Most 3-D movies are "crap," said "Gravity" director Alfonso Cuarón earlier today during a press conference at the Zurich Film Festival, where the 3-D "Gravity" will screen tonight. "The problem with 3-D is that it's been completely misused...The problem now is that they make all these films that are not designed for 3-D and then convert them as a commercially afterthought and they are crap. They don't follow the rules of 3-D of what does and doesn't work."
Until recently, when directors have begun to truly experiment with 3-D and use it to enhance storytelling, rather than use it as a marketing gimmick or a ticket price maneuver, Cuarón might have been right. But, as he pointed out, "there are a handful of films that have used 3-D in a proper way so it can be an amazing tool." That's an understatement.
The list of directors who have recently used 3-D to great effect includes Steven Spielberg ("Tintin"), Baz Luhrmann ("The Great Gatsby"), Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Wim Wenders ("Pina"), Werner Herzog ("Cave of Forgotten Dreams") and Ang Lee ("Life of Pi"), among many others. That's not even including the upcoming 3-D films from Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet"), Dario Argento ("Argento's Dracula 3D"), and "Metallica Through the Never," directed by Nimród Antal, which opens today -- as well as "Charlie Victor Romeo," which will screen at The NYFF Convergence on Saturday. Then there's "3X3D," the 3D anthology film by Greenaway, Edgar Pera, and Jean Luc-Godard, which screened last May at the Cannes Film Festival. Wenders is spearheading "Cathedrals of Culture," a six-part 3-D documentary project directed by Robert Redford, Michael Madsen, Michael Glawogger, Karim Ainouz, James Marsh and Wenders himself.
Today's 3-D boom is less about the "coming at you" gimmicks of yesteryear and more about creating an immersive experience for the audience.
3-D "gives you the opportunity to enter into the story with a complete vision: depth," Argento told Indiewire. "The three dimensions of space but also of the characters give that strength that 2D cinema seems now unable to give. Surely it is more complicated to shoot in stereoscopic 3-D especially for the times which are longer, but if technology is put to the service of the director and not vice versa, it can give great results. It has given me the chance to narrate an antique story through a modern vision. I don't know whether I could go back and shoot a film in 2D."
Charlotte Huggins, producer of "Metallica: Through the Never" has specialized in 3-D live action and animated productions for the past 19 years and has seen 3-D's change from big-budget gimmick to an effective storytelling device as the technology has improved and 3-D production went digital and became more affordable and therefore, more accessible to indie productions.
"The number one change I've seen in 3-D is digital media," she said. "There's capture, post-production and delivery. As those things switched from film-based to digital based, the cost, the availability, the number of cameras and number of screens, everything got cheaper, easier, faster and better. When we used to work in film, there was so much complication between the capture, post-production and play. There were so many problems that I used to say 3-D meant three times the problems."