September 23, 2014

Film Review: Side by Side — One Against One

 

“Side by Side” draws battle lines for the future of cinema.

Film Review: <i>Side by Side</i>  — One Against One

This is not a popcorn flick: producer Keanu Reeves moves the film from commerce to art.

If the devil is in the details, then Mephistopheles has changed his name to “digital,” depending on who you talk to.

Christopher Kenneally’s Side by Side is a thoroughly engaging and thought provoking look at the state of cinema now and everything leading up to this moment. So many critics (including myself) focus so heavily on plot, character development and artistic merit that it’s occasionally forgotten how the message is transported, i.e., the film itself.

The film makes great commentary on how the constant need for bigger and better has pushed cinema where it is today. The unsung (to the public at least) heroes of the industry: Cinematographers, engineers and colorists provide the scientific “how” as to “why” digital is becoming the dominant format for the silver screen.

Producer Keanu Reeves moves the film from commerce to art in detailing cinema’s current transition with all the heavy hitters weighing in. From Christopher Nolan arguing celluloid as the definitive format to David Lynch, and Robert Rodriguez weighing artistic merit to James Cameron declaring film dead for at least a decade, each artist offers a compelling take.

Martin Scorsese—a film zealot whose passion includes restoring films—makes an extremely pointed view that artistic direction outweighs all. With the big-name directors having drawn their line in the sand, newcomer Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture, HBO’s “Girls”) makes the most valid point that digital is cost-effective to the point that more auteurs than ever are able to dabble in the medium.

Whether digital is right or wrong still remains to be seen, ultimately what we are seeing is the democratization of film.

While this critic has his view on which format is better, there is no clear-cut winner. Scorsese has a point that it’s artistic direction but it’s also viewer preference.

Let this be known about Side by Side: this is not a date movie. This is not a popcorn flick. This is essential viewing for anyone who has ever loved film. Go … like, right now.