Owen Gleiberman
May 07, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Why digital-video films may be here to stay

Am I the only one bothered by digital-video films? The grainy, sickly pallor that DV casts over a movie distracts me to no end. What’s your take on the current state of film versus digital? — Douglas

A lot more enthusiastic than yours. Since 1996, when ”Breaking the Waves” put digital video on the map as a viable expressive medium for a dramatic feature, so many directors have chosen DV for the basic economics of it (i.e., it’s cheap) that the raw, electromagnetic look of these films is routinely written off as a necessary evil. I would beg to differ. Video, at least in its bargain-basement, glorified-camcorder mode, may lack the warmth and glow of film, but it has a present-tense documentary immediacy that can’t be duplicated in any other way. The ”harsh” home-movie look of DV films like ”Personal Velocity” or ”The Blair Witch Project” or ”Chuck & Buck” is intrinsic to their aesthetic — analogous, in its way, to the watershed use of jittery handheld camera in films like ”Easy Rider” 35 years ago. DV, I predict, may one day look beautiful, but it will be our eyes that have changed.

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