I got a chance to see Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic The Master projected in 70mm at the Odeon West End and since I haven’t seen a proper celluloid projection in some years I decided to give nostalgia a go.
As anyone who is a real cinephile I was constantly in the cinema during the 90’ and noughties and also catching retro favorites in the BFI but lately it has been harder to catch these flicks on the big screen now that nearly everything is digital. Also I rarely go to the cinema due to my parenting circumstances and the poor pedigree of cinematic drek currently littering the multiplex.
Also I edited one short film on a Steenbeck, actually cutting the film and it was truly amazing. New digital editors will never experience such a thing except in a museum.
Back to the film, money paid and sitting in my seat, I got excited when the Weinstein logo came on but was shocked at how blurry and slightly out of focus film is. It was weird to forget what it felt like compared to digital projection. There was even a track line on the film, which made me all nostalgic about battered prints of yesteryear and those amazing cigarette burns that signify a print change! Awesome! It was not the super exciting experience I was expecting but nonetheless a fantastic film and a novelty to watch it in a pre digital format was still there.
The worst part is that I was more blown away by the clean look of Skyfall even though the two films are polar opposites but film verses digital and digital is here to stay for my eyeball tastes seeing as you have Alexa and Red cameras. Film for me now is pretty much the BFI old film screenings which I intend to go back to you because there is nothing like the big screen and celluloid and battered prints.
Film is dead! Long live film!
Alan Clarke. He’s the guy that directed Scum. The brutal cinematic indictment of the borstal system, his most famous film and initially made as a television drama and subsequently banned then remade as a feature film. The television production was only shown for the first time in 1991 on Channel 4.
Lesser known than Ken Loach who, to me, share the same blistering anger at showing society’s darkest moments around them, Clarke seems to be mostly forgotten in history and his work is hardly screened outside of the odd retrospective but filmmakers can learn from his work and his filmic output needs to be brought back for public analysis. Find a copy of Diane, a teenager who lives in a dilapidated block with her father which I discovered in some obscure digital portal and rarely shown since 1975, Christine about heroin addict filmed in an uncompromising manner that far from glamorizes drug addiction or Elephant, about the IRA killings which indirectly influenced Gus Van Sant’s film of the same name. Even Larry Clarke’s Kids has a similar voyeuristic tone.
If you think his films are of another era and not relevant nowadays then think again, they are a stark look at the society around him in showing real people in its most raw. His films have made a difference in the case of Scum and pushed people to see what they want to brush under the carpet (The elephant in the room). The modern equivalent is Hanif Kureishi’s My Son the Fanatic and Kidulthood to name two films.
Remember, Scum changed the laws on borstal institutions after it was released and if you want to make films or even documentaries that challenge what the government or society is doing then take note, watch and learn. This is the prime medium to make a change and sometimes people forget that.
Don’t be fooled, his films make for uncompromising and often difficult viewing but you want to make an impact he is the granddaddy of them all.