DVD Extras: Cut!

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Technology
May 5th, 2003 • 9:47 pm

A great read by Terrence Raferty in the The New York Times on the (very relative) value of so-called “DVD extras” and on alternative versions of movies:

Everybody Gets a Cut[free registration required]

And that’s the paradox of movies on DVD: the digital format tries to make interactive what is certainly the least interactive, most controlling art form in human history… We’re all well past the point of being shocked at the compromises people make in the name of commerce, but I still wonder why filmmakers have been so meekly compliant with the encroaching revisionism and interactivity of the digital format… Interactivity is an illusion of control; but understanding a work of art requires a suspension of that illusion, a provisional surrender to someone else’s vision. To put it as simply as possible: If you have to be in total control of every experience, art is not for you. Life probably isn’t, either. Hey, where’s the alternate ending?

Still, there’s something slightly contradictory in the writer’s stance. After all, in the same article he says:

Every work of art is the product of a specific time and a specific place and, in the case of movies, a specific moment in the development of film technology.

Digital editing and the DVD format are the technology of the day. Film-making will have to adapt to it — or die. We are in the very early stages of this new evolution. So far nothing really convincing has been achieved using the unique qualities of the new medium. We might have to wait for a new generation of film makers who will have grown with the technology.

I guess the writer’s point is mostly valid for existing films that were produced using older technology. Restoring older films to their original splendor for a DVD release makes sense. Tinkering with the same older movies by adding extras and alternate scenes is much less defendable, even if it’s with the explicit consent or direct participation of their creators. (They don’t always know what’s best for their own works.)

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