosen to discuss this incredibly interesting topic — James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, David Lynch, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Robert Rodriguez…the list goes on and on. How the digital revolution has impacted the art of film, positively and negatively, is clearly a subject about which many of our greatest artists have an opinion. And yet “Side by Side” doesn’t give too much weight to either half of the debate, correctly noting that the move to digital has both pros and cons while offering a rather detailed history of how we got here.

StarRead Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Side by Side” in our reviews section.

There are a lot of technical elements to “Side by Side” — details on how color timing works, the developments of specific cameras, etc. — that will be of interest to techno-philes but what I found most curious was the creative voices and their varied responses to the technology. Most of them aren’t overly surprising. David Fincher likes the control given to him by digital. Christopher Nolan likes the artistry of actual film. But for every artist and technician on one side of the debate, there’s an equally persuasive argument on the other side. Yes, film has a “purity” and artistry to it but digital allows for a number of creative doorways to open that are otherwise closed.

How does digital filmmaking change how we make movies? It’s mostly an immediacy and freedom. Actual film runs in ten-minute spurts between reloads and you can’t see what you have until the next day. With digital, you can shoot for hours and see immediately what you want to change on-set. And here’s the dividing line. Can an art form be too controlled? Joel Schumacher speaks of an actor who wanted to see every take on the digital display. Does it lose something organic to have something so controlled or does it give our most creative voices more of a chance to refine their visions? Does the freedom of everyone being able to make a movie mean more good movies or less because there isn’t a “tastemaker” involved? How about the argument that film will never be “format obsolete” because it’s both artistic and archival in that all you ever have to do is shine light through it? There are so many unanswered questions.

StarContinue reading for Brian Tallerico’s full “Side by Side” review.

“Side by Side” opens at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago on September 15, 2012 and is now available On Demand. It also expands around the country over the next few months. It was directed by Chris Kenneally.

Side by Side
Side by Side
Photo credit: Tribeca Films

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