The Future of Cinephilia

I’ve always been a “Glass Half-Full” kind-of-guy. I blame my boys. Whether it’s because they give me hope for my future, or because I need to have hope for theirs, I’m not sure. But either way, I’m generally an optimistic fellow.

I assume that’s why this post from the Criterion Collection’s blog caught my attention:

In the essay the collection takes its name from, originally published in an issue of the French journal Trafic that set out to answer no smaller a question than the Bazinian “What is cinema?” Rosenbaum’s response is complex and provocative. Because of DVDs, he argues (among other things), cinema today is both more private and more global, allowing the best of the past and the present to be seen by more people around the world then ever before: “Today, for instance, it’s possible to see the beautiful colors of the second part of Ivan the Terrible correctly, accompanied by superb historical documentation, anywhere one has a DVD player . . . Admittedly, this isn’t the same thing as seeing a 35 mm print of the film with incorrect colors and with less comprehensive documentation in Paris or New York thirty years ago, but can we really say with assurance that we’re necessarily less fortunate today?”

My own cinematic experiences cannot possibly cover the range Rosenbaum’s talking about here. Yes, I’ve watched films on VHS (and even Beta), and yes, there is something about watching a pristine print on a huge screen that really blows one away. But weekly trips to the multiplex were never really part of my routine, and my post-graduation viewing experiences have been dominated by the hulking presence of Netflix and its Watch Instantly queue.

I’m glad someone else sees this transition (and unavoidable way of life for many of us younger folks) as a potentially good thing, rather than as a depressing sign of society’s never-ending decay into I-don’t-care-about-the-past-itis. The Criterion Collection itself would seem to be very much the product of this “shift,” and goodness knows how valuable they are to cinephiles everywhere.

I definitely think Rosenbaum’s right in his supposition that the future of “film” will be very, very different. But I think (like he, if I understand him correctly) that its future is just as likely to be exciting as it is to be scary.


Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. Currently residing in Lander, Wyoming -- "where Stetsons meet Birkenstocks" -- he is a columnist for Crisis Magazine and the Patheos Catholic portal.

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