Director Quentin Tarantino declares the death of cinema as we know it during a news conference at the 67th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 23, 2014.
The outspoken U.S. director, at Cannes to celebrate the 20th anniversary his Palme d’Or win for Pulp Fiction and also the 50th anniversary of Sergio Leone’s “spaghetti western” genre innovations, began a press conference with an impassioned lament for traditional celluloid.
“As far as I’m concerned, digital projection . . . is the death of cinema as I know it,” he said.
“It’s not even about shooting your film on film or shooting your film on digital. The fact that most films now are not presented in 35 mm means that the war is lost. Digital projection, that’s just television in public. And apparently the whole world is OK with television in public, but what I knew as cinema is dead.”
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Celluloid projection has been fast losing ground to digital in recent years, to the point where it is now considered a niche format.
Tarantino, 51, said he fervently hopes the movie business is merely going through “a woozy romantic period with the ease of digital — and I’m hoping that, while this generation is completely hopeless, that the next generation that will come out will demand the real thing.”
His optimism springs from the current trend by serious music lovers to choose vinyl LPs over digital CDs, a move that has helped revive the vinyl format.
Despite his strong anti-digital stance, Tarantino said he does see some good in the new format, since it’s so cheap and easy to use that it allows many more people to make films, some of them shot using smartphones.
“The good side of digital is the fact that a young filmmaker can now just buy a cellphone . . . they can actually make a movie.”
Tarantino is planning to personally keep the celluloid spirit alive at Cannes by showing a brand new 35 mm print of his 1994 crime portmanteau Pulp Fiction Friday night at the free outdoor Cinema de la Plage screen on the Cannes beach. He’ll introduce the film with its star Uma Thurman.
It’s arguably the most influential of his films—which also include Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, Jackie Brown, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds and the more recent Django Unchained — and Tarantino said he takes it as a compliment that his career-long rethinking of crime, western, war and Blaxploitation genres has inspired so many imitations and parodies.
“I take it absolutely as homage. Some of it (the copycats) I like more of than I like others.”
Tarantino is also in Cannes to present the festival’s closing movie, a gala screening Saturday night following the Palme d’Or awards ceremony of Leone’s 1964 spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars, starring Clint Eastwood. He credits it as an important influence on himself and other directors for shaking up the western film genre and for its creative use of music and editing, among other things.
For Tarantino’s theatre at home he owns “a pretty terrific 35 mm collection and an even better 16 mm collection — and I screen them all the time.”
“My feeling is I’m studying for my professorship in the history of cinema and the day I die is the day I graduate.”
But he’ll still leave the house and go to a public theatre if he hears, for example, that a new 35 mm print of Jean-Luc Godard’s crime classic Breathless is being shown.
And about the French New Wave auteur, who is competing in absentia for the Palme Saturday with his new film Goodbye to Language, Tarantino refused to take the bait of a French journalist who said Godard has been quoted as calling Tarantino “a man without any value.”
Tarantino shot back: “I can’t believe that he said that, so unless you can exactly prove it to me or he said it to myself, then I’ll assume that you’re exaggerating.”
And whatever Godard said or didn’t say, the fact remains that Tarantino has a Palme d’Or and Godard hasn’t yet won one.
“Winning the Palme d’Or to this day is still the thing that as far as laurels are concerned, is my single absolutely positively greatest achievement. Of all the trophies that I have won, it’s the one that has the biggest place of honour inside of my house. It’s the one I want another one of maybe some day, before they turn out the lights.
“My joke about the Palme d’Or is the only thing more prestigious than the list of directors who have won the Palme d’Or is the directors who haven’t.”
Tarantino’s dictums seem carved in granite, but he admitted he’s changed his mind on a couple of things.
He railed against directors who make revisionist “director’s cuts” to their movies (“My director’s cut is the first time”) yet in the same breath he said he’s thinking of taking deleted footage from his 2012 slavery payback western Django Unchained and combining with the original film to make what might end up as a four-hour TV miniseries.
He also said he’s reconsidering his vow not to make a movie out of The Hateful Eight, the bounty hunter drama he furiously cut from his film projects after an early version of the screenplay leaked online.
Tarantino said he’s currently writing a second draft of the script and “we’ll see” if a film results.
“I have calmed down a bit. The knife-in-the-back wound is starting to scab.”