View Full Version : The Importance Of Video

oscar jubis
04-06-2003, 12:05 PM
Often we discover a film when it's released on video not in theatres. Take for instance MOULIN ROUGE and DONNIE DARKO, films that most experienced at home. When films come out on video they generate more interest than some films in the NOW SHOWING category. Problem is that these video titles are buried in "film archives" where few thread. My point is that SECRETARY is more current than Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Thanks for creating this space.

Chris Knipp
04-22-2003, 02:59 AM
1. Geography, demographics, and video. Video is more important if you don't get out to movies much, and lately clearly netflix is a godsend for working parents with small kids, or people whose area doesn't get a full range of the more limited releases. The SF bay area isn't as good as LA or NYC but does get a lot of the new releases, and I have been going out to movies a lot the past few years, so I don't have the time or the need to rent videos that I once had. It's an important way of paying homage to hype or directing skill or one's favorite actors to go out to see the the first showings. I wouldn't have missed the first day of Pulp Fiction for all the videos in the world. You had to be there and enjoy the buzz.

2. Aspect ratio and scale. I always thought it was an affectation for some people to go on about how you missed so much on the small screen, but now that I see movies on the big screen every few days whenever possible, I agree. How could Lawrence of Arabia or 2001 possibly be as good at home as on a big theater screen? All too often it's hard to get hold of a video with the original aspect ratio of a film, and that means you're just not seeing what the cinematographer and the director created. I happen to have seen Donnie Darko and Moulin Rouge in theaters, by the way, and would think that Moulin Rouge with its lavish overcrowded scenes would be a bad choice to watch on a tv monitor.

3. Special features of video. I personally still value video for finding movies I've missed, if one has the time to do so. Laser disks and now DVD's have interesting ancillary material sometimes, sometimes marvellous stuff, as with Altman's Short Cuts, which even had the Raymond Carver stories used there to read, and an interview with Pauline Kael, and a whole good documentary on the making of the movie that went beyond mere puffery. Magnolia had a great DVD with outtakes and all kinds of stuff: it was a revelation to see Anderson at work: it made you realize what a great natural talent he is. You have a big choice when you enter a video store or look up netflix. I have seen a lot of foreign films on video that I didn't find shown locally, and of course older films can be re-seen or seen for the first time. I have also taken apart frame by frame sequences from Blade Runner and some other films to see how they're made. If you want to study a film, or a performance, or improve your French, Spanish, Italian, or German, being able to rewind is a big plus.

4. What video shops matter: Let's put in a plug for the really good independent video rental shops like Scarecrow Video in Seattle or Video Americain in Baltimore or Le Video in San Francisco or any of the various others that make a point of having really rare, hard to find items presided over by a caring, well informed staff. In Berkeley, it's Movie Image; and Real Video is good, though it isn't really small and independent as it pretends to be, and part of its richness of stock is really just a lot of duplicates of what Movie Image has in a smaller shop. It's nice to find people behind the counter who love movies and have an amazing knowledge of them to share. It's quite a contrast to go to my local Blockbusters, where the minimum wage employees are just there to check you out and it seems like ninety percent of the new videos are of movies I had good reasons for missing in the first place. But you can't always make it to the downtown special shop and one of the advantages of Blockbusters is that sometimes you can get used tapes or DVD's of movies you'd like to have in your collection for as little $5 to $10.

5. The value of a personal video collection: I have long kept a file of hundreds of videos and have a pretty large personal library of them--a whole, carefully filed closetful arranged by country and director. Reviewing what I have kept is a good way of deciding what films really matter. Unfortunately many of them I don't ever want to watch again, though they seemed pretty cool at the time. But by going over and over my library I see what I care about in film and how my tastes have changed over the past decade or so.

6. Re-seeing movies: Apart from the pure pleasure of it, this is a way of finding out what movies matter to you and why. Having videos to rent or in your personal stash at home means being able to re-see the movies you really like, for whatever reason. There are some that I would re-see for every reason: story, direction, acting, style, and those must be my favorite movies (I have never made a list of my ten favorite films and don't think that' possible, because there are too many out there that I like). One thing I have learned from re-seeing movies on video is that for me, in anything but the very greatest films, style matters much more than substance. After a while, suspense and a clever plot cease to matter. This is why I file my videos by director and why "auteur" theory makes some sense to me. Hence my love of French "film noir" and the "nouvelle vague" and of Wong Kar Wai: pure style. You never get tired of it. But a truly great film is a work of human value, not just empty style, and that's why Renoir and Kurosawa never lose their greatness, because of the deep humanism of their vision. There again, going to see the movie in a theater is a way of paying homage -- but the value of video remains as a way of studying a film, or just lying in bed and watching one, or stopping to to grab a bite or go to the bathroom without missing a single frame.

04-22-2003, 09:24 PM
"Children of Dune" on Scifi Channel, for example, provides an epic six hour vision that probably would never have been shown in theaters. How does one distinguish between theatrical movie releases and those movies that are original movies shown on network television or cable/satellite channels? And why should such movies not be discussed on this website?

Chris Knipp
04-23-2003, 12:39 AM
There's the Decalogue by Kieslowski, which was originally shown on television but distributed for theaters in the US in 2002, and I know that Henry Bean's The Believer was released on Showtime when it couldn't get theatrical release after 9/11, but then had limited distribution last summer, so I think there's plenty of crossover and no reason why this can't be discussed here, though it doesn't matter on video: Six Feet Under or The Sopranos or Queer As Folk become the same as Gone with the Wind--sort of... But what I learned from the case of The Believer is that if it's been released on television it disqualifies it and the actors from Academy Award nominations, which otherwise Ryan Gosling might have gotten.