Christopher Kenneally’s fascinating new documentary, Side by Side chronicles the ongoing (and possibly final) battle between film and digital filmmaking. Old school film purists will tell you that shooting on film is the only way to shoot a movie. It’s rich and wholesome; its look is vivid, its colors are full. Progressives my claim that digital is not only taking over, but is the new standard. Shooting on digital is smaller, simpler; you can manipulate your footage easily, and have the freedom to invent on the fly.
These are just a handful of topics discussed in Side by Side, a doc that admittedly may not appeal to anyone above cinephile status. But for those of us who dedicate our lives to the art of film, the movie is a sheer wonder.
Moderated by Keanu Reeves, who surprisingly knows everything there is to know about every type of filmmaking style (seriously, the guy has done his homework), the film features various solo interviews with a number of film heavy hitters. And what starts as a simple Digital vs. Film showdown, turns into something much more elaborate and evolved.
At the start, we hear people like David Fincher, James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez sing the praises of digital filmmaking. Fincher is particularly outspoken about the necessity of digital, while some of his contemporaries, including Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister, strongly emote that the only proper way to shoot a movie is on film. And then there are those on the fence, like Martin Scorsese and David Lynch, who acknowledge the pros and cons of both styles.
The interviews are varied and wholly impressive, so for me to rattle off a list of participants and attempt to quote them verbatim would be a completely futile exercise. These masters can articulate their points verbally far better than I can in print. But believe me, no matter what side they are on, gold is dished throughout.
Look, watching a movie in which famous people discuss shutter speeds, color correction, lens exposures, color mapping, and so on, certainly may not seem like a rousing way to spend an evening. Well, take it from me (an admitted film addict), Kenneally and Reeves make Side by Side as entertaining as they do educational. I was never bored, but I didn’t exactly expect to be. I suppose what I’m saying is that: Side by Side is essential film viewing for anyone with a remote interest in film, whether as a viewing or maker. For everyone else, I find it very hard to believe that you won’t enjoy yourself while watching it.
Side by Side is currently available for rent On Demand through your cable provider, as well as on Amazon and iTunes. It’ll hit limited theaters tomorrow, but no matter how you see it, it demands to be seen all the same. A-