Monday, January 23, 2012
It can all be a bit much. 2012 is looking to be an apocalyptic year indeed for cinema - the death of 35mm film exhibition is reported to be imminent, with even so active a proponent of classic film as Eddie Muller talking as if this year's Noir City festival will be the last in its current form.
I'm somewhere between the rabid 35mm diehards and those longing for the death of it and the dawning of a new, digital age. Actually, the embrace of digital filmmaking technology by some of my favorite filmmakers speaks well at least to the future of moviegoing (mine at least). And the huge number of rep cinemas in my area ensures that I'll probably be enjoying classic film in its original format for a little while longer than most. But I realize that this is a privileged position, and that the nature of the marketplace means that most filmgoers are having this choice made for them. And I can't help but feel like we're going to lose much in this transition, and that much of our cinematic history will simply be lost in the shuffle.
Add to this brew of uncertainty the far-from-welcome news that San Francisco Film Society director Bingham Ray has died while attending the Sundance Film Festival. The man had brought some fantastic films to American screens, and that he should die so young (and soon after accepting the mantle of the SFFS) is insanely cruel (compounded by the fact that he was hired to replace the fondly remembered Graham Leggat, who died mere months ago). One can't put the sadness of those who never knew him over that of his family and friends, of course, but the fact remains the cinema has lost one of its real champions. I never knew the man personally, but reading lovely tributes like this make me wish I had, and make me mourn his passing all the more.
And I notice a feeling of restlessness as I look at the local film schedules - the various rep houses and film festivals are engaging in fantastic programming, and there are the usual conflicts (the Castro Theatre screens 35mm prints of THE FRENCH CONNECTION and YEAR OF THE DRAGON the same day that the Mostly British festival shows GUMSHOE and STORMY MONDAY, for example). Already a difficult choice for some cinephiles, but made more so with questions of the future of 35mm looming over our heads. All of these films exist on video, of course, but the choice of which movie to see is strongly colored by the knowledge that this may be the last shot at any of them in a theatre.
But even those who don't live and die by their local rep schedules are going to be affected by the imminent changes to our cinemascape. And so we wait.