August 31, 2003

To Print or To DVD, That's The Question.

Cinecultist loves His Girl Friday, the Howard Hawks interpretation of the ultimate fast-talking journalist couple (Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell) apart and then back together again over the ultimate scoop. In fact, the laptop on which most of this blog is written is called Hildy, the character Russell plays who thinks she wants a "real" life with insurance salesman Ralph Bellamy but the excitement of the chase brings her back to her true place as a writer and married to Grant.

The MoMA Gramercy Theatre screened one of their prints of this film over the weekend as part of their Summer Reperatory series and though it's always wonderful to rewatch a movie that CC holds dear to her heart, the state of the print sort of detracted from the experience. The first reel had obvious sprocket hole damange over the titles, as well as a terribly scratched soundtrack and the second reel suffered from serious fading, so that the black and the white parts of the image seem to be blending together. It was a sad state of affairs for this raggedy 16mm print. As we walked out of the theater, CC commented to her friend William, who worked on curating this series with MoMA and knows all too well about the scattershot state of their extensive print collection, that her DVD at home would've been more clear than this print.

This brings us to a much debated point among our cinephilic friends and collegues how important is it to see a film print? Is a good DVD, one taken from a remastered print for instance, a trade off? As a former projectionist, CC knows that viewing a good print can make a movie watching experience exponentially better. But when the option is a faded scratched 16mm, is it just better to stay home? Some people we know would say yes, for sure, but CC's can't say it is so cut and dry. Don't hate us for bringing up these important issues and then not answering them in a simple rule, but it really is quite the conundrum for the true cinecultist. It's important to see as many films on film as possible, but it's painful to watch a good movie on a bad print. Do with that prescription from a film lover what you will.

Posted by karen at August 31, 2003 11:21 PM