|Tangerine dream? This iPhone-shot movie had critics raving, and is cited below as an example of why we should celebrate the passing of 35mm and its replacement with digital. (NB: the trailer features strong language) Read more at theverge.com, BBC, Techradar, Guardian and nofilmschool.|
Most articles about digitisation tend to bemoan the undermining of celluloid and the 35mm film, but this one celebrates the democratising improvements it has brought about, shaking up a conservative industry with high barriers to entry.
The problem with 35mm was always the price tag – just the film itself was gougingly expensive. Movie-making was a club with lunatic entry fees. Like all such clubs, some meritocracy was long overdue. Digital unlocked the gate financially and then, in turn, creatively.
Take a movie like Tarnation, made in 2003 for the oddly precise sum of $218 (like most numbers in film, there was small print, but the gist remains intact). Its creator, Jonathan Caouette, wasn’t a director in any conventional sense. He was a smart kid from a baroquely troubled family, and rather than write a script to tell its story, he imported old snapshots and shards of home movies on to a brightly coloured desktop iMac, tweaked them, arranged them, and turned life into art in a way that would previously have been impossible.
In the world of big-league filmmaking, ones and zeros conjured all manner of spectacle: think of the computer soul of Gravity, returning the blockbuster to a state of childlike wonder. But in the wider world, the changes were even more profound. It hardly felt like a coincidence that last year’s Tangerine – the beautifully, casually radical story of a pair of trans women in wildside LA – was shot on three iPhones. It wasn’t just that they gave the film its non-stop momentum, or that this was the kind of movie that would have been murderously tough to get financed in the past. It was that it felt like a part of the wider explosion of culture, made with a device a billion people know the feel of, a contribution from an artform not yet ready for the museum, still rudely vital.Celluloid is strictly for nostalgists. Digital technology saved a dying medium.