Steven Soderbergh, Danny Boyle, and The State of Cinema

I find it appropriate as my first post to share Steven Soderbergh's speech from this year's San Francisco International Film Festival on the State of Cinema. Though I don't fully agree with everything Soderbergh has to say, he brings up some very interesting points to consider.

The thesis of Soderbergh's speech centers on the distinction between "movies" and "cinema," stating that, 
The simplest way that I can describe it is that a movie is something you see, and cinema is something that’s made…. Cinema is a specificity of vision. It’s an approach in which everything matters. It’s the polar opposite of generic or arbitrary and the result is as unique as a signature or a fingerprint. It isn’t made by a committee, and it isn’t made by a company, and it isn’t made by the audience. It means that if this filmmaker didn’t do it, it either wouldn’t exist at all, or it wouldn’t exist in anything like this form.
But Soderbergh isn't the only filmmaker commenting on the state of cinema. In a recent interview, director Danny Boyle discusses what he calls as the "pixarification of movies" and the disappearance of "adult cinema."

The flaws of the studio system that Soderbergh points out are certainly problematic, if not particularly new. The big studios have always been out to make money. He neglects to address the fact that independent cinema is doing better than ever before. The democratization of the technology behind the camera has allowed more auteurs to express their voice with or without the help of studio financing. These filmmakers, myself included, are going to continue telling stories the way the want to regardless of how much money is thrown at them or if they have to entirely self-finance in order to have their vision come to life. The state of independent cinema is strong, but finding an audience for independent "adult films," as Boyle describes them, is problematic.

In one sense, thanks to Netflix, iTunes, and other outlets, access to a wide array of films is now easier than ever before. I've watched films on Netflix streaming that I never would have known about otherwise. The issue, as Soderbergh alludes to, is about how people are viewing the films. Watching something on a cellphone, on a tablet, or even on a television, is certainly a different experience than watching it in a theater (not only in terms of picture quality but sound as well). Many directors have colorfully made their opinion on this before. I'm not going to criticize this type of viewing, but quite a bit is lost by not seeing a film in a theater (the rising cost of ticket prices, however, isn't helping get people back in the seats). The communal experience of going into a dark theater and watching the spectacle of storytelling is not disappearing anytime soon, but the narrowing field of films as Boyle describes is a concern. Supporting independent art houses and cinemas is more important than ever.

Ultimately, I take a less pessimistic view of the state of cinema than the two directors above. There are many issues about how the studios operate, how the audience is viewing media, etc. that continue to alter and plague the industry but as long as there are innovative directors such as Boyle and Soderbergh telling the stories they want to tell, then the state of cinema is strong.


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