- Running time:
- 98 minutes
- Christopher Kenneally
- Overall User Rating:
- (0 ratings)
Those who live for film — and particularly those who study it — are going to love producer Keanu Reeves' Side by Side (** out of four, unrated, out today in select citites and Video on Demand).
Alas, if you're someone who enjoys movies as, say, a two-hour escape, you may find this documentary on the death of film at digital's hands a bit too inside baseball.
Or Tinseltown, as it were. To Side by Side's credit, it lands the biggest names in filmmaking, who clearly will miss film but understand their meal ticket rests in the hands of kids craving 3-D. George Lucas, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese and others offer a bittersweet farewell to the photochemical process — as well as the headaches and happy accidents it created.
Directed by Chris Kenneally and produced and narrated by Reeves, Side by Side should be mandatory viewing at film schools. It does a terrific job breaking down how digital cameras capture images more precisely than film, and how most filmmakers can't help but play cinematic gods, creating images leaping from their minds and laptops.
Reeves makes a surprisingly suitable documentary reporter, one who clearly geeks out over modernity (though the camera spends a little too much time on Reeves grinning and giggling with his tech-minded subjects).
Side by Side catches some nice anecdotes, including one from a filmmaker who says that stars look only at their hair when watching themselves on playback. And Reeves catches an interesting confession from director Robert Rodriguez, who says he never would have attempted his stylish digital drama Sin City on film.
But those stories — the ones consumers might find most revealing —take a backseat to the industry's technological transition. Like An Inconvenient Truth for 35mm, the film makes a prima facie case that the spool is dead.
What that means to the film industry — do you even call it that anymore? — goes less explored. Movies remain one of this country's few artisan crafts: They still take months of labor by hand to create. But Side by Side focuses on the canvas, not the painting.
Side by Side spends plenty of time explaining why the images we see are clearer than ever. It's less interested in why this tool, marking a seismic shift in what filmmakers can accomplish, hasn't led to better storytelling, the only real magic of the movies.