I saw Side By Side a week or so ago and meant to review it whilst still in cinemas. But the good news is it’s now available on various On Demand services where it’s probably better suited anyway.
Side By side is essentially a documentary for film nerds like myself. Keanu Reeves interviews a host of directors, cinematographers and other technical movie types about the rise of digital cameras and the decline in movies shot on film. The documentary asks whether digital cinematography is now up to the standard of 35mm, and if there will come a point where film as a format disappears altogether.
I for one still prefer seeing films shot on film, but Reeve’s interviewees make a good case for digital. The ease and speed with which one can shoot, the reduced costs, and the constantly developing camera technology present it as a very viable alternative to 35mm.
In fact, if anything, the film seems a little biased towards promoting digital. Only Christopher Nolan and his cinematographer Wally Pfister make stong arguments in favor of film. Elsewhere, the impressive cast of interviewees is largely made up of those who have already adopted the technology – David Fincher, David Lynch, George Lucas, James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez, Danny Boyle and the like.
I would have liked a little more emphasis on distribution – the poor quality of 2k Digital Cinema Projection is skipped over; plus an exploration of the intricacies of various film formats such as 70mm (see The Master) and 16mm (see Beasts of the Southern Wild) would have been nice. Here it’s a straight up fight between old tech (superior in terms of image quality) and new tech (superior in a host of other ways).
Overall Side By Side is a very insightful documentary and a must for anyone interested in the movie industry or the future of digital technology. Despite the subject, it’s not a hugely cinematic documentary, so it will work well on a small screen. Side By Side then is recommended viewing on the On Demand formats it currently occupies, and certainly a must see when it inevitably arrives on BBC4 or More4 at some point in the future.
Viewed at: Ritzy Cinema