The great debate between digital and film formats won’t be resolved anytime soon, but the voices involved in the conversation are certainly very loud. “Digital is so much better. I shoot on digital,” Nicolas Winding Refn recently said. “It’s not a substitute, it’s just another canvas.” But anyone who agrees with Refn should tread lightly around Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow, J.J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino, who teamed up and lobbied major film studios hard to keep purchasing Kodak film stock earlier this year. And QT has been particularly active in advocating for film, vowing to only screen 35mm prints during his recently commenced stint as head programmer gig at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. Stopping by for an interview at LA radio station KCRW, Tarantino explained his resolve.
“What made me say, ‘now is the time,’ —aside from wanting to do it for a long, long time— was the whole death of 35mm for the most part, as far this town is concerned. And I’m just really, really against it,” he said. “Everyone is fighting for shooting on film —and I go, ‘yeah, I’m fighting for that too,’ and that’s important to me too, and in fact, if I can’t shoot on film I’ll stop making movies. As far as I’m concerned, if we’re just acquiescing to digital projection, we’ve already ceded too much ground to the barbarians.”
“The fight is lost if all we have is digital and DCP presentations, because to me, that’s just television in public, any way you cut it,” Tarantino added, echoing sentiments he made earlier this year at Cannes. Indeed, it was his time spent on the Croisette this year that inspired him to be more active in his advocacy for the analog format.
“I just had a really uncomfortable experience in Cannes this last year, because they had the 50th anniversary of ‘Fistful Of Dollars’ ” said the director, who was invited to help present the film. “They showed this 4K restoration. I have an IB Technicolor, a beautiful Techniscope print of ‘Fistful Of Dollars’ —I could have brought that. Anyway, we have all the big speeches, we all talk, it’s the closing night of the Cannes Film Festival, and I sit down…this is a movie I’ve seen a million times. Did it look nice? Yeah, it looks nice, but my laserdisc looks nice, my DVD looks nice, alright? We’re not talking about nice. I was depressed the whole screening because I’m sitting in the Grand Palais, the big house, and I felt like I should be pointing the remote control at the screen and hitting play. I was like, where’s the f’ing menu?”
“Is that fine in my home? Yeah, absolutely it’s fine in my home, I don’t think about it. But in the Palais, I felt like there was some glass between me and the movie that wouldn’t have been there had we shown the 35mm print,” Tarantino continued, saying the experience made him “double down” on his programming approach at the New Beverly.
For Tarantino, seeing a film on 35mm isn’t necessarily about how “good” the picture is, but rather more about texture. “I’m really about the whole culture of film prints. And they all tell a story. We’re showing ‘Junior Bonner’ coming up, [and] my print of it isn’t great, but I love that print of ‘Junior Bonner.’ I’ve shown that all over the world, and that print is fantastic,” he explained. “It’s a little washed out, it’s a little beat up, but it has character. And Peckinpah would love that print. And I don’t want to show a pristine version of it. That’s my print of ‘Junior Bonner,’ that’s how I’ve seen it for the last twenty years, that’s how I want to see it for the next twenty years. I like it that way.”
“I think all these prints have quality and personality, whether they’re pristine or not,” Tarantino added. “If you just want pristine stuff, stay at home at watch a Blu-ray. Watch Sony HD channel, have a ball. [But] leave me alone [laughs].”
But this doesn’t mean he’s only going to be showing worn 35mm reels at the New Beverly. For example, the theater’s screenings of Paul Mazursky‘s “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” come from a new print struck by Columbia Pictures as a thank you to Tarantino for the success of “Django Unchained.” Moreover, this print has been color timed by Mazursky himself. And it would seem regardless of what’s showing, Tarantino definitely wants to make it special experience for anyone who buys a ticket. This should be the case with the upcoming screening of “Papillion.”
“[It’s] actually Steve McQueen’s personal print with extra 20 minutes,” Tarantino teased. “It’s 20 minutes of close-ups of Steven McQueen, but nevertheless…” That’s the kind of thing you won’t get in a DCP screening.
These comments are sure to stoke more discussion around the issue. For the full 30 minute conversation, click here. And tell us what you think of Tarantino’s thoughts below.