Film Is A Visual Medium

Years ago, I went with a couple of friends to see Matrix Revolutions, and we had some time to kill before the movie started, so we wandered about the mall. When we got to the high end electronics store, we stopped to look at the plasma television on display in the window.

Plasma TVs were relatively new at this point in time and the leap in picture quality was staggering. It was like the first time I saw a movie on DVD all over again. And then some.

It may be hard remember, since HDTVs are commonplace today, but the picture looked almost surreal. The word I may be looking for is “hyper-real,” but I don’t think that is a word. It looked like a portal into another dimension more than anything else. Reality didn’t look at all like that.

The movie that was playing on the TV was North by Northwest, which is one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films. The important thing to remember is that it was on a plain old DVD–this was before the invention of HD-DVD and blu-ray. Little did we know of what was to come. In a few years we will probably look back with fond nostalgia at the 1080p format the same way some people remember buying their first color TV.

After a while my friends started to walk away, but I implored them to stay. (Sorry about the rhyme, it was purely unintentional.) The scene we had been watching was the one in the bus station and, as I had seen North by Northwest many times, I knew what was next… The cropduster.

My friends acquiesced because they didn’t want me to throw a tantrum in the mall like all the other children. So there we stood, watching a television in a shop window. But it wasn’t just any old television, and it wasn’t just any old film; both were masterpieces.

We couldn’t hear the sound emanating from the TV, but it didn’t matter. And after a few seconds the white noise of the crowd in the Mall of Georgia became nonexistant. No pun intended.

I for one was enthralled by seeing one of the most famous scenes in cinema history, from one the world’s greatest films, and by a diector at his best, in the most pristine format available at the time. I was in cinephile nirvana and I never wanted to leave. But I knew at some point I would have to.

So, as Roger Thornhill drove away in the stolen pickup truck I turned to my friends and said, “Okay, I’m done now.” As we were about to walk away I saw that a crowd had gathered around us. There were at least fifteen people who had joined us in partaking in one of Hitchcock’s signature setpieces. It reminded me of those pictures from the 1950s of people standing on the sidewalk gazing with rapt attention through a shop window at this newfangled device called television. More importanly, it made remember why I love going to the movies.

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