An Analog Story: Digital Cinema and The Master

When I wrote my conference on the digital camera last year, I was hoping there was some people who would have strong nostalgic feelings for analog film.  16mm, 35mm, 70mm, whatever, as long as it wasn’t pixelated and on a disc or downloaded from the internet.  My last trip to the movies proved this isn’t the case.


I was planning on seeing The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, in 70mm analog projection.  I was so excited for something like this.  One, it’s likely to get nominated for an Oscar.  Two, I planned on using the film in one of my conference projects of the semester.  Three, how awesome is it that a theatre showcases its 70mm projection.    It is not something you see often these days.  In fact, the Bowtie cinema, at least the one back home in Virginia, promotes its digital projector before the movie begins.  Anyway, I found the perfect place, the AMC in Lincoln Square.  It was in the city, so there was going to be some awesome stadium set up to the room, and it was in 70mm analog film.  It’s a win-win situation for me.


I make a trip there.  The room they’re showing The Master in is either nostalgic or creepy , designed as a replication of the Loews theatre in New York City before it was demolished.  And it’s quiet.  Too quiet.  Maybe it’s me, because I’m always early to everything.  But isn’t this the time when they show some pre-show thing where they tell you about behind-the-scenes stuff for upcoming projects and play trivia games in-between?  I’m starting to think that the AMC chain has decided to ditch them.


As people start coming in, it starts getting suspicious.  It’s not that I’m the youngest person in the room, or that it’s half full between the lower level and the balcony ; nothing is being displayed on the screen.  There is no sound, no pre-show, nothing.  This gets me a little concerned, especially when the movie’s start time passes.  Then everyone gets suspicious.  What’s worse, the people around me are making it a bigger issue than I am.  And people say our generation is self-centered; look at the baby-boomers with little patience!


First came the five minute delay.  Then, the showing was cancelled.  The projectionist never showed up.  My theory, he/she had a night of hard partying beforehand.  But as I stand in line trying to get a refund, I start to think about the current state of cinema, even as the people around me start saying out loud how they don’t want to go see The Master after all of that.  We’re not used to film projection anymore.  We have converted to a fully digitalized projected cinema.  And then that idea made me wanted to contact the people behind NBC’s Revolution and start a real-life blackout with our electronic devices. The first actual moving images were on a zoetrope that you could see by candlelight.  It was mostly pictures of horse races, so we could still have film in that world.  Yes, I prefer the analog over going completely digital, but that makes me extremely nostalgic and very conscious of our current state of photographs and old things.


We’re a technology hooked society, so much so that it is destroying the little things.  Remember in the early 1990s when you finished your favorite Disney movie, and you had to rewind the VHS tape all the way to the beginning in order to watch it all over again, or find it paused at the exact moment where you left off?  Pretty much nonexistent.  DVDs make us relieve moments that we’ve watched before and then let’s us continue.  Must we?  Or am I the only one with a good memory?


If you thought that was the worst part of my argument, let me ask this question: What’s with making everyone so perfect?  On a billboard or a magazine, a model or an entertainment figure looks skinny that it makes a majority of the world population feel uncomfortable about their bodies.  It’s an epidemic of look-perfect-or-else.  That’s what I  really hate about digital cinema.  It’s the gateway to making everything perfect, and it’s the gateway to making everything look perfect from the actors’ bodies to the special effects.  I don’t care if there’s a scratch, I just want something that feels authentic.


Needless to say, I was finally able to see The Master at the Clearview in Bronxville.  I was still the youngest person and the least whiny person in the audience. So I guess that our suburban bubble is the safest place to go see a movie that actually projects something without the creepy replications of famous movie theaters across America.


For those who have not yet seen The Master, it centers around Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), recently discharged from the navy at the end of World War II.  As he floats between different jobs, Quell stumbles across Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his followers.  Dodd preaches the ability to view the human life-form through past experiences over different eras, a cross of science and psychology merged together called The Cause.  At first, Freddie accepts, but throughout the film he begins to question their beliefs and practices.


The film is worth seeing, whether in 70mm or digital projection



Screenwriter. Humanities scholar. Cinephile. Samantha hails from Richmond, Virginia. She hates Hollywood synergy and people that get on her nerves. When she's not busy writing her next masterpiece or watching movies on Netflix and Hulu Plus, she serves on Student Senate, Student Life, SSSF, and SLAC where she tries to make "home" a better place for other students. Samantha would also like for people to understand that she loves Jean-Luc Godard films, even though he's anti-semitic and she's a Jew.

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